Promising Practice: Delivering Gender-Segregated Cultural Orientation Sessions

Refugee at a resettlement center

Cultural Orientation is required for all refugee adults. However, Cultural Orientation providers report that multiple factors contribute to lower levels of participation and engagement in Cultural Orientation by women. These factors include language barriers and cultural norms, issues around childcare and transportation, as well as safety and protection concerns. Therefore, in order for providers to effectively implement and deliver Cultural Orientation, they must balance these challenges and needs with available resources and time. One strategy providers have used to engage women is gender-segregated sessions.

What to Consider Before You Begin

Who is Involved?

In the course of planning and delivering gender-segregated CO, you will want to engage various staff in your organization starting with directors and/or supervisors to ensure support and to establish a realistic picture of resources available for implementation. Additionally, CO providers will engage with staff and volunteers, potentially including individuals that come from the same community as the target populations. Working with staff and volunteers can help CO providers better understand client needs and motivations, assist with logistics, and provide guidance on how to best message and communicate with participants. In developing gender-segregated CO sessions, as with all CO sessions, you need to utilize properly trained and skilled interpreters. For some topics it may be appropriate to engage community guests with specific expertise.

Materials and Resources Needed

In conducting gender-segregated CO sessions, you will want to reassess existing CO materials and resources. Part of updating these resources is considering how gender equality is reflected in materials. For example, you may want to ensure that there is a balance of images that feature both males and females. Updates to CO materials may also include modifying activities to better meet the needs of the individuals in the CO session.

Timing

In terms of preparing and implementing this promising practice, you will want to consider the time involved in engaging the various staff members; recruiting and training volunteers, interns, and interpreters; and updating CO materials and resources. Depending on the structure of the gendersegregated CO sessions, additional time may be needed for coordination and logistics. For example, providing transportation for participants will require more time to organize than if participants arrive to the CO sessions independently. Moreover, engaging community guests may also require additional time.

Application

Goal of Promising Practice

By conducting gender-segregated CO sessions you will be able to:

  • Improve attendance of women in CO, thereby ensuring all adult refugees receive CO
  • Enhance learning and engagement by customizing CO delivery to participant needs and promising student-centered learning principles
  • Create a positive learning environment to facilitate participation and establish a stronger sense of community
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Assess need

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Practice in Action

Kentucky Refugee Ministries in Louisville provides different CO programs to meet the diverse needs of the refugees they serve. Through a family center, they are able to provide childcare for parents with small children so that all parents can participate in ESL and CO classes. ESL and CO classes meet in mixed-gender groups, with gender-segregated sessions on sensitive health topics allowing both men and women access to specialized information.

World Relief in Seattle, Washington and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Oakland, California both deliver gender-segregated CO for Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders. Drawing on needs assessments, they both determined it would be necessary to coordinate transportation to and from a single-day CO session. These women-only classes are generally smaller in size (fewer than 10 participants) and include provision of lunch or tea and snacks. Smaller class sizes make coordination of transportation more manageable; and when combined with hospitality, it helps promote a safe and positive learning environment, contributing to improved learning during CO.

Tips for Success

The following are a list of tips and recommendations based on feedback collected from CO leaders as well as research on the impact of gender on education and learning.
  • All CO should meet learner needs and not be based on gender stereotypes or assumptions.
  • Consider steps that can be taken to establish trust and a positive learning environment for all participants.
  • Encourage attendance by addressing barriers when possible.
  • Promote retention of information being taught in the CO session by drawing on adult learning principles.
  • Identify appropriate interpreters to ensure messages are clearly and professionally communicated no matter the CO topic or make-up of participants in the CO session.