Household methodologies for gender transformation and project effectiveness. The Kyrgyzstan experience

"I have a dream. It is that all IFAD projects incorporate household methodologies in their activities. I really hope we can work together towards this".

On this note, ECG Director Margarita Astralaga opened the ECG-NEN knowledge event Household methodologies for gender transformation and project effectiveness. The Kyrgyzstan experience, organized on 19 September 2018 at IFAD HQ. During this event IFAD and partners talked about the positive outcomes that household methodologies (HHM) can bring about in terms of gender equality and project effectiveness.

The field practitioner, Asel Kuttubaeva, from the service provider Community Development Alliance (CDA) walked us through achievements and challenges of the HHM pilot in Kyrgyzstan, one of the few experiences outside sub-Saharan Africa. Since 2016, IFAD has been supporting the roll out of the Gender Action Learning System (GALS) - the most comprehensive household methodology (HHM) - in Kyrgyzstan, in the context of the Joint programme Accelerating progress towards rural women economic empowerment (JP RWEE), a joint initiative by FAO, IFAD, UN Women and WFP.

Until now, GALS is being used by more than 3,500 JP RWEE participants and their families in the four regions of the project: Osh, Jalalabad, Naryn and Chui. It was used to strengthen existing self-help groups and enable their participants to make better use of viable resources to increase agricultural production or engage in off-farm micro entrepreneurship activities. "Thanks to GALS, women's developed self-confidence and motivation to change’’, Asel explained. ‘’They became able to negotiate workloads with family members and discuss about their future and their dreams. This resulted in improved planning skills for the family and ability of women to engage in new income generating activities’’.

The moderator, Ndaya Beltchika, IFAD Lead Technical Specialist on gender and social inclusion, teased out these key GALS/HHM aspects.

Gender transformative results
GALS is a powerful strategy to bring about gender transformation in different socio-economic setting and can be a very effective way to deliver on IFAD 11 target to have at least 25 per cent of gender transformative projects. Family members jointly analyse their economic and wellbeing situation, and plan for a better future of each member. GALS in Kyrgyzstan helped to challenge existing gender-based practices within the household. Men took up tasks that were used to be considered women-only and women gained support to engage in different economic activities. GALS also helped existing self-help groups of women to better plan for their future, revise internal governance mechanisms and decide over services they want to provide to members.

Suitable for different technical interventions
GALS was delivered through self-help groups managed by UN Women – another JP RWEE partner. The methodology helped women to take better advantage of economic opportunities supported by other agencies: women developed better business plans to access revolving funds, scope market opportunities in a more realistic way and gain intra-household support to engage in new activities – either by catalysing family saving or reallocating workloads to free up more time.

This shows how HHM/GALS can be integrated in a variety of technical interventions for development: support to entrepreneurship, value chain development, rural finance, natural resource management and so on.

The Kyrgyzstan pilot is the first GALS in Central Asia. This methodology was developed in Eastern Africa in a very different socio-economic context - with very different development challenges. Yet, it proved to be a very adaptive methodology and it was easily transferred to the Kyrgyz context and the development interventions of the Joint Programme RWEE. Mikael Kauttu, IFAD Country Programme Manager with long-lasting experience in the country claimed that, "Kyrgyz institutions are quite strong and are good interlocutors for development. They are promising entry points for ownership and upscaling of GALS practices on the national territory".

Accelerator of development results
Beatrice Gerli, gender and social inclusion consultant, presented GALS/HHM achievements highlighted by the JP RWEE midterm external evaluation, conducted in March 2018.

GALS Increased overall project effectiveness in achieving better livelihoods, increased income, food security and leadership role of participating women through solidarity economic models - like self-help groups and economic groups.

The evaluation revealed the following change model. When women start engaging in income generating activities, they still have to take care of domestic tasks, leading to overwork and less time for leisure. With GALS women make more accurate business plans, realize their needs and dreams and their husbands realize the value of domestic work and start contributing. As a result, women engage in income-generating activities and got more time for themselves.

Change maps created by women beneficiaries included statements indicating that women now enjoyed higher status in the family, more equal distribution of domestic tasks with their husbands and had more time for themselves. "After using GALS, happiness is around", said Asel smiling.

This interesting experience provides food for thought for IFAD operations in Kyrgyzstan, where there is potential for additional scale up and integration with investment projects – both in the country and neighbouring ones. The JP RWEE is now committed to support 700 additional rural women and men to use GALS, extending its scope to new communities in an additional region. UN Women itself has adopted this methodology to support its programme to prevent gender based violence in Kyrgyzstan.