Our learning journey towards a gender transformative approach


Over the past few years, we have evaluated our work in the context of gender integration continuum. When aiming to work towards gender equality and including boys and men in the solution, we wanted to make sure that we were not making matters worse. We have worked on moving from gender accommodative approach to a gender transformative approach.

First, if you would like to know about gender integration continuum have a look at this 2 min and 11 sec video produced by FHI 360.

Let’s move onto to understand what is the gender transformative approach. Gender transformative approach aims to move beyond individual self-improvement among women and towards transforming the power dynamics and structures that serve to reinforce gendered inequalities.  A gender-transformative approach to development goes beyond the “symptoms” of gender inequality to address the social norms, attitudes, behaviors, and social systems that underlie them. This approach entails engaging groups in critically examining, challenging and questioning gender norms and power relations that underlie visible gender gaps.

We made a good start by starting to work with boys and young men. However, it meant that we had to be extra careful that the work we do doesn’t reinforce existing gender norms in any way. Some of the obvious risks we face – After being part of the programme, our participants:

  • wanting to “save” women
  • wanting to “help” because it was “their” problem, only affecting “them”
  • Wanting to “protect” women because “they could be someone’s sister, mother, wife”.
  • feeling entitled to show the way and lead
  • wanting to take charge of changing the status quo without understanding women’s perspective or engaging them in the process

Some of the steps we took in our journey towards building a gender transformative programme include:

  1. We made ourselves aware about the complex existence of gender norms. We acknowledged  the intricacies of the difference between accommodative and transformative approach
  2. We trained our team on how to adapt the conversations we have with the participants and the community members in session setup as well as outside. In the session set up, facilitation skills adopted by our team had to be reviewed to ensure they were not modeling any gender biases or unhealthy gender norms.
  3. We revised our curriculum to:
    1. Include principles of human rights
    2. Create opportunities for participants to observe, question and challenge gender norms at different levels.
    3. Include activities that made them think of what the positive alternatives could be to scenarios that depicted unhealthy gender norms.
    4. Design actions that would allow participants to empathise, build skills that will help them engage in healthy dialogue with women and girls.
    5. Design actions that would require our participants to engage with their family members, peers and wider communities

This is a journey and we will continue to evaluate ourselves and our programmes on this trajectory on an ongoing basis. Every part of our programme might not be gender transformative yet, but we feel confident that our team will observe, question and design along the principles of gender transformative approach.

If you would like to assess your work (need not be specifically on gender), there are a series of tools developed by Interagency Gender Working Group