Changing the Gender Narrative

Framework for Gender and Change                            Rao & Kelleher (2010 p.60)  *The blue are my edits. 

Framework for Gender and Change                            Rao & Kelleher (2010 p.60)

*The blue are my edits. 

I worked with The Story Kitchen and the Coady Institute in Nepal to co-facilitate with an inspiring leader, Jaya ji Luintel. We connect on the power of the Rao/Kelleher framework to ground our work in analysis of gender and power dynamics. Power analysis is overlaid [and we'll be back with a longer piece on that topic]. 

The work of The Story Kitchen (TSK) demonstrates what is possible in using change in one area to leverage it in others. They are "driven by the passionate belief that upholding the stories of women can unravel systems of gender oppression and patriarchy that continue to exist in Nepal. The domination of stories from men's perspectives leaves women out of the history of Nepal and fails to recognize the extent to which women are currently contributing and have always contributed to the development of the country." Aside from supporting stories of survivors of armed conflict from women of different castes, ages, communities and cultures, they train justice reporters and influence media in changing gender narratives. The survivors have now formed a network that has managed to begin discussions with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the President around transitional justice. Storytelling, in this case, is healing, awareness raising, changing the gender narrative and an advocacy tool. All of these pieces are critical and reinforcing.   

Like SEWA Bank taught me years ago, StoryKitchen reinforces so many of the key lessons in addressing gender and power dynamics. All realms of change and influence are gendered and intersectional. We need healing and connecting not just "agency" because marginalization from the norms and the ensuing violence is so internalized. Formal strategies, particularly organizational, are not enough. Media, social media, artists, elders have a critical role to play in the informal work on gendered social norms and exclusions. Networks and movements have the potential to affect both formal and informal systemic change.

Yours ever in the struggle to understand change and influence, 


Researching women's economic empowerment


Sisters Ink has just been awarded a contract to support IDRC with an internal learning evaluation on the research funded to support youth and women’s economic empowerment. Nanci led a Mid-Term Evaluation for part of this program, GrOW. There were 14 research partnerships between North-South, South-South research agencies and universities. 

Highly rated research partnerships (quality; building local capacity; positioning for policy influence) had strong coherence between qualitative and quantitative methods, clarity on policy uptake and good governance marked by complementarity of partners, a mix of scientific rigour and context knowledge with at least one partner having a track-record for evidence-based policy research. Smaller mixed North-South partnerships with two partner institutions both academe and practitioner as well as academic North-South partnerships demonstrated stronger early results than larger consortiums and research projects only based in the South. 

What is the role of research in redressing power dynamics? The program demonstrates that the three outcomes (quality research; building local capacity; policy influence) can be mutually reinforcing but cannot be assumed. 

Reducing vulnerability in HIV vulnerable youth, orphans and vulnerable children


Sisters Ink did a contract for FHI360 to review evidence related to evaluations and research on financial education for HIV vulnerable youth, orphans and vulnerable children. Evidence was limited in both scope and strength. However, a combined effect was found on HIV-related outcomes particularly programs integrating financial education with sexual and reproductive health supports. 

Not nearly enough is known about the various program and contextual “levers” that led to improved economic or health outcomes. Sometimes they are related. For example, we know that peer and trusted adult counselling can help. However, we don’t know how community-based programs compare to schools, for example. We need more studies to better understand the role that “self-efficacy” or agency plays in linking economic strengthening supports with asset building.