IFAD in Sudan: putting inclusive rural transformation into practice

by Mia Madsen (NEN) and Anja Rabezanahary (PTA)

It was a unique experience. A total of 35 male and female staff members from four IFAD-financed projects in Sudan spent 10 days together in Wad Madani, Gezira State (22-31 October 2017) to build their knowledge and skills on the IFAD piloted Gender Action Learning System (GALS) methodology. Staff from IFAD-funded projects have a history of being inspired from peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, and have participated in several Learning Routes abroad where they have witnessed the transformative changes GALS can bring for men and women in rural areas. As a result they have adopted the methodology in their own areas of intervention and are now willing to advance the GALS implementation in Sudan, learn more about specific GALS-tools and get better control of the implementation process.

SDP Community Development and Gender officers drawing their vision for the Unit

In response to such demand, a GALS workshop was jointly organized by the IFAD country office, the IFAD Policy and Technical Advisory Division and the Central Coordination Unit for IFAD-funded projects in Sudan, with financial support of the Government of Norway. The ten days provided sufficient time to learn about the basic tools and principles of GALS, to understand their use at project level and to develop facilitation skills to roll out at community level. The workshop included eight days of practical exercises and two days of field work. The overall goal of the workshop was to launch a change catalyst process in rural Sudan and prepare the four projects (SUSTAIN, LMRP, SDP and BIRDP) for the advanced phase of GALS applied in areas such as agri-business, value chain development, natural resource management and inclusive rural finance.

The leadership and social empowerment map, one the basic GALS tool

Sudan is the first country within the IFAD Near East, North Africa, Europe Division where the GALS methodology is being piloted. It is a welcome tool to enhance economic empowerment of women in a region where women face challenges in access to economic opportunities, productive resources, land and credit and decision-making at all levels.

Catalysing change at community level

As part of the training participants visited some rural communities and asked them to envision their future (the first basic GALS tool). Men and women of different generations came together to draw individually and collectively their dreams. With the use of visuals and drawings, no one was left behind; each community member was guaranteed one voice, one drawing.
The exercise created a big interest among the community members and the participants were impressed by a young girl who stood up in front of local leaders, male and female adults and children to share her dream. She wanted to become a teacher and identified that the main barrier to her dream is child marriage. 

A girl child sharing her vision of her future with community members

In discussions, illiteracy was identified as a main challenge for the empowerment of women and girls at community level. Imagine the results if a community decided to take action on child marriage and allow more young girls to become teachers? The community would have more literate people with better chances of increasing their individual and collective dreams.

On the second day, participants drew the gender balance tree (another basic tool) with men, women and children to stimulate self-awareness on imbalances and identify actions to “balance the tree”.

Mapping the road for inclusive rural transformation

The workshop ended with a planning exercise where each project committed to implement the GALS as part of their community development and extension activities. For instance, the BIRDP project aims to empower the communities through improvement of male and female participation at individual, household and community level in the Butana area.

How does GALS work?

The first phase of the GALS process is designed to initiate changes of mindset and behaviour of men and women of different ages/status so that individuals, households and communities are ready for rural transformation. When people are taking actions for change, they become receptive and take the risk to be part of value chains, use formal services such as rural finance and plan for efficient use of their resources. The advanced tools can be introduced once people have started seeing results of the basic tools and once they have learned to share their ideas and dreams with others. For instance, in the development of the sorghum value chain in Sudan, the IFAD projects and beneficiaries will be able to envision the future of that crop and develop a “sorghum vision calendar”, analyse and address the specific challenges with a “sorghum challenge action tree”, involve equitably all household members with a “household sorghum tree”, and gain sustainable and inclusive market access with a “sorghum market map”. Those are just examples of the possible tools that can be introduced at a later stage of a GALS process and how they can improve quality of impacts in a value chain development effort.

Closing ceremony of the GALS workshop, Wad Medani, 31 October 2017

The training ended with the participants officially naming 2018 as the year for GALS in Sudan. Let us stay tuned and follow closely how the results of piloting GALS in Sudan and how it will support the projects to achieve effective inclusive rural transformation for men, women and youth.

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