How can a Participatory Action Learning System (PALS) help to empower women? ANANDI, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in Gujarat, India, successfully used PALS to support women from poor and marginalised groups to identify, analyse and solve their own problems. Women assessed their levels of poverty and food security and spoke for the first time about personal experiences of domestic violence. They explained that empowerment for them meant having a livelihood, doing men's work, having livestock, and visiting the panchayat (village council) office. For some it was the first time they had discussed these issues. This article outlines the methods used to facilitate women's participation. PALS uses a range of diagrams, symbols and drawings to facilitate discussions with community groups. For example, 'road journeys' map how a group progresses and charts its' obstacles, while 'trees' help institutional analysis - the roots representing the inputs and the branches the outcomes. Participatory discussions are followed up by 'melas', forums where women's groups network, discuss issues and plan collective action.
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