Gender mainstreaming: a ladder

I was in gender mainstreaming training some time ago. Two hours into the learning, a participant exclaimed: “but we deal not only with women in our projects!”. You can picture the facepalm of the trainer.Quite often I also hear what a hurdle it is to ‘mainstream gender” and other cross-cutting issues into development work. There are a number of simple approaches to befriend what became a standard requirement in projects.Use a “ladder” for instance.Step 1. Find out if gender matters. A gender impact assessment (GIA) will bring the answer. GIA will identify answers to:

  • is the project objective linked with gender inequality patters? The most common patterns relate to differences in the: access to decision-making, representation; access to resources; social/legal/financial status and entitlements.
  • will reaching the project objective affect women and men in a different way/women and men of different age groups in a different way?
  • will the above cause inequality? if yes, take Step 2.

Step 2. Get data. I know, “Lies, damned lies, and statistics”. And it is not about numbers. It is about the way they influence things and decision-makers.  “Figures often beguile me” wrote Mark Twain. Yes, numbers can charm or deceive. Triangulation can help break the charm sometimes.

Step. 3. Prevent/solve inequalities at the levels they manifest themselves. It can be project organisation matters (for example, the membership of Steering Committees) or policy matters influenced by the project (for example, through expert opinions on a draft law).Across all three steps, check you assumptions. Is what we know true/valid? Is this what both genders want/aspire to…? I came across “Testosterone Rex” by Cordelia Fine. See if this review “Goodbye, beliefs in sex differences disguised as evolutionary facts. Welcome the dragon slayer: Cordelia Fine wittily but meticulously lays bare the irrational arguments that we use to justify gender politics.”—Uta Frith, emeritus professor of cognitive development, University College London” will serve as in invitation to read it. Or, this article “A Feminist Biologist Discusses Gender Differences In The Animal Kingdom” by Suzanne Sadedin, Evolutionary Biologist on https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2017/04/13/a-feminist-biologist-discusses-gender-differences-in-the-animal-kingdom/

Each project/development work is different and many gender complexities will arise. And it is rare to reach the 100% gender mainstreamed target. It is still possible to bring a meaningful change/two and by starting small.

Sometimes, it is about giving the floor or creating a forum for all voices to be heard equally. It reminds me of an organisation 50% made of women who had less then 10% representation in decision-making bodies. Supporting an inclusive strategic planning exercise for both the organisation and the women association helped put a first stone into the road towards a more equitable representation and inclusive decision-making.

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