Swadhina – Gender Audit Program

 Supported By International Land Coalition

                                               July 2022 – January 2023


The world functions in different sectors as a streamlined system. Whether a government sector or a corporate one or a non-governmental set-up, each has somehow been following a system that is more or less influenced by the social system prevalent at any particular time. Since the social systems across the various cross-sections have seldom been gender-sensitive, more discriminatory rather, it is obvious that different organizations too have followed the same pattern. At the turn of this millennium as the awareness on gender became more and more necessary, it also became crucial to dissect and understand prevalent systems with the intention to introduce a more gender-sensitive platform. Gender Audit became a required tool of guidance towards an approach that was less discriminatory and more inclusive. Swadhina, being identified as a ‘women’s organization’ decided to use the tool to understand the gender approach of the organization, especially its grass-root workers

B.Background: Why ‘Gender Audit’ for Swadhina

Swadhina was conceptualized and implemented basically as a Women’s Organization with the intention to promote Women’s Empowerment as its core ideology. Since 1986 Swadhina has focused on the welfare of women (and also children) with the active involvement of grass-root workers who have been majorly women. However, with the changing perspective of gender-sensitivity and inclusiveness it became pertinent to understand if being a ‘women’s organization’ was enough a premise to be gender-sensitive. The Gender Audit for Swadhina was undertaken for three major reasons:

1.Since inception Swadhina works only for women and children. For a long time there was concern to assess and measure understanding about the concept of ‘Gender’.

2.Swadhina believes that no activities will be successful without a clear Gender Perspective and hence it is important to asses gender policies in its current format and develop futuristic approaches.

3. Without gender-sensitive people’s organisation, sustainable development is not possible, hence if Swadhina has to focus on sustainable goals, it is essential to understand the current gender-based practices.

C.For whom was this Audit?

Swadhina undertook Gender Audit for the village level women’s organisations formed under ILC supported NES/National Land Coalition Project. Since one of the priorities of ILC now is strengthening of People’s Organisations, we believed that the Gender Audit was an important step towards that direction. It covered both Swadhina core team and field team who are involved with the implementation of Swadhina’s objectives and activities.

D.Process followed for Gender Audit

Swadhina implement a three-step implementation system that involved:

  • Process/Methodology Development
  • Gender Audit
  • Strategy building
Core ActivityObjectiveImplementation Tools
1.Process/Methodology Development1.To build the methodology of Gender Audit process1.1.Meeting with core members and stakeholders 1.2.Developing formats/documents 1.3.Plannning time-frames and date-line
2. Gender Audit Process2. To assess and understand current gender policies of the organization, asses the understanding of the core members and grass-root members in this regard, especially in correlation with gender sensitivity.2.1. Assessment of extent documents, policies, implementing strategies of the organization. 2.2. Interaction with the grass-root members and core members who implement the grass-root activities directly and indirectly, including the policy-makers. 2.3.Core-findings based on the assessment and interaction. 2.4. Analyzing the core-findings  
3. Strategy-building3. Developing a way-forward to build strategies for a blue-print for the future to ensure a gender-sensitized approach.3.1. Find out way-forward actions 3.2. Develop blue-print for future 3.3. Suggest policy strategies for future

E.Methodology Phases

The entire activities were rolled out in different phases with different objectives:

  1. CORE ACTIVITY: Process/Methodology Development
 1Meeting with Core team and Field level workers to introduce the Detailed planFinalization of the plans
 2Framing of Questionnaire and Concept Note in local languagePrepare forms & Formats to be used in local language
  • CORE ACTIVITY: Gender Audit Process
Sl No                      Activities                          Objective
1)Phase 1: Assessing the structure of the Organisation/Village Level Women’s organisations   Document Reviewing: a)Identify how gender just and gender equal are            *Internal practices          *Existing support mechanism   b)Identify gaps and challenges c)Implementation of Existing procedures  
2)Phase 1:Interviews            Swadhina Team            Field Workers            Village level women’s                       organization members     Phase 2: Eye Opening Exercises                Focus Group Discussion                         a)Identify gaps and challenges (Phase I         Assessing the Structure of the organisation)   a)Assess the level of Awareness and    understanding of the gender concepts  
  • CORE ACTIVITY: Strategy Building
1)Phase 1: Review of Documents                Interviews                Establish a baselineMeasure the gender sensitivity of practices Document positive examples Monitor planning implementation of operations,   Assessment of budget allocations
2)Phase 2: Sharing Findings with the team & Collecting Feedback  Develop plan to enhance gender justice with the village level people’s organizations
3)Phase 3: Building Strategies for FutureDevelop actions for future from this point onwards to formulate and well implement gender-justice actions.

F. Actions, Outcome & Analysis

F.1 Process/Methodology Development

This was one of the crucial pre-phases of the implementation of Gender Audit. Much of the outcome depended on how well the stakeholders to be involved in the process understood the concept and the related actions. While ‘Financial Audit’ is a well heard of terminology, most of the grass-root workers had a very basic knowledge of ‘Gender Audit”. Hence this phase was the crucial first step for a successful entry-point to the Gender Audit process. Two basic actions marked the actions:

F.1.1. Making the concept clear to the participants in the process

F.1.2. Developing a questionnaire pattern which was easy to understand and follow.

F.1.1. Making the concept clear to the participants in the process

‘Gender Audit’ as a concept is not a very easy one and involves a deep understanding of the terminology and co-opted concepts. For this the concept paper was translated into the local bilingual language ( Bengali & Hindi) and presented to the core members and grass-root workers on 15th of July 2022. It involved dissemination of the translated concept note and making the participants understand through direct interaction. Alongside it was also decided on the possible participants.

Three sets of participants were chosen as participants in the process:

  • Members of Swadhina who are responsible for implementation of grass-root activities of Swadhina, including Core Members, Volunteers and Government Body representatives.
  • Members of grass-root level groups of Swadhina
  • Grass-root policy makers who have been/are involved in different activities of Swadhina

The participants involved both men and women, the former being much lesser in number than women.

F.1.2. Developing a questionnaire pattern which was easy to understand and follow.

The next step was developing a questionnaire, including a strategy paper that covered the following aspects:

  • Conceptual clarity of gender (as different from sex)
  • Gender identification understanding
  • Personal knowledge about gender equality
  • Personal knowledge about gender discrimination
  • Personal experiences on gender discrimination in society and family
  • Experiences of gender discrimination as a member of grass-root organization
  • Clarity about the understanding of gender-based policies of Swadhina
  • Success/Failure of implementation of such policies at the ground-level
  • Social response to gender-equality for a grass-root worker from personal experiences
  • Gender discrimination existent within the family and society from personal experiences
  • Gender equality challenges as a grass-root worker
  • Suggestive measures to promote a more gender-equal system within the society
  • Suggestive measures to promote a more gender-equal system in the organization

F2. Gender Audit Process

The next step was the actual Gender Audit Process that involved several activities and implementations at various levels.

F2.1.1.1. Assessing the Structure of the Organisation:

Swadhina has a Five tier structure with women dominating in all the areas:

i)Village level Women’s Organizations:

These have been developed out of local needs to alleviate local issues. The members are rural women with little or no formal education. But Swadhina organizes capacity building programs from time to time to enable these women as effective local leaders. These organizations play a key role as decision making bodies at the grassroots.

ii)Supervisory and Field Level staff:

Swadhina has a team of experience Field and Supervisory teams comprising of mostly women. All field staff are women and Supervisory team has a perfect balance of women and men – 70% being women.

iii) Core team:

This is an all women team of four members who are responsible for administrative and programme decisions and implementation.


Swadhina is supported by a team experienced volunteers, comprising both women and men who provide honorary support to both programmatic and administrative areas.

v)Executive Governing Body: Swadhina has an all women Executive Governing Body which is supreme decision making body responsible for all the statutory issues of the organization.

Based on the general understanding of the system, discussion with the members, presentation from reports the following results were generated:

Type of StructureInternal & External SupportStrength WeaknessChallengesPossibilities
Village-level Women’s Organization1.Being a women-only group the interest of the women are very well represented and heard. 2. Within the group the women’s voices are heard and the women are empowered to discuss their own issues. 3. External support is often available when their demands are heard of when they put joint petitions and they are well recognized as a group. 4. Men do come forward when it comes to implementation of different activities put forward by the groups.1. Provides a very positive image of the collective strength of women. 2. Women in the group are very well recognized. Many former Women’s Committee members have successfully fought and won grass-root level elections. 3. Makes it possible to implement several women’s welfare related schemes, works and policies. 4. Well recognized even by local government bodies.1. Somehow sends a message that ‘women should work for women’ and the role of society as a whole towards a gender-equal world is diluted in the process. . 2. That men are not part of the strategy building but are part of the implementation actions often gives a message that women are ’weaker’ physically and need the help of men.   3. There is no clear strategy for youth representation even when it comes to young girls. Even though every young girl above the age of 18 is encouraged to be part of the group, there is no separate policy for adequate representation of young voices.1.Few times decisions which do not go well with the men do face challenges when it comes to implementation   2. There being no clear representation of young women, there are possibilities of young voices and needs not being heard adequately.   3. Also, a good representation of youth is much needed for sustainability of a gender-balanced future.1. The Grass-root Village Organization being a very powerful voice and well-recognized is and could be the best platform for gradually eradicating discrimination.   2. Proper representation of youth, including males, in the group would make it more gender-inclusive and future-ready. Also it would give the young-men to be a part of gender-equal policies.   3. Adequately training the members on effective implementation strategies would mean successful implementation of actions, without the need to depend on anyone.
Supervisory and Field-staff1. Being a women’s organization primarily, women are the most prominent part of the work force. 2. Men staff take part in every activity and discussion, without inhibition, and work in good coordination with the women. 3. Adequate safety policies within the organization make it possible for the women staff to travel and take part in various programs along with their male colleagues without fear or inhibition. 4. There is no discrimination when it comes to pay, reimbursement or holidays. 5. There is adequate cooperation from home of each.1. Both men and women staff work together as a team and send out a strong positive social message. 2. Workers of Swadhina, irrespective of gender, are very well respected in their respective social spheres. They are often cited as good examples. 3. The women workers feel well-represented and safe in their workspace. 4. The fact that the male workers speak for the welfare of women, work as a good message for other men.  1. Although there is adequate safety in the workplace, the women workers still do not consider the social space as adequately safe. Often they have to travel with their male colleagues for their personal safety.   2. Few times, in case of conflicting ideas, there have been instances of the male colleagues placing their ideas more powerfully than their female counter-parts.   3.There have also been instances when the women colleagues had to take along their male colleagues during public meets for the physical arrangements, conforming to social norms of men being physically stronger.1. It often becomes  challenging for women staff to tackle men when it comes to activities like purchase, bargaining etc.   2. There is no clear strategy for youth representation in the staff, which is crucial for a sustainable future.1. Continue to build social awareness on gender equality, focusing on women’s safety.   2. Enhancing youth representation to enhance gender equal possibilities for future.   3. Regular orientation of field staff to promote equal work attitude and outlook to enable equal participation of every member irrespective of gender.
Core Team1. Strong internal policy in place on women heading the decision-making of the team. 2. Policy supporting strong representation of women enables women as the main representatives of Swadhina. 3. Well supported by field staff, governing body members and volunteers.1. Gives out a strong message to the society where women are often ill-represented when it comes to being in positions of responsibility.   2. Being a women’s organization, it well represents the objective of the organization.   3. Members of the core team turn out to be able leaders with good decision-making power.1. Role of youth or youth representation not well highlighted.   2. Possibilities of men’s representation in future as a part of ‘men working for the cause of women’ is not included.1. Being led by women, it sometimes becomes challenging to supervise over men, combating the patriarchal system.   2.Youth representation not being highlighted prevents giving it a more futuristic outlook.1. Youth representation in Core team, including a set policy in this regard could boost the possibilities of a gender-based awareness in future and provide more scope to involve the youth in activities for women. 2. Regular orientations of core team members and other staff could help to promote gender equal approach and mindset.
Volunteers1. Swadhina’s policies provide equal scope for men and women to be volunteers. 2. There is a 50-50 representation of men and women as volunteers. 3. Volunteers include representation of a wider cross-section of the society thus providing support from different socio-economic strata. This also ensures good external support.1. Representation of both and women ensure a wholesome participation and representation of both the genders.   2. It also enables to approach the strategies and actions through different gender and socio-economic perspectives.   3. Sends a good social message on collective efforts of all genders towards actions related to women’s empowerment.  1. Even though the current representation is 50:50, there is no predefined policy on the ratio. Ideally a predefined policy can provide a guidance and cap-off on this issue.   2. The volunteers work as and when it is needed by the organization. There is specific definition of their role which narrows the scope of collective actions with equal representations of both genders.   3. Again, there is no clear guidance on youth representation which is very essential to promote gender equality.1. Absence of predefined roles of volunteers may make the roles prone to be gender stereo-typed.   2. Volunteering has a huge possibility for the youth to promote gender-equal social system. There being no clearly defined scope or possibilities for youth representation, the scope is difficult to analyze.1. Documentation on different ways volunteers can promote gender-equality may help enhance the cause of gender-equal social system.   2. Training for volunteers on gender-specific issues can provide opportunities for the volunteers to highlight gender issues as a part of their role.   3. Specific roles and representations of youth volunteers can enhance multiple opportunities for gender-balanced approach in the activities.  
Executive Governing Body1. Swadhina’s unique internal policy on a 100% representation of women as executive members of the Governing Body is extremely supportive of a women-friendly social system. 2. The General Body members, which include men, provide adequate external support to such unique policy. 3. There is also a good urban-rural balance in the body.1. In a world where women find it challenging to be adequately represented in positions of power, this uniqueness of 100% representation is definitely a worthy effort. 2. Women at the helm of power and control makes it possible to relate with the causes of women and design organizational strategies accordingly. 3. Financial power and control by women leaves a message to the different social systems the organization caters too and gives a good social message.  1. The average age of the Exectutive members is 50 years which makes it difficult to project a youth-friendly image. 2. There is no representation of the young population below 35 years which is crucial to promote gender-equal system.1. Absence of young people in the Executive Committee makes it difficult for the voices of youth to be heard with regard to gender policy implementation scopes of the organization.1. Even though Executive Committee representation requires experience and knowledge, adequate training can enable youth representation as well.

F2.1.1.2.Document Reviewing

Document Reviewing, as a next step towards understanding the documented presentations of the organization regarding gender policies and approaches included studying of the following documents:

  • Organizational Brochure with specified mission, vision, and strategy of the organization.
  • Policy Documents of the Organization
  • Publications of the organization
  • Reports of the organization
  • Social Media representations

The document and media reviewing were based on four primary questions:

  • Does the organization have clearly stated objective regarding its gender strategy?
  • Are the reports, publications, media representations open and specific about the gender strategies of the organization?
  • Are there specific documents enumerating the gender policies and guidelines of the organization?
  • Does the organization conduct evaluation of its gender strategies from time to time?
  • Are the specific roles and actions to promote gender equality adequate and clearly stated?

The study, review and evaluation helped provide the following output:

TypologySpecific Documents/Representation1.Clearly Stated Objective2.Open and Specific Gender Strategies3.Clear Gender Policies and Guidelines4.Evidence of gender-specific evaluation5.Specific Roles & Actions to promote Gender eauality
Organization BrochureBrochure PamphletYes, the fact that Swadhina is a women’s organization striving towards a gender-equal world is clearly specified. Vision and Mission of the organization state the need to strive towards a gender-equal world.Yes, activities that specifically promote women’s empowerment are mentioned along with the objectives.  The organization’s quest to promote ‘equal and spontaneous participation of women’ is mentioned as a policy.  NA  The role of Grass-root level women’s organization is clearly mentioned
Policy DocumentStaff Policy Guidelines  Yes, it mentions Swadhina as a women’s organization and mentions about non-discriminatory practices when it comes to gender.Policies on sexual harassment, protection and safety of women workers and maintenance of a non-discriminatory system is there.   However no specific policy guidelines pertaining to promotion of gender0equality is mentioned.Issues of sexual harassment, workplace safety, non-discrimination of wages, special maternity benefit policies are mentioned but separate guidelines on gender unavailable.NASwadhina’s mission, vision, objectives are mentioned. No detailed guidelines on specific roles and actions to promote gender equality
Publications of the OrganizationBooks Booklets Flex Banners PostersYes, all of them are centered around promoting gender equality and women’s empowermentYes, messages and pictures are strategic evidences of gender equality promotion through these publicationsYes, the contents and representations explain about promoting gender-equality and women’s issues, however there are not many specific publications highlighting gender-specific guidelines.NARoles of women, women’s organization, social systems to promote equality are well-presented. The role of men are speciafically limited to Gender Danglers with declaration by male members to honour and respect the women of their family as equals.
Reports of the OrganizationAnnual Report Project Report Evaluation Report Case Study ReportsYes, all of them highlight the activities promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. The case studies especially serve as strong evidences of gender equality measures.Yes, the reports are documentary evidences of gender equality promotion through empowering women.Yes, the gender strategies are well represented through the reports. However there are no guidelinesYes, the reports including evaluation and case studies are focused on how the organization strives towards women’s empowerment and gender-equality.The roles of the workers, staff, volunteers in promoting women’s empowerment is evident through the various reports, especially evaluation reports.
Media RepresentationsWebsite Facebook Instagram TwitterYes, all of them highlight the activities promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. The mission, vision and objectives of the organization in this regard are also well representedYes, the news, messages and activity updates are evidences of gender equality promotion through empowering womenYes, the gender strategies are well represented, especially through website and Facebook.Yes, the website especially mentions the strategies of the organization to promote gender equality.Social media posts also talk about the various workers, volunteers and representatives and how they strive to promote gender equality through Swadhina.
TypologySpecific Documentation/RepresentationStrength in Gender representationLoopholesWhat more can be done
Organization BrochureBrochure Pamphlet1.Very specific about the cause of gender-equality 2. Core focus of activities also highlight the issue of women’s empowerment1. Absence of mention in detail about how men could be part of the process (though the focus about gender-equality is very clear)1. Additional input on how men could be contributory to the process of gender-equality, especially the young men who are the part of the future.
Policy DocumentStaff Policy Guidelines  1.Very specific about the cause of gender-equality as the objective of the organization. 2. Gender-equal privileges as staff,/worker/volunteer made clear. 3.Workplace safety, protection against sexual harassment or discrimination made very clear.1. Details on how staff/workers/volunteers could work towards promotion of gender equality not specified.1. Specific action guidelines on staff/worker/volunteer responsibility on gender equality promotion could be included.
Publications of the OrganizationBooks Booklets Flex Banners Posters1.Very specific about the cause of gender-equality 2. Core focus of contents also highlight the issue of women’s empowerment 3. Efforts to build awareness on women’s empowerment very clear.1. Not specific focus on how men can respond to gender discrimination. 2. Not many focus on how the younger generation, as a collective, could contribute to actions on gender equality.1. It is important to build IEC materials that focus on the role of men and youth in the promotion of gender-equality.
Reports of the OrganizationAnnual Report Project Report Evaluation Report Case Study Reports1.Very specific about the cause of gender-equality 2. Core focus of activities also highlight the issue of women’s empowerment1. Not clear on how men respond to gender discrimination.  practices at the field level 2. The role of the youth had not been focused on till recent days.1. It is useful to tell how the men as workers and volunteers contribute to the activities on women’s empowerment,   2. Ditto about the role of the local youth too.
Media RepresentationsWebsite Facebook Instagram Twitter1.Very specific about the cause of gender-equality 2. Core focus of activities also highlight the issue of women’s empowerment. 3. Photos and mentions are inclusive about the role of men and youth in the activities of organization.1. Specific stories and case studies on how the men are a strong force in promoting causes of women are rare.1. Role of youth in promotion of gender equality as a part of the organizational activities must be much clear and specific.

F2.2.1.Interviews with Swadhina Team, Field Workers, Village Level Women’s Organization Members

In order to understand the gender-specific experiences of the different individuals directly or indirectly associated with the grass-root activities of Swadhina, it was important to talk to the stakeholders. The interviews took place through:

  • Online interactions as groups
  • One-to-one interactions
  • Group interactions

Altogether 7 online group interactions took place covering 73 participants, alongside the one-to-ne personal interactions covering around 118 participants. This apart 2 special public interactions including a cross-sectional representation of grass-root workers, women’s group members, core team members and local government representatives took place. These included general discussion as well as discussion based on the prepared questionnaire.

The interviews focused on four primary areas of experience:

  • Personal
  • Intra Family
  • Social
  • Organizational

Personal: While discussion on personal outlook and challenges on gender-specific issues, a few aspects came to the forefront to which majority of the participants agreed to:

  • Discrimination based on gender is something every participant seemed to have experienced in their personal lives. In some cases it was profound as in not being able to go for higher studies for being a woman or having faced gender-based abuse. In some cases it was indirect as in not being able to get the same quantity of food as the male siblings due to the wrong notion that men are more ‘stronger’ and need more food. However, almost all the participants (about 98%) related to this one word – discrimination- whenever spoken to about ‘gender’. The word most participants correlated with was ‘discrimination’.
  • Almost all the participants (97%) experienced or even contribute to the idea of ‘gender specific roles’ – like domestic chores for women and traveling to the city for men. Most (about 70%) admitted to themselves practice such ideas knowingly or unknowingly.
  • Inhibition in speaking publicly or to voice their opinions when it came to gender rights as a woman was something most women (87%) could relate with and most believed that this stemmed from the social discrimination they faced since childhood as a woman.
  • Most of them (90%) felt that superstitions and myths were major contributors to gender-based challenges.
  • Most of them (92%) could not distinguish between ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ as having different perspectives and could relate to gender differences as being related to the visual differences one is subjected to since childhood (different forms of dressing, different physical structure).
  • Majority of them (98%) associated masculinity with ‘strength’ and feminine qualities as being ‘soft and graceful’.
  • Men participants associated with Swadhina for a long time admitted to be more gender-sensitive and cooperative as opposed to other men around them (98%). This was especially when it came to their behavioral attitude towards their mothers, wives, sisters or daughters.
  • Women also identified four major areas of discrimination they faced.

Intra-Family: The interviews also focused on how the individuals experienced gender-based behavior within their family systems.

  • Almost all of them (90%) admitted that there is some form of gender discrimination or the other prevalent within their family systems – whether directly or indirectly.
  • About all those with Swadhina also admitted that there association with Swadhina gave them a changed outlook (99%) and they try their best to voice their opinion within their family and promote a more gender-equal system within their family.
  • Majority of them felt that the younger generation of their families (about 72%) were ready to embrace a gender-equal system within the family but there is often a resistance to such change come from the older population above the age of 60 years.
  • Most women felt that women within the family systems often come in the way of other women who wish to take up a more discrimination-free attitude (86%).
  • Almost all of them in the rural areas felt that awareness initiatives work in a very positive way to lessen the gap between the male-female gender-based privileges (99%).
  • To most, the schemes and programs for women helped in a big way to enhance the status of the women within their families (96%).
  • When questioned about the major reasons for gender-based discriminations within the family, the respondents identified existent patriarchal systems, gender-based myths, social pressure, resistance to change among other family members as the prime causes.

Social: Social systems have perhaps the most profound impact on gender-based attitude of the people. When discussed about the impact of the social system the following outcomes emerged:

  • Working for Swadhina, most of the workers (83%) had to face some sort of a social resistance or the other, especially in the initial stages. It was an eye-opener that it was easier for the male workers to speak about women’s issues than for the female workers to speak about their own issues in public. This male-female ratio in terms of difficulty reduced to a great extent when the age of the participants reduced.
  • Most participants (85%) felt that the different schemes for women (both government and otherwise) helped over the years to offer a better place of empowerment to women and promote gender equality. However, 68% of them also felt that many women are still left out of the sphere and are yet to be reached out to. They felt that it is equally important to correlate the schemes and programs with the need to bridge the gender differences through active campaigns.
  • Many felt (77%) that the participation of women in local governance was a crucial step towards gender equality while many (85%) also felt that the women already involved in governance do not enjoy total freedom of decision-making, often influenced by the men around them. They felt that Swadhina’s efforts to conduct ‘Good Governance Awareness Meets’ in the past had helped much to motivate women to be able decision-makers in the governance system.
  • Majority of the participants (90%) felt that the sustained efforts by Swadhina to improve the gender discriminatory attitude in the working areas was a major contributor to improving scenario in the social sphere.
  • However, most participants (96%), including the male participants, felt that due to safety and security reasons it was still not safe for women to conduct programs or participate in the same without the support of the male colleagues or male members of the family.
  • In identifying the major social barriers to gender equality and discrimination, the participants identified four specific issues: Existence of a patriarchal social system, safety and security issues for women, resistance to social change by the older generation, fear of loss of position of power by men.

Organizational: Swadhina, being a women’s organization, it was pertinent to understand the impact it has in promoting gender equality. The general overview of the participants was:

  • All the participants (100%) felt that Swadhina’s focus on women and the holistic approach had helped to promote women’s empowerment and bridge the gender gap significantly in the working areas.
  • Almost all the participants (98%) felt that as an organization Swadhina has been able to inculcate a feeling of gender equality among those directly associated with it. Infact, the participants felt that sensitization on gender in the respective work areas was majorly due to the initiatives of Swadhina.
  • However, many participants (65%) also felt that there was a need to streamline the awareness level at all sectors so that everyone is a made equally aware.
  • Majority of the participants (80%) felt that that organization is able to successfully put forward its thrust on gender equality through its policies and actions, though some (62%) felt that there is a need to also establish clear indicators for male participation and a clarity on the role of males in this regard. Many also felt that the organization’s recent focus on youth could be a positive game-changer in the long-run.
  • Most (83%) felt that trainings like Leadership Trainings did help the women workers to shed their inhibitions and come forward, however it was also important to sensitize the men so that they are more accepting of this.
  • While most felt that Swadhina has a definite clarity about its focus on women, there is still a scope to improve the focus on ‘gender’ rather than on ‘women’.
  • The participants identified five areas where Swadhina could include more efforts to promote gender equality: Focus on youth, Strengthen specific gender-based policies, Joint sessions of men and women, Family-based sensitization

F2.2.2.Eye Opening Exercises and Focused Group Discussion

One of the crucial steps of Gender Audit was sessions on Eye-Opening Exercises and Focused Group Discussions. Since Gender Auditing is a concept the participants had not witnessed earlier, these exercises and activities were important part of the process. These exercises included:

  • Representatives from all the group of participants
  • Core Members,  and local government representatives
  • Governing Body Representatives, Field Staff and Central Office representatives

Three such programs were organized – one at Aria Panchayat Bhavan ( 28th August 2022), Kolkata and Field Areas – both direct and online as hybrid model (27th November 2022) Hurumbil Panchayat Bhavan ( 2nd December 2022).

Participant TypeTools UsedIdeas DiscussedOutcome
Representations from Governing Body, Core Members, Grassroot Women’s Group members, Field Staff, Volunteers1. Direct Interaction 2. Group discussion in small groups 3. Gendered Privilege Walk 4. Feedback Interview 5. Presentations 6. Questionnaire Discussion1. Gender Audit- concept 2. Scopes and challenges 3. Gender Audit Format and Models 4. Gender Audit Feedback 5. Suggestive measures  1. Conceptual clarity of participants 2. Inputs to the audit process 3. Perspective Building 4. Group Sensitization  
Core Members, Grass-root member Representatives, local government representatives1. Direst Interaction 2. Questionnaire Discussion 3. Feedback1. Gender Situation Analysis from multiple perspectives 2. Gender Audit Feedback 3. Inputs on Way Forward1. Perspective on gender sensitization from different sources 2. Inputs to Audit Process 3. Inputs on Future Planning
Governing Body Representatives, Field Staff and Central Office representatives  1. Direst Interaction 2. Questionnaire Discussion 3. Feedback 4. Document Analyses 5. Policy Discussion1. Gender Audit Update 2. Document, Report, Campaign Material Review 3. Policy Review 4. Questionnaire discussion 5. Inputs on Way Forward1. Status of gender Audit so far 2. Review of documents 3. Discussion on policies

F3. Strategy Building

The Strategy Building process involved three processes:

  • Review of the collated data from questionnaire, discussion and establish the baseline of analysis accordingly
  • Sharing Findings with the team & Collecting Feedback
  • Building Strategies for Future

F3.1. Review of Document, Interviews, Establish a baseline

A team specifically set up for Gender Audit reviewed all the documents, feedbacks and collated the data. Since the feedback came from multiple sources covering multiple groups of people it was important to shortlist the type of data and feedback that would be aptly contributory to the process. Depending on that the baseline of analysis was prepared.

F3.2. Sharing Findings with the team & Collecting Feedback

A Sharing Meet was organized every month (online) to discuss and share the findings with the team and accordingly discuss the feedback. A final meet to share the findings was organized on 6th February 2023. The basic findings as a part of the Gender Audit have been discussed in the previous sections. The follow-up discussion and feedback made it possible to collate an overview of the findings and discuss the follow-up actions needed.

F3.3. Building Strategies for the Future

The entire process was contributory towards finding an in-road to the future actions on behalf of the organization. Details of the Future Strategies are discussed in the following sections. The strategies for future focused on:

  • Enhancing the credibility of Swadhina as a women’s organization
  • Closing loopholes that are existent, in order to promote total gender-sensitivity
  • Designing actions to provide sustainable solutions towards a gender-equal world.
  • Building a role-model as a grass-root organization to maximize impact on gender equality
  • Sensitizing everyone in Swadhina involved in grass-root actions on gender-balanced society.

G. An overview of Gender Audit Findings

The overall Gender Audit exercise threw up some important eye-openers for Swadhina as an organization working for grass-root women:

Positive Findings:

  • Swadhina is one among those organizations whose sole focus has been women’s welfare, including children’s development. The mission, vision, objectives and visible mediums about the organization well reflect this status of Swadhina. Also, it is one of the primary organizations in the nation that work for grass-root women.
  • Majority of the sensitization, awareness, actions in the current working areas of Swadhina on women’s rights and development actions have been possible through Swadhina’s interventions. All the participants whole-heartedly agreed to this view.
  • Not just this, Swadhina’s interventions in the area has made it possible to groom women from very marginalized backgrounds as grass-root leaders due to the trainings and workshops provided by Swadhina.\
  • There has been a definite change of overall outlook in the region regarding providing equal opportunities to young girls due to the sustained campaign of Swadhina’s workers in the region.
  • All those directly involved with Swadhina ( from grass-root workers to Government Body Members) have a staunch belief in gender-equal ideology. This is one reason why no worker (male or female) have ever been accused of gender based violence or sexual harassment.
  • Swadhina’s interventions to promote gender equality and empowering women have had number of visible social changes – a large number of women of the region now own plots of land for their own farming, women members of the grass-root groups have participated and won local Panchayat elections, women are getting access to different government schemes, women have better access to good nutrition, there are public discussions on women’s issue like menstrual hygiene and health which are considered taboos.
  • There is a good cooperation between all the actors of change – from government representatives to grass-root women’s group members, to core members with the core objective to promote women’s empowerment. This helps develop an adequately streamlined system to promote gender equality.
  • Men involved with Swadhina provide excellent support to their female colleagues and co-workers and provide them adequate scope to flourish.
  • There is a great level of enthusiasm among the local youth to be a part of Swadhina’s actions in recent years. They show active support and cooperation as a team, irrespective of their gender.
  • Swadhina’s focus is also adequately reflected in its budget allocations since inception. On an average, nearly 85% of Swadhina’s budget allocations for activities are for women’s development, with 15% being for Chirldren’s Programs.

Areas that need further intervention:

  • Swadhina is focused on Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality is considered to be an inherent part of its mission, vision, objectives and action. However, there is need to build a much more visible perspective and mention of ‘Gender Equality’ in all the documents, reporting and action plans to build a more profound impact.
  • There needs to be a conceptual clarity on ‘gender’ and ‘gender equality’ in a much more meaningful way among the field workers. Working for women’s development does not necessarily translate to gender equality, hence there needs to be adequate awareness and sensitization on this.
  • While there are positive outcomes, there are also incidences of resistances and opposition, especially from the families. Swadhina’s interventions need to include family counselling so as to ensure success for the projects.
  • Similarly, almost everyone spoke of the existence of a patriarchal social system that often acts as a deterrent. There is a need of deep-rooted intervention that is based on ‘gender-equality’ and need to remove ‘gender discrimination’, rather than on women’s empowerment alone. Often, the terminologies used play a key role in bringing change.
  • The awareness actions and campaign’s focus women’s empowerment and equal opportunities need to also at times be inclusive of the role men and the greater society can play towards ensuring a gender-equal society. Lack of this can often dilute the role men and the society at large can play towards the gender-equality campaign. Sensitization and awareness must be more inclusive of all.
  • ‘Gender Audit’ had been a wonderful process for Swadhina to evaluate the deeper impact of its objectives. It opened up the need to have a better clarity in the policies of the organization as a key player in ensuring a gender-equal future. The existent policies focus majorly on women’s safety, security, equality and roles in the organization, ensuring a discrimination-free practice. There is a need to also highlight the role men as staff and part of the organization can play in strengthening this!
  • One thing that has repeatedly come up during the Gender Audit process is how the youth need to be much more actively involved in the organizational interventions to ensure a better future and enhance sustainability of gender-equal practices. In recent years Swadhina has begun to focus on including the youth in a more profound way and this needs to be concretized.
  • The best practices need to be chronicled in the gender-equal perspective, where the empowerment of women is projected as a collective responsibility of every actor in the society.
  • Monitoring of the activities of the organization must include the gender-equal focus so that the interventions are viewed as a right of the women and not a privilege offered to them.

H. Planned Future Interventions

Based on the outcomes of the audit and repeated discussions with all the stakeholders, the following interventions have been planned:

Sl.NoActivityTimelineBudgetExpected Outcome
1Replanning and designing the Organizational Gender Policy Document (OGPD) to focus on gender policies, roles of each key position in this regard, strategies to strengthen gender equality as a future policy .1 month The organization has a new policy document that is comprehensive and clear on its stand and policies on gender.
2Publishing campaign Materials that focus on the role of men, youth and the society in promoting Gender Equality6 months 1. 6 Types of Posters Developed 2. 1 Handbook on Gender developed 3. 5 Types of Display Danglers on Gender Equality Developed All these would be distributed in the working areas.
3Organizing workshops on Gender for conceptual clarity on Gender and Gender Equality6 months 1. 6 workshops at 6 locations including both men and women. 2. Better involvement of men and women on gender-equality activities due to conceptual clarity. 3.Post-workshop evaluation to assess level of understanding of the participants.
4Forming a Youth Core Committee on Gender to involve the youth more deeply in Gender activities and provide them a more comprehensive role in the organization2 months A Youth Committee formed with 30 Active members with representation of grass-root as well as urban members. (60:40 ratio)
5Provide Trainings to the Youth on gender-focused actions6 months 1.3 Youth Trainings of 2 days duration organized with 30 members 2. The trained youth form part of the core team to promote actions on gender equality.
6  Publish a Gender focused Blue-print for the next five years for Swadhina with inputs from the Gender Audit6 months Document on Blueprint for Gender-focused actions for the next five years for Swadhina Developed.
7Gender Assessment Exercise after 6 months to understand the impact of the follow-up activities1 month Evaluation and documentation on the impact of the overall program.

I. Pictoral Gallery of Gender Audit Activities

Gender Audit Team

Concept Building Core Team:

1) Rina Sircar- Founder Seceretary (Former) and Governing Body Member

2) V. Mahesh Nair – Administration and Coordination Head

3) Saswati Roy Patnaik- Secreatary & Chief Functionary

4) Prava Srivastava- Governing Body Member

Gender Audit Team:

1) Sonia Bhattacharya – Gender Expert

2) Antariksh V – Youth Coordinator

3) Papiya Sharma – Field Coordinator

4) Laduram Mahato – Field Coordinator

5) Basumati Mahato – Field Coordinator

6) Krittibas Mahato – Youth Volunteer

7) Anjali Mahato – Youth Coordinator

Data Collation and Reporting:

1) Srichandra MV – Reporting & Documentation Officer

2) Smriti Sarkar- President

3) Anangalekha Maria – Youth Volunteer

Overall Supervision:

1) Supta Mukherji – Founder Treasurer

Prepared and submitted by: Swadhina, 34/C Bondel Road, Kolkata 700019, India


Published by SWADHINA

Swadhina, established in 1986, is a civil society, NGO working for empowerment of women and development of children. Its main office is in Kolkata city in India. It works for all irrespective of caste, creed or colour.

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