Gender. It’s a small word with a major impact on global development.
When discussing gender integration, one might assume that the word ‘gender’ equates to solely women and girls. This is simply not the case. Gender refers to all sexes – men, boys, women, girls and all those in the transgender community.
Understanding gender’s impact on social and economic growth is the first step towards improving economic development.
For example, does poverty mean the same for men and boys as it does for women and girls? In many parts of the developing world, men eat first (and usually most). Therefore, when food is scarce, women and children – especially girls – suffer the consequences of poverty to a much greater degree.
Upon coming to the realization that poverty means different things to men and women, boys and girls, organizations and governments can more effectively establish and implement programs and policies to remedy such gender inequalities and thereby promote economic growth.
This is gender analysis in action.
At yesterday’s Gender 360 Summit, gender advocates from around the world delved deeper into the complicated topic of gender analysis. Theresa Hwang, Gender Director for CARE USA, emphasized the importance of organizations having gender champions at every level and department, saying that organizations should not only talk the talk, but they must walk the walk. Hwang shared that CARE proudly implements gender-focused policies that include, among others, infant-at-work and breastfeeding programs.
“We can’t effectively create social change if we aren’t evaluating our own values.” – Theresa Hwang
Correct language also proved to be a popular topic of debate. Advocates admitted that gender analysis typically includes jargon that may not be exciting unless you are already interested in the field. Aparna Mehrotra, Senior Advisor on Coordination and Focal Point for Women at UN Women, suggested that we ask ourselves: How we can change the language to incite others to join the conversation? What language and terms will resonate the most with local communities? Mehrotra stressed the importance of having an exciting and easily digestible vocabulary for basic regulations to get people interested. Then, ‘once the door is cracked open,’ more technical gender jargon becomes appropriate.
The Summit also included a brainstorming session (a.k.a The Gender Lounge) whereby breakout groups created a creative ‘mind map’ that illustrated the group’s perspectives on the relationship among contributing factors of gender integration and gender analysis’ main end goal. My group agreed that good leadership, access to quality resources, correct methodology, engaged community members, and proper incentives all play an important role in understanding effective gender analysis.
Finally, representatives from various donor corporations took the stage to discuss the role of donors in setting expectations for gender integration. Across the board, the representatives agreed that showing measurable progress is critical in order to gain and retain interest from potential donors. Sharon Thorn, Senior Director of Federal Government Relations at Walmart, said that corporations must be more focused on taking a cross-sectional approach to gender initiatives and sharing information about already established successful (and unsuccessful) programs and less concerned about getting credited for their efforts. To sum up the donor’s role in gender analysis, the panel reiterated the importance of having gender at the heart of development with three words: scale, impact, sustainability.
FACT: The first instance of gender mainstreaming occurred in 1948 with the publication of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Originally titled The Universal Declaration of Man, Eleanor Roosevelt persuaded members of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to change the title to its current gender-inclusive form.