The Intersectional See-Judge-Act Tool

Toolkit arrow-right Analysing the issue

An intersectionalised, action-focused and interactive community study for personal and social transformation.

Table of content

Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: ISJA steps
Chapter 3: How to apply the ISJA tool
Chapter 4: Creating and conducting an ISJA community study
Chapter 5: Facilitating the study
Chapter 6: What is the facilitator’s role?
Chapter 7: Selecting the participants
Chapter 8: What is the participants’ role?
Chapter 9: Practical guidelines for implementing an ISJA community study
Chapter 10: Let’s celebrate

1. Introduction

The Intersectionalised See-Judge-Act (ISJA) tool is an action-focused method for analysing religious issues[1]. It can be used to identify and analyse matters from a religious perspective, to facilitate personal and social transformation. A topic in a particular context and a relevant religious text are the starting points for designing the community study. The study consists of structured questions which help to identify and name the issues (See), an analysis of their impact from the perspective of those affected (Judge), and an action plan for intervention led by those affected (Act) in order to achieve the intended change.

Three overlapping circles with See, Judge, Act on them.

This tool was adapted from the Contextual Bible Study[2] (CBS) model developed by the Ujamaa Centre at the University of Kwa Zulu Natal in South Africa. In the Make Way (MW) programme, the ISJA tool is being used to look at traditional and emerging Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) issues from a religious perspective. In keeping with the intersectionalised framework of the MW programme, young people with compounded vulnerabilities are prioritised as participants in the community study. That gives minoritised youth the opportunity to speak for themselves. They can lead the process of identifying and planning suitable action that will give them access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) information and services. The recognition that all people in their diversity have the right to embrace, express and celebrate their dignity – and sexual well-being is part of this – guides the community study.

With intersectionality in mind, the questions in the study are designed to highlight the many factors and experiences which overlap and combine to shape an individual’s identity. If necessary, the way this all determines privilege and/or discrimination at different times is analysed too. The community reads and studies the selected religious text to interpret and explain the issues identified. At the end of the study, they draw up an action plan. Its aim is to bring to the attention of the organisations/authorities involved the different steps that need to be taken to address the issues.

[1] The ISJA tool is based on the Christian tradition, with example texts derived from the Bible. The tool’s approach can also be adopted in other religious traditions for use in SRHR advocacy. During the community study, a religious text could then be selected from the sacred book or texts of that particular religion. Another option is a comparative study, in which religious texts from different traditions are read simultaneously. The guiding principle is to allow facilitators and participants to contribute to the community study from their own religious knowledge, convictions and experiences.

[2] Contextual Bible Study (CBS) is the process of reading the Bible in and with the community on a path towards personal and social transformation.

2. ISJA steps

The study follows 6Cs (Community, Context, Criticality, Conscientisation, Change, Celebration) which are guided by a See-Judge-Act (SJA) framework. The SJA framework connects the process in a number of ways. So at various levels, there may be new issues to ‘see’, new ways to ‘judge’ the issues that have been seen and analysed, and new ways to ‘act’ by exploring the actions needed for intervention. It is a cycle that uses the theory in a practical way.

  • See

Social analysis of the participants’ context

Identifying a topic. This process involves a social analysis of the community’s context. It aims to ‘see’ what is in the community (what are issues of concern in this context that are affecting a particular community). There are often several issues (topics). For MW, SRHR topics are of interest.

An appropriate religious text is then identified. The selected text needs to have aspects that relate to the issues/topics identified, to make it possible to have discussions from a religious perspective.

The facilitator identifies the first topic. Later, when the participants are involved and community conversations are ongoing, new topics may arise and be selected for further analysis.

  • Judge

Analysis of the impact of the identified topic (issue)

This is a careful process of ‘judging’ how individuals and the community are affected, by thinking carefully about the topic(s) identified. The community (participants) lead this process by indicating what effect it has on them. You can then draw a parallel with the religious text that was chosen. Have a good look at the ways religion, culture, patriarchy, and other layered identity and systemic aspects determine and shape the impact.

  • Act

Now what? Action planning

This is an intentional process of ‘acting’, by outlining actions that need to be taken so that the desired change can be realised at individual, community and systemic levels.

The 6Cs are commitments to the SJA approach. These 6Cs are:

i. Community

The religious text is read in and with the community rather than individually. Unlike traditional approaches, which mainly rely on an ‘expert’ to give interpretation, the text is read with ordinary readers who are not necessarily trained in using critical tools for interpreting religious texts. Community is equally key because the study aims to create transformed communities that offer love, compassion and affirmation to all people at all times.

ii. Context

The realities of the context for people in the community are raised and analysed in communal conversations. This can be done in various ways. For instance, they could read a contemporary story depicting the topic (so that it can be looked at in combination with the story in the religious text). Or participants could listen to a song, watch a video, or engage with any other resources that will get them to start looking in detail at the topic as depicted in their contexts (communities). The overall aim is to have a clear picture of the community’s social concerns right from the start.

The focus then shifts to the religious text. Analyse the context of this text and raise any subtle issues that could be similar or different to what is found in the contemporary context. This phase enables a dialogue on the social concerns in the contemporary context compared to the context of the religious text.

iii. Criticality

In this step, the focus is on asking critical questions. Questions raised here are intended to interrogate the religious text, yourself and the community. So the ways in which the religious text is read, interpreted and applied is cross-examined. It is common for religious communities to approach religious sources of knowledge with trust (“hermeneutics of trust”). But this step allows for questioning (“hermeneutics of suspicion”). It is the possibility to explore how religious sources of knowledge might be used to promote oppression and injustices. You can also focus on exploring the liberation potential of the religious text, by reading the chosen contextual topic and the religious text together.

iv. Conscientisation

This step focuses on raising awareness. It exposes the tendency to use religious texts (and other religious sources of knowledge) to normalise oppression and injustices. It also further raises awareness of the possibility to focus on and implement the liberation aspects of the religious text. The focus is therefore on transforming how we read the religious text, on being conscious about the message(s) in the text and how we respond to that.

v. Change

In this step, the focus is on developing an action plan that will lead to change. You explore what needs to be done differently, and the resources (capacities) available in the community to facilitate the desired change.

vi. Celebration

Celebrating the community starts with pointing out the challenges that prevent access to SRHR services from a religious angle, particularly for minoritised youth. We then celebrate the community’s commitment to exploring strategies to address these challenges, so that all people in their diversity can exercise their SRHR.

Vicious circle with the 6 C's

3. How to apply the ISJA tool

The ISJA tool can be used to facilitate inclusion, by analysing SRHR issues and exploring actions that need to be implemented so that everyone can access everything they need for sexual well-being.

  • Everyone is welcome to participate in the community study and make contributions in pursuit of action(s) that will make it possible for all people in their diversity to access SRHR services.
  • In the community study, all voices are listened to, valued and considered to develop an action plan that will address the issues raised.
  • The diversity of participants, while prioritising minoritised youth, will make sure that the varying and diverse SRHR needs and concerns, as voiced by participants, are included in the action plan – so that it leaves no one behind.
  • The ISJA tool is versatile and flexible. It can be designed in several ways, depending on the SRHR topic of interest and the religious text chosen for the community study. The religious text is chosen because its context is similar to the reality in the contemporary context, either directly or indirectly. This choice therefore leads to action-oriented discussions on numerous SRHR topics, comparing the context of the religious text to the contemporary context of the community.
  • The action-oriented community study can be done over two or more sessions, depending on the circumstances. A study therefore need not be completed in one session. A complete ISJA community study takes six hours on average, but it may need more time in certain contexts.
  • This ISJA tool invites people to a ‘time of celebration’, as progress is made towards realising the desired change – that all people in their diversity can enjoy their SRHR.

4. Creating and conducting an ISJA community study

Steps taken to create and conduct an ISJA study should be based on the intersectionality enablers outlined in the Intersectionality Resource Guide and Toolkit published by UN Women and the UN Partnership on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNPRPD). The African Women’s Hermeneutical Framework (AWHF) principles, which promote the realisation of intersectionality, are another starting point for the community study process.

An ISJA community study is designed with a set of structured questions that guide the discussions. At the start, a facilitator selects the topic of the study and a corresponding religious text. A statement outlining the objective (or objectives) is formulated first, followed by the relevant questions. To avoid bias, the enablers of intersectionality and the principles that promote the realisation of intersectionality may be consulted whenever necessary and applied consistently.

The questions should be formulated to facilitate progression:

  • What are the distinct socio-historical, cultural, religious or other aspects that shape the context of the religious text?
  • What aspects of the religious text relate to the chosen SRHR topic?
  • In what ways are the context of the religious text, and that of the community, similar and/or different in relation to the SRHR topic?
  • Considering the aspects shaping their context, and their SRHR needs, how are the participants impacted?
  • Considering the aspects shaping the context of the religious text, how are the different characters impacted? (if applicable)
  • What power dynamics are portrayed in the religious text and what impact do they have? (Power as portrayed by characters, use of language, etc.)
  • What overlapping aspects of identity are portrayed and how do they determine a character’s position of privilege/power or vulnerability/powerlessness?
  • What actions need to be taken to address the overlapping aspects of identity that have been identified?
  • Who will be responsible for ensuring these actions are implemented?
  • Whose support will be needed?
  • When will the actions be implemented and how will we know that implementation has been successful?
  • When should we meet again to evaluate our progress and explore whether more action or adjustments, etc. are necessary?

5. Facilitating the study

A facilitator introduces the ISJA community study to the participants, emphasising that the ISJA model is an interactive process of sharing knowledge, in which everyone is welcome to contribute. This introduction describes the essentials of the study and its layout. Particular attention is given to the enablers of intersectionality, so that respect for diversity and harmonious engagement with each other is maintained throughout the study. It is important for the facilitator to stress that participants should be aware of how your identity is influenced by different overlapping factors. These determine a person’s position of oppression or power.

6. What is the facilitator’s role?

  • Dividing the participants into groups in a creative way. The study objective might influence group formation. But participants are often randomly assigned to groups.
  • Enabling the participation of all – everyone’s voice, and their contribution to the conversation, is valid and valuable. The facilitator is one of those voices, but not the most important one.
  • Enabling role sharing at the small group level. These roles for participants include team leader, note taker, timekeeper, reporter, etc.
  • Managing conflict if it arises.
  • Providing information to participants when requested. This should be done in a way that makes use of the participants’ capacities as much as possible. If a facilitator needs to do research, and perhaps consult other people, they can ask the participants for more time before responding to a request.
  • Being sensitive to the diverse levels of literacy and capacities, giving repeated and further explanations whenever necessary.
  • Being sensitive to participants’ needs and prepared to respond to any of these needs. Topics discussed in the study could be painful and difficult for some, bringing emotions to the surface. Breaks in the session can be used to talk to participants.
  • Investing in preparation before the study.
    • Read through the study.
      • Read the entire religious text.
      • Read all the questions.
    • Carry out the necessary research.
      • First, on the religious text, to be familiar with the socio-historical, cultural and religious dimensions of its context.
      • Research the contemporary topic chosen and prepare a factsheet.
    • Plan on how to present the study questions: printing them out, on flip charts, in a PowerPoint presentation, etc.
    • Gather all the materials you need for the study. For instance, large pieces of paper, pens, marker pens, sellotape, notecards, etc.

7. Selecting the participants

Minoritised youth with overlapping vulnerabilities make up the highest percentage of participants in an ISJA community study. Certain criteria may be used to guide the process of selecting participants. For instance, if the objective is to hold a conversation between religious leaders and minoritised youth, and to plan any action needed, small groups should be created in a way that ensures the representation of both leaders and young people. But if the aim is an intergenerational conversation to plan action, participants of varying age ranges should be considered for inclusion in each of the small groups. Another example is grouping participants according to gender (with utmost sensitivity to gender diversity). Representatives from the health or education sector, or from the government, etc. may also be included. The key guiding factor for selection is the objective (or objectives) of the community study.

A community study can also be done in phases. Participants may be grouped in one way in the initial phase, and then merged and re-grouped in subsequent phases. A strategy like this could enhance the dialogue, and create participation from different perspectives in the search for appropriate action to address issues raised.

8. What is the participants’ role?

This action-oriented study is the participants’ study. It is for the community to participate in action planning, so each participant gets the opportunity to share their knowledge and ideas. Participants are ‘ordinary readers’. They don’t necessarily have any training in academic tools used to interpret religious texts, but they do enrich the process. By sharing their insights, they help the group look in detail at the SRHR topic that has been chosen. The group can then reflect on how they are impacted individually and as a community. When participants share their own experiences in and with the community, they provide a clearer picture for analysis of the current situation. They can also point out resources, get involved in taking action, and lobby for support of the desired changes.

9. Practical guidelines for implementing an ISJA community study

A facilitator guides and supports the whole community study process. The following guidelines may be of use to the facilitator:

Linear presentation with the practical guidelines.

  • Act of worship

The session could begin with an act of worship – silence, prayer, or another practice preferred by the participants.

  • Introduction

Allow the participants to introduce themselves in a way they are most comfortable with. The facilitator also introduce themselves.

Give an overview of the ISJA approach and its steps.

Introduce the study of the day and outline its objective(s): the chosen SRHR topic, and the chosen religious text. The text may be read with the participants for initial familiarisation. After reading, give a brief introduction of socio-historical, cultural and religious dynamics of the context of the religious text, if necessary. These details will offer guidance to participants for their discussions in small groups.

  • Issues analysis (Community Study Section I)

Divide the participants into groups to discuss the first set of questions, which focus on analysis of the topic and related issues.

  • Analysis presentations

After completing the first study section, participants gather and present their discussions. Allow time for reactions and comments from all participants.

Each group pins their flip charts on a board and reads them out loud, so that everyone knows what issues have been raised. Once the presentations are over, the facilitator may list the main issues raised. The facilitator offers further support by sharing information on a factsheet prepared beforehand, if necessary.

Once this is done, the next study section (action planning) is introduced. The facilitator asks the participants to go back into their groups for the action planning section.

  • Action planning (Community Study Section II)

Participants take some time to develop an action plan. They identify the change they want to see, the actions needed to achieve that change (individual, communal, systemic), and the time in which the action is to be done. They also identify people who could help to achieve the desired change. These could be people working for religious institutions, the health or education sector, the government, NGOs, Community-Based Organisations, etc.

  • Presenting the action plans

The groups present their action plans. These plans may be harmonised in areas where they are similar, with proposals from each group included.

  • Setting dates for follow-up

The participants agree on dates to meet for follow-up. Follow-up meetings to track progress could be in-person or virtual.

  • Act of worship

The community study session may end with an act of worship.

10. Let’s celebrate

The ISJA tool enables advocacy through a community-centred approach. This is because the community study exposes layers of oppression that prevent access to all you need for sexual well-being. Once an action plan is developed and implemented, it is time for celebration and evaluation.

Towards the end of the process, we celebrate:

  • Community participation, as influence and partnerships built in the process become apparent at different levels and in several ways.
  • The courage to name what has weakened the community by preventing access to SRHR services, particularly for minoritised youth.
  • Our commitment to explore strategies to address these challenges affecting the community, so that all people in their diversity can enjoy their SRHR.

Implementation of this tool is constantly evaluated, as the ISJA approach is not a linear process. Moments of ‘seeing’, ‘judging’ and/or ‘acting’ occur over and over again, so evaluation is a critical part of measuring results. Evaluating also reveals gaps that may need to be addressed, as well as offering insights on best practices in interventions.

The ISJA tool is a useful resource in lobby and advocacy from a religious perspective. Individual change is often the focus in religious circles, but this tool facilitates focus beyond the individual. It gives you the opportunity to consider the community as a whole, as well as oppressive systems and structures which need to be changed. Focusing on all of these – the individual, the community and the systems –  is its distinctive strength. The tool can therefore be used to influence desired change in a variety of contexts, while considering different SRHR topics.

Annex 1: Example of an ISJA community study 

Annex 2: Background of the ISJA tool

For further information or guidance on using this ISJA tool, please contact:
The Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians – Kenya Chapter
+254 746243292


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