Advancing Gender Mainstreaming: A Case Study of FARO in Ecuador

Case Study

From June to October 2023, Catalystas supported FARO´s gender mainstreaming – at both the organizational and programmatic levels – according to its own needs, guidelines, regulatory framework, and internal instruments.

The Foundation for the Advancement of Reforms and Opportunities (FARO) is an independent Ecuadorian research and action center aimed at conducting research and developing initiatives on democracy, transparency, public policy, education and sustainable development. Its foundational principles include equity, integrity, pluralism, resilience, collaboration, innovation, and independence. Given the diversity of actors, projects, and themes with which FARO engages, there was a huge need for the integration of a gender perspective at both organizational and programmatic levels. This was crucial to ensure the mainstreaming of the equity principle throughout the entire institution.

Lessons learned in Advancing Gender and Intersectionality

Always start from what has been built

At all levels of the consultancy process, Catalystas followed feminist principles of learning, collaboration, participation, inclusion and reflexivity and took into consideration information and experiences already implemented in the institution. Catalystas carried out individual and group qualitative and semi-structured interviews with key informants from FARO’s areas. The interviews allowed the team to gain a deeper understanding of the work of the institution, the projects and research with which they work and the advances and challenges in gender mainstreaming across the organization and programs.

In the initial stage of the Consultancy, Catalystas identified that FARO already had great progress in gender issues, even without being framed as such, like leadership styles and organizational culture, the percentage of women employed and in decision-making positions, and objectivity and neutrality in hiring processes. Thus, Catalystas´ team worked to make visible and integrate the progress made in gender mainstreaming efforts. Evenmore, they worked to deepen this approach, not only as concerns for improving the situation of women but also as considering power relations between people, inequalities and differential needs of the most vulnerable groups. Literature review combined traditional gender mainstreaming approaches from governments and international agencies with feminist and intersectional ones from civil society organizations and grassroot movements.

Actively involve all parts of the organization

Throughout the entire consultancy process, there was great commitment and interest on the part of FARO’s teams, area managers and management to learn more about the gender and intersectional approach and move forward in this direction. Catalystas held participatory and co-creation sessions with FARO members such as a virtual workshop with theoretical training and proactive activities to work on FARO´s project cycle and a practical workshop to exercise the mainstreaming of the gender approach at the organizational and programmatic level.

Catalystas highlights the potential of conducting practical and collaborative workshops instead of lecture or class format training. The workshops allowed a greater appropriation of the gender mainstreaming concepts and tools by the FARO teams from a practical point of view focused on their daily operations.

Develop locally situated tools and documents

During the period of the Consultancy, the products originally outlined in the Terms of Reference underwent changes and modifications. For instance, Catalystas and FARO learned that it was necessary to consolidate a single conceptual document with theoretical content to be used as a basis for the following materials with a greater focus on practical actions. Also, because of the particularity of the initiatives carried out by FARO, recommendations for gender mainstreaming in project development and data collection needed to be unified in a single document.

To present progress, clarify doubts, plan workshops, and reflect upon feedback to fine-tune all products, Catalystas and FARO held periodic meetings. Catalystas carried out a feedback group meeting to present the products produced by the consultancy and receive suggestions and comments for improvement. Both teams understood that the documents and tools for gender mainstreaming must be locally situated and adapted to the reality of the institution itself, even if this means departing from the previous guidelines in the Terms of Reference. Good communication, transparency and flexibility for both sides was also crucial to ensure consultancy´s objectives.

Understand that these transformations take time and need political decision

Modifications to the products implied an adjustment of the original timeframe and greater flexibility and communication between the consulting team and the FARO focal point. Although certain modifications could have been established at an early stage, the construction of the documents was developed jointly and collaboratively, learning as we went along. Catalystas and FARO together understood that gender mainstreaming requires certain processes and understandings which needed more time than initially expected. Whatismore, Catalystas emphasized the importance of political commitment for gender mainstreaming and its transformations across the organization.

During the consultancy, Catalystas carried out a crucial meeting with the authorities and representatives of each area to jointly define the format of FARO’s Gender Policy document and establish its main components. The material consolidated through this consultancy laid the foundations for a more effective approach to gender and intersectional issues which should be sustained by the institution in the subsequent years. It is fundamental that FARO continues those actions that it is already carrying out in the area of gender, as well as to strengthen those that are still pending to mainstream gender and intersectionality both at the programmatic and organizational level.


To achieve gender mainstreaming, Catalystas successfully developed four essential products: 

  1. Conceptual Framework on Gender Approach: It served as a conceptual and theoretical guide for FARO’s internal teams. It included the primary conceptual definitions and frameworks of the gender approach. It also delved into current gender agendas at regional and international levels, emphasizing the relevance of applying this approach comprehensively in various organizational actions.
  2. Mainstreaming Gender Approach in Project Development and Data Collection: It compiled examples, guidelines, and recommendations to effectively integrate the gender and intersectional approach in different stages of project development and data collection. It considered five significant stages aligned with various areas of FARO, including project proposal development, initial diagnosis, complete project design, data collection, and activity implementation.
  3. Conceptual Document for Organizational Gender Mainstreaming: It detailed the specific conceptual framework for gender mainstreaming and plausible areas to integrate gender organizationally. It also presented progress and challenges related to gender within FARO. Lastly, it compiles ongoing initiatives and recommended actions to ensure effective gender mainstreaming throughout the organization.
  4. Gender Policy Document: It condensed FARO’s commitment to promoting gender equality and integrating the gender approach into its initiatives and internal operations.

Scope of Work

Catalystas provided the following services for our client


Judith Vollebregt

Rotterdam, Netherlands

Judith is a passionate development and humanitarian professional with more than eight years of experience working for actors ranging from the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs to INGOs, where she has worked on program design and development, policy development, and program management. She is an expert in the fields of improved business development, access to the labor market through higher education, humanitarian aid, and justice and security governance.

Holding a MSc in Conflict Resolution and Governance at the University of Amsterdam as well as a BSc in Political Science and a BA in Middle Eastern Studies from Leiden University, her experience focuses on fragile regions in the Middle East, South East Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa, where she has lived and worked over the past decade for various NGOs.

Judith has extensive experience in developing and initiating projects, including scoping potential partners, finding a program’s unique selling point, and grant-writing. When it comes to project implementation, Judith is highly passionate about working with those actors on the ground who can make a real difference.

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