When female rangers, Filster Kale and Violet Malemba were selected to participate in the Social Analysis and Action (SAA) training for the Kasigau Wildlife Conservancy board and staff, they had no idea how profoundly the experience would change them and their community. SAA is a gender transformative approach that is community-led. It focuses on a social change process in which individuals and communities explore and challenge harmful social norms, beliefs, and practices that hinder women’s well-being and ability to thrive at home and in their communities.
Selected based on their exemplary participation in the SAA training, “community champions” Filster and Violet held a variety of meetings to discuss the underlying beliefs and practices that contribute to GBV in their communities. The rangers facilitated critical reflective dialogue on equitable gender, social and cultural norms, and developed action plans. They worked with members of the community to implement those plans in the five villages that comprise Kasigau Conservancy. To ensure there was full participation, Violet and Filster conducted one-on-one sessions with individuals who felt unable to share their personal reflections in a group setting. These rangers were challenging the conservancy to be a safer place that included all members of the community.
Just a few months ago, Filster and Violet were uncomfortable with public speaking, let alone addressing difficult issues like GBV in a public setting. They admit they didn’t fully understand GBV and how it manifested in their homes, workplaces, and communities. Filster was a victim of emotional violence and verbal abuse and was excluded from household decision making. “There was no transparency. My husband would sell the chicken and goats that I farmed without discussing it with me. I could not raise the issue because I feared him. I was unhappy.”
But after undergoing the SAA training, Filster gained the confidence, courage, and skills to discuss the issue with her husband who, surprisingly, viewed her transformation positively. Filster’s ability to address GBV in her home motivated her to support more women to follow in her footsteps and discuss issues of GBV with their partners and in their communities.
Thus far, Violet and Filster have carried out 9 sessions each, two in all the five villages. The groups vary in size, age, gender, and socio-economic backgrounds. In some sessions, they hold female-only and in others, male-only discussions depending on how safe the group members feel and are willing to share. Sometimes they conduct mixed-group discussions. “All the groups are unique, and we learn new things from the interactions…” Violet says.
A challenge the two facilitators faced was intense expectation to single-handedly solve the problems raised during group discussions. However, the rangers managed those expectations knowing it would be a process. “As a facilitator, I didn’t have all the answers but through asking the ‘but why’ questions as we learned in the training, we were able to come up with collective solutions that have helped me, and a lot of women and men address GBV in our homes.”
The community dialogue sessions have also produced unexpected outcomes. The dialogues that were originally designed for discussions on gender and GBV have become platforms to follow up on conservancy issues, Violet says. The champions use the opportunity to find ways that the conservancy can improve its relationship with the community to advance its goals and ensure the community is benefitting.