WHY GENDER MAINSTREAM ?

While gender mainstreaming is clearly essential for securing human rights and social justice for women as well as men, it is also increasingly recognized that incorporating gender perspectives in different areas of development ensures the effective achievement of other social and economic goals. Mainstreaming can reveal a need for changes in goals, strategies and actions to ensure that both women and men can influence, participate in and benefit from development processes. However a number of organizations, Ministries, Departments, Agencies and the like have continued to under look the concept of gender in their operations. Strategies have not been applied enough in program assessment, design, implementation, and evaluation to take gender norms into account and to compensate for gender-based inequalities.

The argument brought at the forefront is that many of the players have not been adequately equipped with the skills to do gender mainstreaming in their different programmatic areas. Probably it is the question of not having the leadership drive as agents of change to champion this aspect into force. The gap continues to gape visibly given the number of instances where we are still experiencing inequalities. There are inequalities in political power, within the households, differences in legal statuses and entitlements, gender division within the labour economy and many other discriminatory attitudes.

Participants of the Gender Mainstreaming training taking a group photo at Ridar Hotel

In a drive to empower Civil Society Organizations to engender gender mainstreaming in their processes, programmatic areas as well as internal organizational structures, Akina Mama wa Afrika, a Pan-African Feminist and Transformational Leadership Development Organization, set out to train organizations which are implementing the Connecting Citizens Voices for Change programme (CVC) on how to mainstream gender for an inclusive, just and equitable society. The training took place on the 21st to the 23rd of February 2017 at Ridar Hotel, Seeta. 20 organizations were trained including Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE).

Gender mainstreaming is seen as a strategy for making women’s as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres so that women and men benefit equally and inequality is not perpetuated. The ultimate goal is to achieve gender equality.

The Beijing Platfrom for Action (1995) stipulates clearly that, “Governments and other actors should promote an active and visible policy of mainstreaming a gender perspective in all policies and programmes so that, before decisions are taken, an analysis is made of the effects on women and men, respectively.”

The Government of Uganda has made tremendous efforts to patch up the gaps through putting in place various gender mainstreaming mechanisms. Dr. Sarah Ssali, a lecturer at the Makerere University College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and one of the trainers noted that Uganda now has a fully-fledged Equal Opportunities Commission; affirmative action has been extended to women and other vulnerable groups, while the Gender and Equity Certification is a prerequisite for all sectors when developing their financial budgets. However a lot still has to be done. The policy on Gender Responsive Budgeting, for example, which was adopted by the Government as part of its resource allocation process is yet to influence fiscal and monetary policy. Additionally, gender is not evident in macroeconomic policy targets, strategies and performance indicators “There is a big role that each individual organization has to play as they implement their different programs to steer them towards gender balance”, said Dr. Ssali.

Ms. Eunice Musiime, the Executive Director of Akina Mama wa Afrika noted that FOWODE has continued to champion gender mainstreaming especially in the economic sphere for sustainable development by strategically engaging in gender and economic policy issues to enable women and men benefit from government economic policies and programmes equitably. This is one strategy that FOWODE has embarked on in its efforts to mainstream gender in her programmatic areas and participants were encouraged to pick a leaf from that by identifying one area in which they could ably mainstream their gender roles.

The training also provided the space to explore the importance of capacity building as a fundamental issue for the implementing partners of the CVC programme. In order to effectively pursue the mainstreaming strategy in its own work and to encourage others to work in a complementary fashion, an institution must work to build its own capacity. This has proven to be a long-term process that requires explicit ongoing attention, resources, commitment and capital.

A cross-section of the participants during a working group exercise.

To assess their current capacity for gender mainstreaming, and identify where further development is needed, organizations were advised to consider how they stand in relation to the components of capacity building. For example developing skills needed to identify and respond to issues of equality between women and men which are relevant to the organization’s mandate; putting in place structures and mechanisms which facilitate ensuring that the concerns of both women and men as well as equality issues are raised within planning and decision making processes. Organizations were also advised to formulate units or departments within their structures which are responsible for advocating on gender equality issues and gender mainstreaming.

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