Gender Action Learning System (GALS)

What Is GALS?

GALS develops participatory visioning and planning skills and strengthens social networks for women and men at all levels, based on the generic Participatory Action Learning System (PALS) methodology. But GALS focuses specifically on developing new visions for relationships between women and men as equal human beings, and implementing changes in gender inequalities in resources and power. GALS is also mainstreamed in organisations and with multiple stakeholders to increase effectiveness of any development process.

Many of the early PALS processes were used as part of gender empowerment/mainstreaming processes in India, Pakistan, Sudan and Uganda. Gender Action Learning System (GALS) as a specifically gender-focused methodology was developed from 2007 as part of Oxfam Novib’s WEMAN programme, advocating Gender Justice and women’s human rights under the 1979 UN CEDAW Convention. The most comprehensive manual (in need of updating) is:

Gender Action Learning for Sustainability at Scale further developed GALS as part of work funded by Hivos and private sector, arguing the business sustainability case for gender mainstreaming in value chains like coffee. In practice many of these are really PALS processes (see above) that mainstream household sustainability tools as an essential part of any intervention claiming to be ‘development’. So far few processes have worked in depth on issues highlighted in CEDAW like land and property rights, reproductive rights, structures of inequality in marriage and kinship etc. Though it is hoped they may do so in future, building on PALS gender achievements.

Through developing self-motivated structures for pyramid peer sharing and integrating into existing activities of implementing public or private agencies it can empower many thousands of people to improve their lives and communities at relatively low cost.

Gender was always mainstreamed to some extent in all PALS processes, particularly with ANANDI India, Aga Khan Foundation Pakistan, PASED Sudan and Bukonzo Joint and Green Home in Uganda. Gender Action Learning System (GALS) brought the different tools and facilitation processes together as a specifically gender-focused methodology from 2007 as part of Oxfam Novib’s WEMAN programme with partner organisations in Latin America, Asia and Africa funded by Oxfam Novib and IFAD, managed by Thies Reemer. As GALSatScale funded by Hivos and private sector, GALS then evolved into a methodology focusing on Gender Action Learning for Sustainability at Scale, arguing the business sustainability case for gender mainstreaming in value chains like coffee.

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GALS is not ‘one methodology’ or set of tools. It is a change philosophy based on underlying principles of social and gender justice, inclusion and mutual respect. In particular it promotes women’s human rights based on the United Nations Convention on Elimination of ALL Forms of Discrimination Against Women:

  1. Right 1: freedom from violence
  2. Right 2: equality of property ownership
  3. Right 3: equality of decision-making
  4. Right 4: equality of work and leisure
  5. Right 5: freedom of thought and association

CEDAW is an international agreement signed by most governments and establishes that women have the same human rights as men. Experience with GALS has shown that these are all key concerns of women in all cultures, and can also be achieved in ways that benefit men as part of a mutual empowerment process.

Click here for more information on CEDAW

A gender-focused methodology that explicitly aimed to gender justice and transformation. This was initially developed with Bukonzo Joint Cooperative Union and champions in Mwana Mulho and other CBOs affiliated to in Rwenzoris in Uganda under  Oxfam Novib’s Women’s Empowerment Mainstreaming and Networking (WEMAN) programme.  It has since been used as part of many initiatives

From 2013 the GALSatScale, livelihood and leadership tools were developed as part of gender mainstreaming in the coffee sector with Hivos and Ecom Trading in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Indonesia. In 2015 this led to development of a curriculum for integrating GALSatScale Tools into the Good Agricultural Practices technical training of private sector companies. Linked to gender advocacy in the sector.

GAMEchange diagram tools and participatory facilitation as a 3 year process, progressively mainstreaming the empowerment tools and process into other existing activities:

Catalyst Workshop Phase 1-2 months: Starting with 20 ‘champions’ in each of 2-4 locations representing the poorest and most disadvantaged rather than existing leaders. These champions learn individual visioning, analysis of gender relations in a ‘Happy Family’, social network strengthening and personal plan in a 6 day workshop culminating in a community day with other family and community members, and local leaders. All tools and sessions generate action points that are monitored and continually renewed as previous actions are implemented. These tools and plans are shared through voluntary peer sharing within households, families and communities so that other people also develop their own plans. The upscale ratio is generally an average of 1:20. In parallel to the champion training, NGO staff and other stakeholders are trained by the champions and there is a planning process to agree support roles and longer term sustainability plan.

Community Action Learning Phase: 6 months-1 year: the champion implementation of their own plans and voluntary upscaling process continues, both as an end in itself and to generate some success stories and inform any adaptations of the methodology by the champions. Champions track progress and share experiences, quantifying on their own diagrams to feed into monitoring. The role of the organisation should be very light at this stage to allow self-reliance. But staff should make sure power relations continue to be challenged and make it clear that the organisation values the progress champions are making towards their own goals, and the time given to peer sharing. There can be aggregation of champion monitoring and qualitative documentation including photos and video, but not ‘policing’.

Gender Review 3 months at the end of a year: a participatory quantitative and qualitative assessment of what has been achieved in regard to the original visions people had, and these are assessed against the CEDAW principles to see which gender changes occur of themselves and where gaps are that may need to be more specifically addressed now by the organisation.

Mainstreaming and Sustainability: From year 2 the diagram tools and participatory facilitation techniques as well as gender messages become progressively mainstreamed into existing livelihood and/or other interventions like FFS trainings etc. Or more advanced GAMEchange gender, livelihoods and leadership trainings are implemented starting with the most active champions who now become certified paid community facilitators. The Catalyst process is replicated by these certified champions to start voluntary processes in new locations outside their own social networks. From this point on the organisation takes a more active role to follow up on issues arising, linkage to other agencies and bringing information together for advocacy.

Source: Mayoux 2020