Gender Action Mainstreaming for Empowerment to Change

Making gender fun

Gender work and gender training are often seen as a chore, one extra checklist imposed by the 'gender police' where everyone is afraid of saying the wrong thing. Change cannot happen that way.

Gender transformation is an exciting process of self-empowerment and exploration. It enables us to free ourselves from unnecessary constraints and achieve what we want to in life. It also enables us to better understand other people as human beings, recognise their needs and aspirations, unclouded by preconceived stereotypes of how we assume they think or will behave.

It is the task of gender capacity building to convey this excitement and enthusiasm for change and new and better ways of doing things. There have been many innovations with participatory visual and other media that can be incorporated into a transformation process in order to clarify messages, build confidence and skills to change and disseminate messages and ideas.

Drawing Fun

Drawing is a potentially liberating activity - as long as the focus is on enjoying the exploration of ideas and the drawing process rather than the final product. Drawing is also a good way of reducing differences between people with different levels of education - people who cannot read and write are often better at drawing concepts than those with higher levels of education.

Drawing can be a fun collective activity - bringing people together to explore ideas and clarify concepts, identify differences and reach some sort of consensus. The outputs can be extremely attractive murals and meaningful decoration which can be used in meeting places and workshops as a form of collective memory or training aid.

Drawing is also potentially a very powerful communication of ideas and images for gender change - it is very difficult for donors and policy makers to dismiss graphic pictures of dreams and also constraints like violence drawn by women and men in poor communities as 'feminist imperialism'.

For some ideas on drawing see Guidelines for GALS facilitation.

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Participatory drama

Community theatre is commonly used as a means of gender awareness-raising. Role plays are also part of most gender capacity building and workshops. However, there are a range of interesting innovations in participatory drama which could be more fully incorporated for:

  • Capacity-building workshops
  • Multistakeholder negotiation
  • Monitoring and Evaluation and Impact Assessment
  • Dissemination

The aim of participatory drama is not polished theatre, but to directly engage participants in identifying and rehearsing changes, and new ways in which women and men can relate to each other, and new ways of addressing inequality.


For more information see 'Participatory Drama for Gender Transformation'

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Participatory video

Participatory video is a form of participatory media in which a group or community creates their own film. The idea behind this is that making a video is easy and accessible, and is a great way of bringing people together to explore issues, voice concerns or simply to be creative and tell stories.

Participatory video is therefore primarily about process, though high quality and accessible films (products) can be created using these methods if that is a desired outcome. This process can be very empowering, enabling a group or community to take their own action to solve their own problems, and also to communicate their needs and ideas to decision-makers and/or other groups and communities.

PV can be a highly effective tool to engage and mobilise people around gender issues - exploring goals, and current situations and peoples' ideas for change. It is also a powerful medium for people to communicate ideas and information with each other.

For links to GALS videos Click here

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Participatory Photography

Since its invention, photography has been used as a tool for social activism.  More recently, practitioners have sought alternatives to traditional documentary photography.  This has led many photographers to work with participatory and collaborative methods where they develop a more involved relationship with their subject; sometimes working with them to create images, sometimes handing over the camera and supporting participants to create their own images.  Some of these photographers work independently whilst others have established organisations to create sustainable structures for the projects they have initiated.

Participatory photography refers to projects where participants are supported to generate their own photographic work – a facilitator works with a group of people, often marginalised and/or disadvantaged, and teaches them to use a camera with the aim of supporting them to define, communicate and improve their situation. Once people have learned the techniques they are able to continue to document their situation.

For links to photos from GAMEchange processes
Click Here

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Participatory media: some key challenges

Use of visual media as part of a change process therefore has many advantages in clarifying messages, bringing people together and accessible dissemination. Because it is participatory it is more likely to be paid attention by outsiders as an 'authentic' perspective.

However there are also a number of common pitfalls and issues:

  • it is important to ensure that the empowerment of the process is not overshadowed by a focus on polished output.
  • the balance between delivering technical expertise in order to help people convey their message, and controlling that message. This is particularly the case in video where using a camera is not so difficult, but editing and Internet dissemination requires computing skills.
  • although outputs may be of high quality, visual communication is a skill in itself and it is important that any 'polishing' does not misrepresent the original.
  • who participates, when and why are as much questions here as in any participatory process.
  • developing sustainable skills and networks to enable people to continue once the technical experts have left has to be an integral part of the project.

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