The African Transformation (AT) project aims to promote gender equity, participatory development, and community action by bringing women and men together in a participatory workshop-style setting to explore and discuss how various aspects of gender impacts their well-being. This includes discussing harmful and positive social norms and expectations as well as assumptions around gender roles and responsibilities. It is modeled on the Arab Women Speak Out (AWSO) project designed by the Johns Hopkins University/Center for Communication Programs (JHUCCP) in collaboration with The Centre of Arab Women for Training and Research.
The project has two main components: The first is a series of profiles in print, audio, and video formats of men, women, and couples who have overcome gender barriers and by doing so, become role models. The original profiles were filmed in Uganda, Zambia, and Tanzania, though more profiles were created as the project was adapted in other countries. The second component is a facilitator's guide.
The profiles and guide are designed to be used to lead women and men through a series of interactive and participatory exercises that aim to enable them to examine gender constructs and social roles, and how both impact their lives. The profiles form the centrepiece of each session in the guide and are intended to ground the discussion in the reality of people's lives. Topics covered in the original guide are:
- introduction covering concepts of gender and equity;
- social roles;
- tradition and cultural norms;
- women's and men's reproductive health;
- sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDS;
- violence between partners;
- life skills;
- working and managing resources together; and
- benefits of networking.
The guide includes exercises for training facilitators which lead them through a process of understanding their own assumptions about gender. It is designed to help strengthen skills in doing participatory facilitative training based on the programme's design.
According to the organisers, the project is based on two key theories of behaviour. One theory (Empowerment Education) states that knowledge comes not from "experts" but instead from group discussions, and the knowledge that people already have from within. The other (Social Learning Theory) proposes that people learn new behaviours and identify their own strengths by seeing those capabilities modeled in others. Use of the profiles together with the guide is designed to enable participants to both draw upon their own experiences and resources while learning from the stories of achievements of others.
AT was designed through a participatory, collaborative process with men and women from over 9 different countries in Africa with backgrounds in gender, health, development, and communication. The project's approach and the selection of the guide's topics were based on consensus from the group, as well as formative research that included literature reviews on the evolution of "gender and development" and "gender and men" in Africa. The organisers also conducted first-hand qualitative research with men in Uganda, Tanzania, and Zambia about their perceptions of social roles, society's expectations of women and men, and areas they would be interested in seeing changed.
Since the project's inception, it has been adapted to Zambia, Nigeria, and Malawi, and 3 new modules have been developed (safe motherhood, conflict resolution, and inter-generational sexual relationships) along with newly filmed profiles. The guide is also being adapted for young people in Cote d'Ivoire and will be translated into French, as well as Portuguese (in Mozambique). According to the organisers, the package was designed to be flexible and adaptable. While the modules were designed to progress from one to the next, they can also be used independently of one another, depending on the needs of the organisation.
AT was evaluated in Uganda using a post-test-only control group design complemented by focus groups and in-depth interviews. Researchers assessed the extent to which AT participation was correlated with key intermediate and impact outcomes, including communication about topics covered in AT, efficacy to take action, changes in perceptions of gender norms, and actions taken. According to the organisers, participants expressed significantly higher levels of confidence in their ability to take action, particularly with respect to taking part in community activities to eliminate or reduce harmful traditional practices. Participants, male as well as female, expressed a significantly more equitable view of men's and women's roles than was true of non-participants. The evaluation also suggested that AT had a significant and positive effect on men's perceptions of men who assumed non-traditional roles.
Communication for Development Foundation Uganda.
Health Communications Partnership website on May 29 2008.