State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School


Gender based training in Ruhiira

The community sector carries out training workshops addressing gender issues two to three times per year. As part of our community sector rotation last week, we visited the homes of two couples, one of which had attended the training, one of which had not.

Based on the day’s discussions with the field facilitators and visited households, it seems that gender issues dealt with in the training sessions encompass sharing of household chores and money, prioritizing girls’ education as well as boys, and joint financial planning.

When meeting the second couple that we were told had not attended gender training, we decided to split up and speak to the husband and wife separately. This was extremely interesting, and yielded the following differences:

Husband’s version

Wife’s version

Both husband and wife have attended gender training workshops

The wife has attended one, but her husband has not.

He does not want any more than the 5 children they already have (1 son, 4 daughters) but they have not discussed it together yet. Even if their youngest had not been a boy he would not want more children.

She wants more children because he has told her he wants more sons & that if she can’t give them to him, he will get another wife.

He does not want another wife, and wouldn’t want one even if he had more money.

On the male side of the gender divide
On the male side of the gender divide

It was also interesting that once we touched upon household health issues, the husband’s answers deviated from the ‘correct’ ones. He makes all the decisions in the household about whether his wife and/or children can seek medical care, and he feels no need to visit the (new and relatively well-equipped) health center(a mere few hundred meters from his home) unless his children are sick, or there are mass immunization days. This means his children have not benefited from the growth and nutritional monitoring available at the health center. His wife gave birth to all but the last of their children at home, but interestingly did go for antenatal visits. When we asked why he thought that was useful given his view that hospitals are only useful if one is sick, he stated that pregnancy is different because you can’t see inside so you don’t know if everything is ok without a doctor checking up.

In discussing these differences with the field facilitators afterward we asked whether he thought we would have gotten more truthful answers if he had not been there, or if we had not been women. Interestingly, he said no, he didn’t think so. Rather, we were getting the ‘right’ answers because gender sensitization is something that is widespread in Uganda and has been going on for years, although with moderate to little success in actual behavior change. This struck a chord with my experience of living in South Africa where years of expensive and omnipresent HIV/AIDS education has yielded little behavioral change.

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Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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