Posted 4 April, 2014 by Tin Geber

Gender Defenders Workshop

One of the engine room’s areas of work is helping organisations tackle complex ideas. CIVICUS, a global network of civil society organisations, asked us to think together around an innovative long-term plan for people-powered accountability processes in the post-2015 global context, and we were excited to participate.

The priority for CIVICUS is shifting top-down information processes, and we’re conducting thematic workshops to find a common language for information collection and management across cultures, countries and NGO silos. On April 1st, 2014, we helped CIVICUS to convene a Gender Defenders Workshop in Istanbul. The workshop’s goal was to engage horizontal capacity building and sharing of information, recognize support areas and empower diverse groups to spark collaborative processes for a deeper conversation about shared efforts in data harmonization. The workshop gathered 17 participants with a broad range of expertise, from anti-harassment data-collection activists, technology specialists, gender safety and security experts, to storytellers and photo/video evidence campaigners.

The lay of the land

We started off by mapping successes and challenges in working with data (preferred collection system? the everlasting post-it sticky of course, with a dual color twist – yellow for successes, pink for challenges). The exercise produced an impressive array of concepts that participants categorized into macro-areas. Interestingly, most of the challenges resided within methodology, credibility and data organization, while most of the successes revolved around outputs, like campaigning, grounds for accountability, or changing attitudes.


The open discussion that followed confirmed the feeling that most challenges come from acquiring and managing data, as well as establishing trust (especially in interviews). Data anonymization was also an important talking point. The question of data ownership permeated the conversation: who really owns data, and for what purpose? Are steps taken to ensure the interviewee’s self-ownership of data?

Let’s find solutions

The rest of the day saw small working groups tackle specific issues in concrete, practical ways. Some issues were:

  • Tips and tricks for data advocacy
  • Safety and privacy
  • Leveraging text for data analysis
  • Shifting cultural attitudes
  • LGBT and GBV
  • Data harmonization in India

The main takeaway of the working group phase is that issues have real, important and effective applicability towards capacity building of GBV organisations, and each of them would benefit from growing into a full workshop. There were insightful conversations about siloing and fragmentation around activism areas such as LGBT and GBV, where there is little or no overlap and mutual assistance. Siloing isn’t exclusively a cross-thematic issue: the India harmonization group saw great benefits in setting up a network of collaboration and skill sharing for India’s gender defender groups, to avoid repetition and learn from each other.

Don’t ask what accountability can do for you…

genderdefenders-civicusIn the day’s last activity, participants were asked to map out what concrete next steps can be taken, by the participants themselves (for networking, pushing dialogue or improving organisational coverage) or by CIVICUS. The main recognized strengths for CIVICUS support were their large network and neutral position that allows the organisation to effectively implement capacity building, networking and resources.

Where now?

The workshop produced a multitude of quality ideas, plans and insights for CIVICUS to engage in capacity building, enabling harmonization and comparability, especially thanks to its position of a neutral, wide and cross-thematic network of civil society organisations. The outputs are largely actionable and have clear next steps that will inform CIVICUS in their road towards people-powered accountability.

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