Working through 12 content-rich sessions, participants started with the basics of sex and gender and progressed to the nuts and bolts of embedding gender in projects and programmes.
All the sessions were bilingual, interactive and participatory, using a mixture of methods such as ‘chalk and talk’, visualisation and poster design, which aimed to be practical, hands-on and engaging. Sightsavers and partners are now empowered with the resources they need to ensure that our health and inclusion programmes are explicitly challenging inequalities and ensuring fair and equitable access for women, men, girls and boys.
We also drew on the experience of Khady Ba, a Senegalese disability activist from the women’s committee of the Senegalese Disabled People’s Federation (FSAPH). She suggested that Sightsavers ensures women and girls take part in all projects to get buy-in and ownership, and mentioned the importance of collecting data about women and girls with disabilities, as well as to involve women’s associations more in the projects.
Sightsavers staff were able to share good practice on gender mainstreaming, which aims to resolve existing gender inequalities and unequal access to and control over power and resources. Participants were encouraged to take the different situations of women and men into account when designing, implementing and evaluating programmes across all our portfolios: eye health, inclusive education, political participation and neglected tropical diseases.
At the end of three rather intensive days, we asked participants what they thought were the most interesting or useful sessions. Staff particularly valued understanding the basics – namely the difference between sex and gender. This was surprising to us because we wrongly assumed there was a more advanced knowledge within our organisation, which is working more extensively on social inclusion beyond disability alone.
One session that resonated with the group was a talk by Lucy Muchiri, technical adviser for social inclusion in East and Central Africa, about gender-based violence, which challenged participants’ assumptions. For example, psychological violence such as coercive control – husbands or partners deciding when women can leave the house and who they can meet – had not been considered by many participants as a form of violence, and made them realise how much additional conceptual thinking is required to achieve effective gender mainstreaming.
Other ranked sessions from Sightsavers’ staff and partners included: