Report of the Conference "Mainstreaming Gender: Issues and Challenges"
Mainstreaming gender is the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in all areas and at all levels. The ultimate goal is to achieve gender equality. It is based on the premise that gender equality is, first and foremost, a human right and women are entitled to live in dignity.
Gender equality leads to peace through the promotion of development and good governance. It is 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. It levels the playing field for the women by ensuring equal opportunities and building capacities which eventually expands women's freedom and well-being.The greater empowerment of women reduce child neglect and mortality, cut down fertility and over- crowding, and more generally, broaden special concern and care. However, gender equality still seems a distant dream. There are regions of the world where inequality between women and men directly involves matters of life and death and takes the brutal form of unusually high mortality rate and consequent preponderance of men in the total population. The needs and priorities of half of human kind have yet to make it to the forefront of the development agenda. Of the world's 1 billion poorest people, three fifth are still women and girls. Of the 960 million adults in the world who cannot read, two third, unfortunately, are women. Seventy percent of the 130 million children who are not enrolled in schools are girls. And with notable exceptions, such as Rwanda and the Nordic countries, women are conspicuously absent from parliaments, making up, on average, only 16 percent of parliamentarians worldwide. The legal systems in many countries discriminate women in the areas of family law, inheritance, property and land-ownership, citizenship and criminal law. Thus the present scenario highlights how important is the mandate of mainstreaming the gender world over. Gender mainstreaming as a global strategy for the promotion of gender equality was established in the Platform for Action adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995). Gender Mainstreaming now is a globally accepted strategy for promoting gender equality. Mainstreaming is just not an end in itself but a strategy, an approach, a means to achieve the goal of gender equality.
Against this backdrop, Women's Studies Centre, Punjabi University, Patiala organized a two days International Conference on the theme "Mainstreaming Gender: Issues and Challenges" on November 25-26, 2011. Punjabi University, celebrating its Golden Jubilee year through this international Conference on Mainstreaming Gender launched 16 days of activism campaign pertaining to the issues and joined hands with the white ribbon campaign , all policy objectives of UN Women, Secretary General's campaign UNITE to say no to violence against women and endorsed the Secretary General's network of Men leaders efforts to have partnership of men and women in this direction.
The Delegates of the Conference were unanimous on the issues of gender inequality and they were of the opinion that gender inequality remains deeply entrenched in every society; women lack access to decent work and face occupational segregation and gender wage gaps; They are often denied access to basic education and healthcare; They are under represented in political and economic decision making processes and suffer from violence and discrimination. Gender mainstreaming is very much about identifying and streamlining the existing gender biases right from conception to death.
The importance of taking a broad focus on gender mainstreaming was emphasized, including not only the government but also the private sector, academia, religious institutions, and the media; and within government, not only the executive branch but other branches such as the judicial branch. The importance of incorporating gender perspectives in the overall macroeconomic framework for development was highlighted. The need to move beyond individual sectors to the larger economic development framework; and to situate discussions of micro-credit and the work on gender mainstreaming in national budgets in the broad macroeconomic context, was emphasized. Issues of good governance – in particular participation, transparency and account-ability, were identified as critical in gender mainstreaming. The importance of a rights-based approach was highlighted in many discussions and the value of CEDAW, as a framework for promoting gender mainstreaming, was emphasized by many presenters. The Conference highlighted those issues that create the gender disparity across social, cultural and economic fabric of the developing societies such as India. It was agreed upon that the Gender mainstreaming involves in bringing the gender inclusiveness and parity in social sectors like health, education and agriculture apart from in the arenas of decision-making. A systematic attention is the need of hour to ensure gender inclusive and gender sensitive activities fostering women empowerment and advancement at all levels.
A number of key constraints to gender mainstreaming were also highlighted: There still remain huge gaps between policy commitments and resource allocations within organizations, and this negatively affects implementation of gender mainstreaming on the ground. Many organizations still have cultures which are not supportive of the promotion of gender equality; and even where policy commitments are in place, adherence to these is not mandatory and there are no sanctions for non-compliance. Neglect of gender perspectives in policies and programmes is not questioned by senior managers. Gender analysis and incorporating of gender perspectives is not yet done as a matter of course within organizations. There are still serious and unacceptable gaps in the availability of sex-disaggregated data.
The Conference highlighted that Gender Mainstreaming is not a tug of war between the two sexes. Gender mainstreaming should be seen more holistically, as a process of integration between man and woman as man is also a gender and an integral part of the gender approach. It should be seen as a strategy for integrating the concerns and experiences of both genders in the formulation and implementation of all political, economic and societal policies and programmes. The Responsibility of the choice of implementing gender mainstreaming lies both on women as well as men in all public and private affairs. Gender mainstreaming is as important at macro levels as is at home and at the workplace in a manner that the inequality between women and men is not perpetuated.
For gender mainstreaming, the intergovernmental processes at the highest levels in macro economic areas like development, poverty eradication, human rights etc are required to be made more gender sensitive and inclusive. The existing poverty eradication pragrammes need to be revisited from a gender perspective and empowerment approach. The bottom-up approach to poverty eradication strategies should be strengthen to ensure women’s ownership involvement by enhancing women’s capacities through training and education.
The Conference also advocated for extending gender mainstreaming by increasing the amount of women in positions of decision-making. There is need to take into account the gender parity perspective and to enhance the role and visibility of women in legislative, executive, judiciary, media and other important areas of polity.
Policy Formation and Implementation:
* Delegates agreed upon the urgency to design, implement and monitor mutually reinforcing gender-sensitive policies and programmes that are effective and made with the full participation of women at all level for the purpose of achieving equality
* To plan and design such strategies and mechanism which may enhance the capability of women and empower them to cope with the negative impacts of globalization. It is important to develop policies and programmes that can foster the empowerment and advancement of women.
* To implement strictly all labour legislations particularly Equal Remuneration Act. In the unorganized sector as 90 per cent of the women are working in the unorganized sector so there is need to enact legislation for ensuring job security and adequate remuneration. A review of existing legislations is needed in terms of gender perspectives. The role of the government and civil society, including NGOs need to be more proactive for providing appropriate social security systems.
Combating the Violence against Women:
+ The delegates reached on the consensus that violence against women and children is root cause of gender inequality and hindrance in Mainstreaming Gender. All the stakeholders need to be engaged in order to change societal attitudes and condone violence against women and perpetuate gender inequality. The state must not only punish the perpetrators but also undertake measures to prevent such violence.
+ An increasing range of stakeholders include civil society organizations , religious and community leaders, the media , the private sector , young men and boys and high level governmental officials; all of them should be increasingly engaged in initiatives to end violence against women which ultimately would help in mainstreaming gender. Campaigns to sensitise community and religious leaders need to be carried out and a range of methods should be used to increase public awareness and sensitivity. Campaigns need to be carried out in connection with annual commemorations of the international days such as 16 days of activism and , to end violence against women and international day for the elimination of violence against women, white ribbon campaigns etc. Efforts need to be based on specific communication strategy indicating the zero tolerance to gender based violence.
+ Training and seminars concerning gender mainstreaming and other gender issues need to be conducted for target groups and they include peace keeping personnel, parliamentarians, civil servants and non governmental organizations.
+ Delegates were of the view that the easy availability of firearms, drugs and alcohol is also one of the many reasons for escalating violence against women. Therefore, the State must devise ways and means by which a check can be made on these vices so as to keep a tab on the incidents of violence against women under the influence of drugs, alcohol and misuse of firearms.
+ Publications, brochures, websites, audio-visual material, social media , TV , Radio , sports, debates need to be utilized in awareness raising and information programmes.
+ It was recommended that a single campaign is not sufficient and the message of gender mainstreaming needs regularly repeating. International regional and national conferences, seminars, trainings need to be organized to raise awareness of the issues concerned, national laws and international standards.
+ Awareness raising campaigns are very important and critical to prevent gender based violence not only by raising their voices concerning violence but its unacceptability as well. And also to challenge the underlying attitudes and behaviours.
The Plan of Action:
* Mandate support and funding for systematic awareness addressing the underlying causes of violence that hinder mainstreaming gender. It should be extended to all parts of the country.
* Specific awareness raising campaign designed to increasing knowledge of women specific laws in regional language as well as services available for victims/survivors of gender based violence
* Attitude change campaigns that promote positive respect for non-violent masculinities; challenge gender stereotypes, raise unacceptability of violence against women and sensitize the community on the issue and need of gender mainstreaming. The role of men and boys in addressing the issues was recognized as a critical component of prevention efforts leading to mainstreaming gender.
* They endorsed the point view that efforts need to be taken to sensitise men and boys, teenagers and young adults on the issues of gender discrimination and need for gender mainstreaming.
* These initiatives include national campaigns, seminars, programmes and workshops on developing skill to resolve conflicts and hurdles in the way of mainstreaming gender in a non-violent manner, training of non-governmental organization personnel, creation of network of male advocates, cooperating with white ribbon campaign. And also the participation of high level officials in the network of men leaders of secretary general’s global campaign “UNITE TO END VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN”.
* The attention was also drawn to the problem of lack of solid data on women issues as this is critical and very important to the development and implementation of sound laws, policies and strategies and prevention measures. The lack of knowledge and ineffective implementing of laws was also highlighted.
Sensitisation and Awareness Generation:
* The media can play a very important role in Mainstreaming Gender as media is an important conduit of public opinion and can help influencing societal attitudes.
* To enlighten women through people’ movements and media regarding the decisions and social legislations for their empowerment and development.
* To create and strengthen an accurate as well as authentic database on female workers in all sectors of employment, covering both organized and unorganized sectors, so that female work may be recognized properly. This should be used as a tool of planning for both legislative as well as administrative intervention by the government to protect and safeguard the interests of women workers in different areas of work and under different conditions of employment.
* Training journalists need reporting on gender based violence in a gender sensitive manner and this can help to dispel myths and create awareness on the issues among thegeneral public.
* They suggested training of media personnel on women human rights and violence so that gender sensitive reporting of cases of violence against women could be done and this in turn would help gender mainstreaming.
The Action Plan
* The State need strengthening regulatory frameworks with regard to media, advertising imagery, text, games and other popular culture which portray women in a discriminatory, degrading and stereotypical way, or which glorify violent masculinities.
* States to work in partnership with media and other advertising organisations to build the capacity of their professionals to avoid violence supportive messages and should promote gender mainstreaming leading way to gender equality and non discrimination.
* For sensitisation and awareness generation the Media professionals need to be sensitised by extensive training, guidelines and rewards.
* We need extending our support towards victims, survivors of violence man committed to non-violence and high profile people to respond to inquiries from journalists and speak out at events on issues of mainstreaming gender and promote messages of gender equality and non-violence.
* Media advertising and popular culture can play an excellent role in reinforcing and challenging the attitudes and norms which contribute to violence against women and hinder gender mainstreaming
* The delegates also supported the following Belgium’s national action plan on domestic violence 2004-07 as it would help gender mainstreaming
The Action Plan provides for:
* Mandating the Institute for Equality between women and men to work with media to ensure the publication of a telephone hotline number at the end of press articles and the media releases referring to domestic violence
* The establishment of working group of media representatives responsible for developing a media code of conduct or the reporting of domestic violence;
* The establishment of a press award for the outlet undertaking the most significant initiatives of the reporting of the domestic violence and presenting the least stereotypical imagery of men and women.
Education and Training:
* To extend research work, studies on problems of women workers, their employability and extent o their displacement on account of technological and various other changes.
* To develop educational and training programmes to enhance the capabilities of girls and aiming at breaking the gender-stereotyped provision of knowledge and skills.
* To provide technical/professional education to girls up to the graduation level free of cost and fix female/girl quota in admissions as well as in employment.
* The gender gap being perpetuated by a low retention rate of girls in formal education can be reduced by providing separate girl’s schools along with hostel facilities’ in rural areas.
* To spread moral education to bring social change in the value system.
Capacity-building for Gender Mainstreaming:
* Integrate a gender perspective into all capacity-building programmes.
* To arrange training and skill development programmes for women entrepreneurship development and also enables them to take up new jobs involving technological changes so that their displacement may be avoided.
Strengthening the Partnerships:
* The delegates also endorsed the need for strengthening the partnership between media and private organisations as it would help promoting to inhibit and eliminate the content that may result in replicating , exacerbating and promote attitude, behaviours and gender stereotypes that discriminate and subordinate women. This would also help developing content which would be based on respect, dignity, equality and rejection of all forms of violence against women and would also produce information and awareness raising campaigns
* Setting up of a Special Cell in the Government for the coordination and implementation of the plans made for women by different Ministries and Departments.
* Need for developing linkages between civil society organisations like the NGOs etc for tackling the precipitating factors such as drug abuse , access to firearms, small scale weapons and the financial stresses.
Advocacy in Health and HIV/AIDS related issues:
* To end gender based discrimination at the family level in matters of food nutrition and healthcare.
* To reduce the link between health and poverty by provisioning right based approach to food and health. This can be done by provisioning free and universal basic health and nutritional services in partnership with NGOs and other civil society organizations.
* The vulnerability of women to face discrimination at all levels of their life cycle is primarily because patriarchal attitudes and mindsets and the traditional beliefs adverse to gender equality and eventually leading to low access to health services and nutrition.
* Formulate and implement health programmes, specifically concerning reproductive health and rights, in partnership with NGOs and other civil society organizations.
The Action Plan requires:
* Extending the scope of exiting health services apart from improving the quality, accessibility and affordability of the health services. The Ministries, Government Departments and the other decision makers should strengthen the delivery systems advocacy efforts and skills by effective networking with civil society organizations NGOs in health, vocational training, and youth sectors.
* The existing health systems should be improved and increased in terms of primary health centres, mobile medical units in the rural area in the country.
* In order to reduce the child mortality rate and maternal mortality rate women should receive the required components of antenatal care and institutional delivery. The components of National Rural Health Mission need to be made for stringent.
Mobilizing Women for Local Politics:
* The participation of women in Panchayats and other local bodies should just not be numerical 33 percent as under the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Acts but an enabling environment be build wherein the women are more vocal and assertive in the meetings of the Gram Sabha and Panchayats.
* The political parties should give tickets to at least one-third put women in all elections. Towards this, the Women Reservation Bill must be passed as soon as possible.
* The civil society organizations, Community-Based Organizations (CBOs), Self-Help Groups, Youth and women Groups should support women candidature in rural areas and enable and instill confidence in them to give formidable fight to their opposite contenders.
In general the Conference highlighted the need for a more holistic understanding of the notions of gender equality and the urgency of incorporating gender perspectives into development goals in various sectors particularly education, health, employment and decision making. Gender mainstreaming can not be promoted in isolation from people movements in close collaboration with women, governments, civil society, NGOs and other bodies. On the whole , it was highlighted throughout the discussions that overall goal of our development should include the perspectives of promoting gender equality and creating a facilitating socio-economic and cultural environment leading to gender parity and mainstreaming. It was reiterated that the existing mechanisms should be enhanced and strengthened to support gender mainstreaming at the macro as well as micro levels and new constituencies should be build up in collaboration with man to deepen and sustain gender mainstreaming process in the country.
Thus, a broad range of mechanisms need to be adopted in support of gender mainstreaming. These include use of gender focal points, task forces, high-level advisory groups; training – including for top management; development of analysis methodologies and strategies for making use of analysis mandatory; development of action plans; carrying out audits; and establishing reporting mechanisms, such as to Parliaments. In developing strategies and methodologies for gender mainstreaming it is important to focus clearly on the goals and outcomes and not become over-focused on the process. Institutional development is a critical element related to establishing a core set of values which should inform a body of policies and strategies, where gender perspectives are incorporated as an integral dimension.