Lessons learned: How to involve women in highly conservative communities in resilience programming?

Lessons learned from resilience programming in Manoor Valley and AJK, Pakistan, particularly presents some interesting learning on how to ensure gender inclusion in a highly conservative community. In the workshop, LEGO was introduced as a creative methodology for participants to discuss successes and learnings.

Lego 2

The group presents the main changes brought about by the programme, including better accessibility due to rehabilitation of bridges and access to safe drinking water.

Highlighting the most interesting lessons learned from the two DRC resilience programmes in Manor Valley and AJK, which focused on strengthening the recovery and resilience of earthquake and flood affected communities in Manoor Valley as well as resilience through capacity building in AJK, especially the gender aspects of the programme are educational to other programmes. In the workshop, five main recommendations for resilience planning was identified:

  1. Put strong emphasis on community organization and involvement
  2. Use an integrated approach to addressing priority needs and developing community capacities
  3. Include explicit strategies for involvement of women
  4. Create links to all relevant line departments and PRC structures
  5. Ensure clear program management set up, implementation strategies and decision making  procedures

Strategies for involvement of women

Particularly interesting for this resilience programme was how it solved the challenge of ensuring the inclusion of women, why we have focused on this third of the listed recommendations as a forcus for this article. Both projects targeted communities which are highly patriarchal and conservative, thus making explicit strategies for the involvement of women one of the most important factors for success. One of the solutions involved setting up Female Mohalla (neighbourhood) Committees as a way of engaging women in the prioritization of constructions schemes and activities. When this was not possible, the program set up female focus groups or arranged meetings at household level as well as livelihood activities such as kitchen gardening and CTP, which was a more acceptable way of engaging women to the husbands and community leaders. Reaching women in the househould and through livelihood activities not only provided a safe space for women to interact and discuss their concerns and priorities, but was also a way to spread knowledge in the family, as women spend more time in the household, as well as empowering them to engage in dialogue with their husbands on community issues. Some of the women even started their own business or were enrolled in the CTP, thus empowering them to contribute to the family income.


The strategy to introduce female focus groups and "female friendly" activities were made possible by including gender analysis in the IVCA, while making sure to start with the men, community leaders and building trust by going door to door and respecting local culture and norms.

Using LEGO as an innovative methodology for conducting lessons learned workshops

To demonstrate major changes as well as concrete examples of problematic situations and how they were solved, the participants used LEGO as well as drama performances. Below, two fine examples of how useful these tools were to engage participants and illustrate their points. 

GROUP 1 ( AJK):  Social cohesion and community organization


Drama performance: It starts with a PRC staff member working on a water supply scheme. A community member interrupts because he wants an individual pipeline and starts fighting with the PRC staff. It then shows the community members sitting together discussing because the project taught them to resolve conflicts and issues through discussion in the Community organizations. A female teacher is also part of the discussion. The project discourages individualism over togetherness. The issue gets resolved and both the parties accept the decision of the community organization.



The group adds a depiction with Lego bricks showing the situation before and after the project:

Before their intervention people were going in different directions, there was no social cohesion and women were never part of the communal organizations.

But after the PRC intervention people are more organized in community organizations, there is more social cohesion and people think collectively. Finally, women are part of the communal organizations.




Lessons Learned 2Lessons Learned 1


GROUP 3 (AJK): Well-functioning and clean communities due to community organisation

This group tried to explain the change as a process in three stages before, during and after the program intervention:

Before: Shows a community were open defecation is common, with poor sanitation, lack of clean water and poor organization of households

During: With the project, the people get organized through Mohalla Committees, Village Organizations and Community Based Organizations meetings

After/now: The households have latrines and proper disposal of waste and there is no open defacation. The community is more organized and can resolve their problems through the CBOs. The community has better infrastructure and access to clean drinking water


 Lessons Learned 3

Read the full report here.