20 December 2018
Category : Entrevista
Helena Zefanias Lowe, gender consultant for the Local Development project in Angola, tells us about her role in this project. She also highlights the role that Angolan women currently play.Helena Zefanias at the training course given at the FIIAPP headquarters
What is your role in the project?
One of the requirements of the project was to have strategies to ensure that women would also benefit from the Local Development project in Angola, therefore, they have created spaces so that the whole FAS team can receive information on gender and masculinity. My role has been to train these FAS teams on this.
How is this subject being transferred to the FAS staff?
The first thing we did was to make a needs diagnosis and, from there, we did some basic training which FIIAPP workers participated in; 85% of them have been able to participate in some way.
In addition, we looked at how to reinforce female leadership within the project. All the female staff of the FAS have participated in workshops on women’s leadership and some of them have been promoted.
We have also developed some tools, such as a gender strategy, for the entity. The strategy will allow the FAS to use the competence that has been developed and with it, the internal team of 12 gender trainers will be able to know which areas they work in. The proposal is to continue working within the FAS teams and in the municipal structures of Angola, since services are provided to them.
On the other hand, in Angola we are working with the Community Development Agents, ADECOS, so that they are clear on how to reach women. To be an ADECO you must be able to read and write but many women do not. The strategy gives some guidance on this.
What role do women play right now in Angolan society?
Angolan women play a very important role. Angola is a country that has been at war for 40 years and, when there is a conflict, women tend to assume a series of responsibilities when they are alone. This has meant that they have organised themselves quickly and have sought strategies to continue working, not only as mothers and wives, but also as economic agents.
The FAS is working, with the support of the FIIAPP, on productive inclusion. Through it, attempts have been made to finance initiatives for female entrepreneurs.
On the other hand, the political framework is also very important. Angola is better placed than Spain when it comes to women. In this African country there are around 36% women in the Government and in Parliament. The challenge is to ensure that the presence of these women is transferred to other areas in general, e.g. living conditions, health, education… etc.
What benefits can the project bring?
There are several benefits. The FAS works, in principle, with people who have difficulties reaching resources. For example, by putting health centres or schools closer to the community, there is a direct benefit as more children will be able to go to school and be healthy.
Also, there is a benefit from the point of view of the conditions of women, men, and the elderly. There are also benefits when it comes to improving the economy, as well as public works and productive inclusion projects designed to deliver financial products to people, mainly women.
The FAS has defined a positive discrimination strategy, which means putting women first in all the projects it does. In addition, we are working to ensure that women hold management positions within the institution itself.
What role is FIIAPP playing in this gender focus? Is it supervising any gender issues?
The FIIAPP is strengthening the capacity of the FAS to manage this project and ensure that the quality of the work being done meets the objectives that had been defined before. Regarding gender, I provide the resources and as part of the follow-up that the FIIAPP gives to the projects, there is someone responsible forguaranteeing that gender analysis is carried out.
What’s more, the fact that I was present at the FIIAPP headquarters shows the role that this institution wants to develop. In this sense, I believe that it has been a cooperation between both the FAS and the FIIAPP because everyone wins.
Do you consider that society is increasingly aware of the importance of gender equality?
Yes. I think so. There is an increasing amount of awareness and an increasing number of complaints. In Portuguese we have an expression that is “do not put a spoon into the relationship between a husband and wife” We put the spoon into the issue of gender. For me, the greater visibility of the issue of violence, including discrimination at the institutional level, is the result of greater awareness, which is why people are speaking out.
What are the most pressing challenges to make equality between men and women a reality?
The first challenge is for each institution to know what it is they are looking for. I really like an expression that English cooperation uses which is “you have to take care not to leave anyone behind”, and that is our main challenge.
I have worked on gender issues for 40 years. I have been in situations in which people believe that gender equality is for women to start doing what men do and that is not the case. What we want is a just society for all and this is the biggest challenge. At the beginning, the projects always worked with people at the project level and did not touch the home level because they are a private matter, and now we deal with private matters.
What are the objectives of the training you have given to FIIAPP on gender issues?
The training had three objectives. The first was to make a diagnosis of where we are in order to see what needs to be done; I think it is necessary for the institution to have a lot of courage in this regard. The second was to work on tools with the technicians and what we can do to start to introduce these issues in our work, and the third wasawareness, a fairly general workshop.
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