Gender Action Learning System (GALS)

ANANDI India
RWEE Kyrgyzstan

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.

In PALS gender is mainstreamed into visions and strategies for all interventions, including livelihoods, value chain, leadership, organisational development, financial services, food security, environment, civil society development and conflict resolution.

Many of the early PALS processes were used as part of gender empowerment/mainstreaming processes in India, Pakistan, Sudan and Uganda.

For more links and toolkits on PALS processes see: Participatory Action Learning System.

In practice many processes called ‘GALS’ 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.

GALS as Gender Action Learning System focuses specifically on changing gender transformation linking change at individual, household, community and macro-levels. It develops new visions for relationships between women and men as equal human beings, based on UN Convention on Women’s Human Rights, and implementing changes in gender inequalities in resources and power. GALS tools are mainstreamed in organisations and with multiple stakeholders to increase effectiveness of any development process and produce information for gender justice advocacy.

GALS as a specifically gender-focused gender action learning ‘system’ linking individual, household, community and macro-levels, was initially developed with Bukonzo Joint Cooperative Union and champions in Mwana Mulho and other CBOs affiliated to in Rwenzoris in Uganda. This was done under  Oxfam Novib’s Women’s Empowerment Mainstreaming and Networking (WEMAN) programme, bringing together earlier PALS gender tools and experience. From 2007 WEMAN worked with partner organisations in Latin America, Asia and Africa funded by Oxfam Novib and IFAD, managed by Thies Reemer, Katja Koegler and Ambra Scaduti.

It has since been used as part of many initiatives. GALS has been implemented by IFAD in connection with their work on Household Methodologies in very many other countries. This includes processes in Sierra Leone, and as part of the RWEE process in Kyrgyzstan and Nepal (managed by Beatrice Gerli with lead coordinators Asel Kuttubaeva and Tribhuban Paudel)

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.

As Gender Action Learning for Sustainability at Scale (GALSatScale) GALS then evolved into a methodology focusing on Gender Action Learning for Sustainability at Scale, arguing the business sustainability case for gender justice mainstreaming in value chains like coffee. This started with work with TWIN-Trading-UK with Fair Trade coffee cooperatives, managed by Rebecca Morahan. 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 managed by Catherine van der Wees (Hivos) with lead consultants Grace Murungi (Tanzania), Peter Ndambiri (Kenya) and Intan Dharmawati (Indonesia). See: Happy Family Happy Coffee Toolkits for Tanzania and Indonesia.

GALS Principles

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 1979 United Nations Convention on Elimination of ALL Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

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

Women’s Human Rights under CEDAW
  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

GALS Implementation

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

Catalyst Workshop

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.

Tools
  1. Soulmate Visioning
  2. Vision Journey
  3. Gender Balance/Happy Family Tree
  4. Social Empowerment Map/Empowerment Leadership Map
  5. Gender Challenge Action Tree
  6. Multilane Vision Highway

Rocky Road to Diamond Dreams (2014) based on experience with Bukonzo Joint and New Home in Uganda and TWIN-UK partners in Uganda and DRC.

Community Action Learning

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’.

Participatory 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.

If the Community Action Learning stage has been effectively implemented and champions and staff have the skills and motivation, this can be an in-depth systematic process that starts a powerful advocacy process with robust quantitative and qualitative information:

Key experience: Bukonzo Joint Cooperative Union

If the Catalyst process has for some reason been more limited and/or the Community Action Learning Phase did not take place, the Participatory Gender Review at the end of the first year can simply revisit and update the individual tools from the champions to quantify these and combine them into an updated Multilane Vision Highway from the Catalyst Workshop – bearing in mind that there will probably be different participants. A more in-depth process can then be implemented in subsequent years.

CEDAW Diamond: Decision-making
CEDAW Challenge Action Tree: Land ownership
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