EU-UXO Project: Changing Lives through Gender Action Learning System (GALS)
Meet Phone (right) and Thone (left). Phone and Thone are GALS champions living in Kohing and Huasing villages, respectively, in Houaphan province.
During a gender participatory review with local GALS champions that took place from 26-30 August 2019, in Huaphan province, both women shared with us how the GALS methodology had changed their lives and the lives of their families in the past year.
A few years ago, Phone's husband became disabled after he stepped on a landmine, leaving her as the sole provider and caretaker of the family. She took the opportunity to join the Unexploded Ordinance on Human Safety and the Rural Livelihoods (EU-UXO) project in late-2018 to learn about how she can bring her family out of poverty.
The EU-UXO project is one of the initiatives run by Oxfam in Laos and local partners Humanity and Inclusion (HI), Group for Research and Technology Exchange (GRET), and Maeying Huamjai Pathana (MHP), that aims to help locals identify social and economic aspects of their lives and communities that can be further developed and plan for that development using the GALS methodology.
Thone shares a little on her family dynamics, as of only a year ago. 'Before I learned about GALS, there was little collaboration and understanding between my husband and me. Now, everyone including my children helps with domestic work, and works together towards common goals.'
For Oxfam, gender equality is one of the most important matters in today's society. Globally, women face tremendous challenges due to social norms, these range from the lack of access to education to limited work opportunities. To help strengthen the agency of individuals, change gender relations at the household level and encourage collective action to challenge cultural and social norms, and rules/policies that reproduce gender inequality, Oxfam in Laos has been working closely with partner organisations as well as local authorities to introduce and build community-wide capacity on using the Gender Action Learning System methodology.
'For the first phase of our plan, we want to grow better quality rice and vegetable crops', Phone says as she points at her vision journey. 'We are also working to increase the number of livestock we have on the farm and saving up for a vehicle. Phone continues with how she learned that males can take on roles of females and vice versa within a family, and exercises this in daily life. Many of her peers have also noticed how her confidence in talking to the group about issues that she and others in her village experience, as well as actively participating in finding solutions, has grown in recent months.
'Our one year plan is to build a fish pond, raise more livestock and grow more fruit trees', Thone explains. 'When we have enough fish in the pond we will identify buyers at the market. After learning about GALS, I understood that whether it’s taking care of the fish ponds or raising livestock, both males and females in the family can do the work. My husband and children help me with everything now. We are a family’.