Posted by: unhcragd | February 24, 2009

Feedback Welcome – Berenice Tostado on AGDM

Social Work grad student from University of Texas at Austin and CDGECS intern/colleague Berenice Tostado is working on a document defining how to approach AGDM. What do YOU think?! Feedback most welcome.

How do we “do” AGDM?

Although we tend to be “doers” in the world – people who get things done – Age Gender and Diversity Mainstreaming (AGDM) is one of those things we cannot tangibly “do”. AGDM is a way of thinking. More specifically, it is a concept and a fundamental value of UNHCR that highlights the importance of understanding the differences that impact the lives and equality of persons of concern. This value of Age, Gender and Diversity Mainstreaming then requires us to reach out to individuals who are marginalized-living out of the mainstream-and whom often have unheard voices, so that we can more effectively and respectfully protect them. Therefore, “doing” AGDM becomes more a process of internalizing this value, thinking in terms of AGDM, and applying it to our work.

Internalizing AGDM

AGDM begins with acknowledging that all persons are individuals. As individuals, we all have characteristics and experiences that make us unique. We may share some characteristics. We may share some experiences. However, the different combinations of each of our characteristics and each of our own experiences, makes us unique persons.

Much like DNA is unique to each person making us biologically distinct individuals, we are also psychologically, socially and spiritually unique from others. Whereas genetics determines the majority of our DNA make-up before birth, our environment defines the majority of our psychological, social and spiritual make-up as we develop after birth.

Once we have acknowledged that each person is individually unique biologically, psychologically, socially and spiritually, we can begin to understand why people around the world react differently to situations, think differently or behave differently. We are then enabled to consider that much of the world exists within the grey middle versus the black or white extremes. Only then, can we be truly effective humanitarian workers.

Why only after we understand people’s complex individuality can we be truly effective humanitarian workers? Because recognizing this complexity, we realize that a generalized intervention will not be sufficient for the unique situations we operate within. We instinctively put a break on our reflex to react in order to think about the appropriateness of our interventions. We are then able to break away from our templates of general response and are forced to begin with a clean slate.

Beginning with a clean slate has many benefits. First, it forces us to take stock of the environment, situation and specific needs of the individuals involved. Secondly, it forces us to look to best practices and evidence based interventions that will have a significantly higher probability of being effective and sustainable. After the dust has settled and our work is wrapping up, we can identify the increased benefit of our work, our donors can appreciate the results of appropriate, targeted interventions, and the persons of concern are more self-sufficient.

Multi-Functional Teams help Us Internalize AGDM
Multi-functional teams embody the spirit of AGDM. It brings together humanitarian workers who are unique in-of-themselves, and leverages the unique ideas, information, experience, perspectives and resources of each team member. By working together, we can compliment each other’s efforts.

Multi-functional teams are not limited to formal MFTs. They can exist informally, and in any context. The concept behind multi-functional teams is that of collaborating and leveraging the contributions of unique individuals. This collaboration can occur across multiple levels on the UNHCR organizational chart, across the different sectors of the “house”, and out into the sphere where our Implementing Partners, Donors, Hosts Governments, and other relevant entities interact with u s.

How can the Participatory
Assessment Process Help Us Internalize AGDM?

Participatory Assessment is a tool and an ongoing process through which we can discover the uniqueness of the individuals we are working with-their age, gender and other forms of diversity.

Once we understand the make up of individuals, we can better assess which characteristics are strengths, and which are protection risks. We can then leverage the strengths of persons of concern to help them get to self-sufficiency and durable solutions. In parallel, we can empower persons of concern and work with them to address protection risks. The labor intensive process of assessments significantly facilitates the implementation of interventions over time.

1 Participatory Assessments are an activity we can do to learn about persons of concern, and to involve them in the aid process; but Participatory Assessment is a fundamental way of approaching humanitarian aid that ensures equal protection and durable solutions for all persons of concern.

The intertwined twists of the Pikorua (pictured above) symbolize the everlasting bonds and the inter-connectedness of all individuals. People who come from different cultures, and speak different languages may be unique, but the Pikorua reminds us that at the end of the day, we are all still connected to each other as human beings. As we come into contact with one another, we enrich each other’s lives. Our individual age, gender and diversity completes the Pikorua.


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