The 2014 Gender Awards and learning event

By Lorina Sthapit, Gender and M&E Junior Consultant, Nepal and PTA Gender Desk

The 2014 Gender Awards Ceremony was organized at IFAD Headquarters in Rome on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The Awards, initiated in 2013, spotlight one programme or project per region that has used innovative approaches to address gender inequalities and empower women.

During the event, the representatives from the winning projects in Ecuador, Pakistan, Rwanda and Yemen discussed their achievements and the challenges they faced in promoting gender equality and empowering women. The award for Sierra Leone was accepted by the Deputy Minister of Agriculture Ms. Marie Jolloh. For further details about the winning projects, click here Brochure.
The occasion was also an opportunity to learn about household methodologies, an innovative set of approaches piloted by IFAD and partners. With the support of supplementary funds from the Government of Japan, IFAD has worked with field practitioners to consolidate experiences on household methodologies across sub-Saharan Africa into an Household Methodologies Toolkit.

The event concluded with a statement by the Vice President about the relevance of ending violence against women for food security, poverty reduction and rural development.
Here are the links to Storify, Photos and Video recording from the Awards Ceremony.
Click here for more information on IFAD Gender Awards 2014.
Representatives from the winning projects

A learning event in the afternoon provided an opportunity for the project representatives to exchange their invaluable experiences and ideas among like-minded practitioners.
The representatives from the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (implementing partner)- Mr. Isa Qazi Azmat, ChiefExecutive Officer; Ms. Samia Liaquat, Group Head for Compliance and Quality Assurance; and Mr. Yasir Ashfaq, Group Head for Financial Services - highlighted the importance of developing project activities and products specifically suited to the needs of the rural poor women and ultra-poor households.
PRISM is one of the flag bearers for investing in women’s access to microfinance and women-led value chains in the country. The project has supported almost 140,000 women borrowers for income generating enterprises. This is a significant achievement in a country where the number of women who benefit from microfinance loans is traditionally very low and where women-centric microfinance programmes are often questioned. PRISM has challenged those barriers and lived up to project values that “development is about changing the status quo”.
The success of any project, they emphasized, lies in “starting small, committing to bring social transformation, learning from failures and rekindling the motivation of all staff”. Learning from one of their initial shortfalls during the baseline survey, they included several gender-related indicators in the impact survey to capture improvements in gender equality and women’s empowerment. They recognised, while challenging, it is important to do more to be able to tell women’s stories.
Mr. Abdulla Salem Al-Dogail, Project Director and Ms. Fatima Al-Lahabi, Gender and Microfinance Specialist felt immense pride as well as a sense of responsibility when the project beneficiaries said, “you are the first ones to come to us”. Being the first to intervene in Al-Dhala, one of the poorest and most remote governorates in Yemen. They credited their dynamic and motivated team that, despite the physical and social complexity of Al-Dhala, were able to successfully implement project activities. The team conducted situational analyses and initiated various activities targeting women. They addressed women’s basic needs first by freeing their time from collecting water and firewood. They progressed to literacy classes, health and nutrition training, kitchen gardening and other income generating activities. When required, the project team divided into women-only and men-only groups to address sensitive gender-specific issues, issues that would otherwise not surface in a mixed group. These initiatives have significantly contributed to women's inclusion and the empowerment agenda in the communities.
Another major factor contributing to their project success was using an effective communication strategy which was implemented by local women who were able to build trust with other women in the villages. Action plans were developed together with women and men from the community using participatory processes. In addition, separate training sessions for women were led by female facilitators because this gave rural women the confidence to participate more actively and to voice their concerns more comfortably.
Mr. Janvier Gasasira, Single Project Implementation Unit (SPIU) Coordinator, and Mr. Raymond Kamwe, M&E specialist and gender focal person explained the role of community innovation centres (CIC) in devising strategies to communicate and reach out to rural women. The work of these CICs does not stop at providing technical and organizational support to small farmers, they also conduct awareness raising programmes on gender-based violence.
KWAMP through their CICs, came up with an ingenious idea of the 'women's evenings'. It is a forum where village women meet on a regular basis to talk about any violence and other social issues that require peer counselling and/or help. Men are invited to attend. The forum has encouraged many local women to discuss and report cases of violence. A gender desk has been established at the local police station so that women who have been abused can talk to policewomen.
Mr. Luis Heredia, Project Coordinator and Ms. Consuelo Aguinaga, Gender specialist emphasised that the success of any project lies in ensuring equal and democratic participation of women in all project activities and decision-making processes. Often it is only at the implementation stage that women’s participation is taken into consideration but to ensure that the project is inclusive of women’s special needs, it is essential to assure women’s meaningful participation from the planning stage.
In addition, the importance of allocating sufficient resources for gender-related activities during Annual Work Plan and Budget was highlighted. This is often overlooked but project gender strategies should be reflected in the budget, reserving resources to support gender mainstreaming and women’s empowerment.
Mr. Hubert Boirard, former country programme manager in Sierra Leone, talked about the origins of a successful project. While a sound design lays the foundation, most of a project’s success can be attributed to implementation. Flexibility at the mid-term review is crucial. For example, the Gender Action Learning System (GALS) was added by project staff during implementation because they were convinced of the positive impact it had on gender relations at the household level.