In her shoes: gender justice training in Afghanistan

Putting women’s rights at the heart of all we do begins with our own teams and ways of working. Nina Gora describes a series of training workshops with Oxfam staff in Afghanistan. 

In Afghanistan, 88% of women are illiterate and 87.2% experience violence. In this context the disadvantages and discrimination women experience are both evident and well documented, so the task to promote gender justice is substantial.  And where should we start? We must first start with ourselves. Oxfam must set an example and act as a role model for its partners. Unless our own teams have the requisite skills and knowledge they cannot
be expected to increase the capacity of our partners – which is a significant part of our approach – or inspire them to do better in furthering gender justice.

Doing the power walk with Oxfam staff in Kabul. Credit:OxfamA recent gender assessment of Oxfam GB staff in Afghanistan showed that many staff lacked both the understanding of the importance of gender justice as well as the skills and confidence to work towards it.

So we launched the Making Gender Justice a Reality training series, which has now been carried out in all three Oxfam GB offices in Afghanistan- Daikundi, Badakhshan and Kabul.

Our team of trainers toured the three offices with our trusty set of training games, case studies, quizzes and short videos and engaged the staff we met in initiated discussions starting from the very basics, namely why we work on women’s rights.

We asked participants to put themselves in a woman’s shoes through an exercise exploring what is good about being a woman here and what is challengingOften the full extent of the problems women face is not very well known or understood by men in Afghanistan. So we asked participants to put themselves in a woman’s shoes through an exercise exploring what is good about being a woman here and what is challenging. This helped de-mystify the
female “other” that results from the strictly demarked nature of Afghan society. 

We then moved away from the theory, the why and what of Oxfam’s work, to the critical how: what questions to ask, what tools to use and what to always, always consider.

The training series is complete for now, but this particular journey to make gender justice a reality is just beginning for OGB in Afghanistan. Many of our programmes clearly aspire to contribute to making women’s lives better. We need to continue reaffirming these aspirations and support staff to turn them into concrete and effective action.

Next we are running a series of talks and film screenings on “Why Gender?”More importantly we are setting up a Gender Justice Working Group to provide longer term support, guidance and, above all, encouragement to staff who have the authority to make change happen both internally and, when ready, externally too.

The importance of this training course was brought home to me in the words of one of the female participants:

“My goal is that one day everything will be fine and okay.”

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Images: Top – training participants in an Oxfam field office in Afghanistan. Middle – training participants in Kabul. Credit:Oxfam

Author: Nina Gora
Archive blog. Originally posted on Oxfam Policy & Practice.