Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Strategies for Promoting Gender Equity in Developing Countries

Featured Speaker: Nyaradzai Gumbonzvanda
Panel 1: Jane Jaquette, Aruna Rao, Maria Floro
Panel 2: Andrew Levac, Angelina Aspuac, Lyn Beth Neylon

Jane Jaquette, a professor at Occidental College, started off the conference by exploring the evolution of strategies to promote gender equity. The two prominent strategies have been WID (Women in Development) and GAD (Gender and Development). The former was a first attempt in the feminist movement to promote gender equity in the developing world, and served as a basis for trial and error. The latter, GAD, was the second program and was a response to a very different set of challenges. What we need to consider now when implementing gender equity strategies is what has changed since then and the shifts in policy that need to be made to account for the evolution of the feminist and gender movements.

Following Dr. Jaquette, Ms. Aruna Rao, director of Gender at Work presented on gender mainstreaming and its overall effectiveness. “Gender mainstreaming” is traditionally defined as “making mainstream work for women”. The term was coined at the Fourth World Conference in 1995, originally grounded in theoretical feminist thinking. While its goal is to reach gender equality, in the worst case scenario it only leads to a stop in cash flow for women’s empowerment. Positive examples of outcomes from gender mainstreaming have been the exceptions instead of the other way around.

The most recent failures of gender-mainstreaming efforts have been due to lack of funding to women’s organizations from the U.N. In 2006, the UN budgeted $1.1 billion to UNICEF while only providing $36 million to UNIFEM.

While many policies are created along the right track, the progress between policy to action is often slowed or simply does not happen because bureaucrats feel they have few incentives for answering to women. What needs to happen is a de-politicization of the feminist transformational vision. We need projects placed in the context of the feminist movement instead of in terms of political development.

EngenderHealth’s Men As Partners Program Director, Andrew Levack, followed in the next panel, offering his insights on reproductive health and gender equality, looking predominantly at ways men can take action. The biggest question and challenge that he deals with is the socialization of men and boys and how it imposes visible costs to women and society as a whole. While many men could be dependable partners in promoting gender equity, they have been molded to a hegemonic model of masculinity. Recent research has suggested links between norms of masculinity and correlations with negative health outcomes. What health programs can do is develop gender-sensitive programs and work on creating a new masculinity because as M.A.P.’s motto puts it “our strength is not for hurting”. Levack has worked most recently in South Africa on the “Stepping Stones” inter-generational program to develop progressive views toward women’s rights and health in several parts of the country.

Guatemalan women’s rights activisit Angelina Aspuac followed Levack with the story of her organization, AFEDES (Asociación para el Fomento de la Formación, el Empleo, la Información y el Desarrollo del Norte). This organization is a real success story when it comes to women’s organizations in developing countries. It began in 1988 as just a few women with an ambitious idea; they all happened to gather at their husband’s meetings to help with cooking and other preparations. Together, they bonded to form what is now AFEDES. The organization is now is in the process of developing its next triennial work plan, as the current one expires at the end of 2007. The past three years, they have focused on strengthening the support services they provide to women including empowerment, increasing productive capacity and promoting reproductive and psychosocial health. One of the most pressing issues for this next three-year plan is increasing parental accountability when it comes to education. Too many girls are stuck at home helping in the fields or to take care of their siblings. Though the processes of funding and more broad aid efforts are long and bureaucratic, AFEDES works with persistence and accountability so as not to lose their cause in the bureaucracy. Hopefully, they can spread this effort to other women’s organizations around the world and improve women’s health and rights globally.

Location & Sponsor: Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars
Date: April 26, 2007
Time: 8:00am-1:00pm
Approximate Number of Attendees: 120
Intern Attending: Elysa Severinghaus

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