A fresh look at gender

Zimbabwe, September 14, 2012

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Mercy Corps staff  </span>
    The gender analysis tree exercise is the first step in the training, which helps staff members see clearly how gender assumptions and beliefs carry through from personal interactions to larger social systems. Photo: Mercy Corps staff

As a Project Officer with our Joint Initiative Management team in Zimbabwe, I spend a lot of time collecting data about how our programs have worked. I work with our local partners to collect, analyze and report on many numbers and statistics, and I’ve always focused simply on how many people we helped and how many kept up the changes on their own.

It never crossed my mind to consider how a project’s success may differ between genders, between men and women, boys and girls. To me, what was important was whether or not our goal was reached, without a deeper analysis of any underlying gender issues.

But last month I attended a training that is part of Mercy Corps’ new ACTing for Impact initiative, which aims to improve the success of our work by addressing specific needs of all genders. It’s amazing how a three-day training can a create a lifelong change in perspective.

My eyes and my mind were opened, stereotypes squashed. Now I know that gender is not just about women, but concerns every person.

I now appreciate the need to collect specific data about sex and age so I can conduct in-depth analysis of the gender dynamics that may impact a community’s participation in our programs.

Thanks to exercises like the Wheel of Equity — which asked us to imagine how entire communities would benefit if men and women had equal access to resources — and the Gender Analysis Tree that made us rethink our assumptions about gender roles and how they shape our society, I feel confident to tackle these issues in how I help the communities here. I will make sure that the concerns of the different sexes and age groups are considered, and success will be determined by how every person is affected.

Now I have seen the light.