Friday, July 10, 2009


By James Achanyi-Fontem,
Coordinator-WABA Men’s Initiative
The 5th annual WABA-FIAN joint gender training workshop ended in New Delhi, India on 9th July 2009. The training was delivered by two experts in gender promotion strategies from India and Malaysia, Renu Khanna and Paul Sinnappan with the coordination of leader- icon brains of the two international networks, Sarah Amin, Co-Director of WABA and Flavio Valente, Secretary General of FIAN.
The joint training workshop aimed at enabling some 29 advocates from the breastfeeding and food rights networks to raise awareness and sensitivity on gender issues. Resource persons for lectures and conducting exchange sessions focused on the gender challenges to breastfeeding and food rights issues. WABA and IBFAN Africa supported 12 persons involved in the breastfeeding protection, promotion and support movement in their regions.
On the first day of the international workshop, the principal trainer, Renu Khana, invited the participants’ patience because the workshop was not going to get into the intricacies of gender and theory due to the short period accorded for the transfer of knowledge. She added that 30% of the course at the beginning was dedicated to getting participants know themselves as this is vital for planting the seeds of gender. That is why a welcome dinner was programmed on the evening of the workshop first day on July 6.
On the second day, the participants exploited the application of gender in all aspects of their work. This included what gender meant for the breastfeeding movement as initiated and promoted by WABA. Towards the end of the training, working with men was introduced as a special aspect with relevance to gender promotion.
To introduce the participants into the core of the issue, Renu Khanna, Paul Sinnappan and Flavio Valente led the selected human right activists to focusing on gender in the larger context that takes into consideration the situation of the environment, cultures, political and socio-economic reflections. To achieve this, gender analysis was done in line with the right to food and gender mainstreaming. Before the end of the course, participants were guided on how to apply the ideas exchanged within the four days in the conception of a plan of action.
Two strategic plans of action were conceived that cover activities in the areas of gender and breastfeeding with gender to the rights to food. To better understand the issue of gender, Renu Khanna talked about what it is and what it is not. This was better understood when the attitudes of the male and female were described considering their natural and structural build ups.
The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, WABA and the Food First Information and Action Network, FIAN, expected the participants to be well sensitized on the concept of gender and gender mainstreaming, after equipping them with tools and skills of gender analysis by the end of the course. The course participants should be able to enable others in their respective regions and countries in the development of gender analysis of breastfeeding and rights to adequate food after the training in their respective regions and countries now.
Participants returned with resource materials for the application of gender concepts and the development of gender sensitive strategies and work plans. Within the context of the training, participants learnt about how to differentiate between sex and gender, recall dimensions of gender as a system enumerate and list gender aspects of breastfeeding and rights to adequate food. The men and women were able to list men’s role and responsibilities in appropriate infant feeding and promotion of rights to adequate food by the end of the training.
Issues treated within the period of the workshop included gender and sex, gender as a system, gender aspects of breastfeeding and rights to adequate food, gender analysis frameworks, economic and political contexts of women, men’s involvement, role and responsibilities, gender mainstreaming and gender indicators. The participatory training methodologies included exercises, games, group discussions and presentations, role plays, experience sharing by participants and others.
Renu Khanna has a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the faculty of management studies from Delhi University, India with over 25 years of experience in health care management and organizational development in health.
Paul Sinnappan has for the past 10 years been involved in conducting gender training for men in the credit unions, cooperatives, micro credit programmes and non-governmental organizations, NGOs, in Malaysia and South East Asia.
The joint WABA-FIAN gender training workshop initiative began several years back in 2004 with the introduction of gender concerns by the donor agency, the Canadian Cooperative Association, CCA. Since then, the International Cooperative Association, ICA; the Asian Confederation of Credit Unions, ACCU, and the Asian Women in Cooperative Development Forum, AWCF have become partners in the process of integrating gender in cooperatives in Asia and Pacific region.
Other impact resource persons for the training were Flavio Valente of FIAN International from Heldelberg, Germany and Laskshmi Menon from the Association for consumers’ Action on Safety and Health Centre, ACASH, in Mumbai, India. Lakshmi is a consultant to WABA and was also the former co-coordinator of WABA’s Gender Working Group.
WABA’s gender programme goals include:
1.The promotion of gender awareness among breastfeeding advocates and mainstreaming of the gender perspective in breastfeeding advocacy and programmes.
2.The promotion of collaboration between the breastfeeding movement and the women’s movement, in order to strengthen the common advocacy goals of both movements; and to undertake joint advocacy, education and training on women’s rights, health and breastfeeding.
3.To increase participation of men in domestic work, child care and provide breastfeeding support, to raise men’s awareness on women’s rights and reproductive health issues.
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