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Gender mainstreaming is the public policy concept of assessing the different implications for women and men of any planned policy action, including legislation and programmes, in all areas and levels. Mainstreaming essentially offers a pluralistic approach that values the diversity among both women and men.
The concept of gender mainstreaming was first proposed at the 1985 Third World Conference on Women in Nairobi. The idea has been developed in the United Nations development community. The idea was formally featured in 1995 at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing and was cited in the document that resulted from the conference, the Beijing Platform for Action. Particularly, the Platform for Action stated:
- In addressing the inequality between men and women in the sharing of power and decision-making at all levels, 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.
Most definitions conform to the UN Economic and Social Council formally defined concept:
- Mainstreaming a gender perspective 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. 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. The ultimate goal is to achieve gender equality.
Requirements and principles of gender mainstreaming 
A Broader Concept of Gender Equality 
This requirement calls for a more holistic approach to gender policy in order to tackle the interconnected causes that create an unequal relation between the sexes in all areas of life (work, politics, sexuality, culture and male violence).
Incorporation of a Gender Perspective into the Mainstream of Political Agenda 
Reference of gender issues should be found in all policy areas. There must be evidence that the mainstream political agenda has been reoriented by rethinking policy ends and means from a gender perspective. The responsibility for translating gender mainstreaming into practice is system-wide and rests at the highest levels. Accountability for outcomes needs to be monitored constantly.
Inclusion and Participation of Women in Decision Making 
Prioritizing Gender Equality Objectives and Framing Policies of relevance for Women 
There should be evidence that gender equality objective and policies of special concern for women (for example, social policy) have been prioritized in the organization among competing objectives (in terms of financial and human resources, type of measures adopted and more). Gender mainstreaming does not replace the need for targeted, women-specific policies and programmes or positive legation.
Shift in Institutional and Organizational Cultures 
This change involves three aspects:
1. Policy process is reorganized so that ordinary actors know how to incorporate a gender perspective or that gender expertise is included as normal requirement for policy-makers
2. A shift in policy mechanism which involves: a) the adoption of organizational cooperation on gender issues across all policy areas, levels and departments. b) the use of appropriate policy tools and techniques to integrate the gender variable in all policies and to monitor and evaluate all policies from a gender perspective. Gender mainstreaming must be institutionalized through concrete steps, mechanisms and processes in all parts of the organization.
3. The range of actors participating in the policy-making process is broadened to include gender experts and civil society.
Gender mainstreaming in practice 
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In late 2006, the city council of Vienna, capital of Austria, ordered several gender mainstreaming measures for public facilities and areas. Pictograms and information display charts will feature a male silhouette holding a baby in his arms to advise passengers on the underground railway to offer seating to parents with children.
Emergency escape paths will be marked by a square table featuring a long-haired lady running in her high heel boots. Kindergartens will eliminate separate "playing corners" with toy cars and LEGO for boys or dolls and faux fireplaces for girls. Chants and recitals emphasizing the patriarchal family model and traditional male-centric gender roles will be banned from kindergartens and elementary schools.
Infrastructure changes will include "unisex" playgrounds for city parks, which encourage little boys and girls to mix and redesigned streetlights to make parks and sidewalks safer for late night joggers. All city budget entries will be under review by a committee led by Sonja Wehsely, city ombudswoman for female rights. She has the duty to make sure the city's resources are used evenly for the benefit of both sexes. (based on news report by index.hu)
Under the influence of UN community, the usage of the term increased in Taiwan since 2000. Local feminist organization have different views on gender mainstreaming. Some groups considered that the Commission on Women Rights Promotion under Executive Yuan should be expanded, while other groups, including the National Alliance of Taiwan Women's Associations, considered that gender mainstreaming is not promotion of women's rights but an assessment of all policies and requires a specific organization.
Gendered peacekeeping 
In October 2000, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1325, which called for an enhanced female participation in the prevention, management and resolution of conflict.
Peacekeeping forces were a particular concern: "Recognizing the urgent need to mainstream a gender perspective into peacekeeping operations, and in this regard noting the Windhoek Declaration and the Namibia Plan of Action on Mainstreaming a Gender Perspective in Multidimensional Peace Support Operations (S/2000/693)", the Council requested "the Secretary-General, where appropriate, to include in his reporting to the Security Council, progress on gender mainstreaming throughout peacekeeping missions and all other aspects relating to women and girls". Little progress has been made and peacekeeping forces continue to be associated with rape and prostitution.
Criticism of gender mainstreaming 
Stratigaki (2005) claims that the transformative effect of gender mainstreaming was minimal and its application has led to contradictory results. It opened important opportunities for specific policies in new policy areas, whereas in some other it diluted positive action. She also claims that, at least as of 2003, gender mainstreaming has failed to affect core policy areas or radically transform policy processes within the European Institutions.
Major criticism toward gender mainstreaming 
1. Gender mainstreaming has not increased women's participation in the decision making process.
In the most readily measurable area, the United Nations employment of women in professional and managerial posts, progress has been glacial. In 2004 women held 37.4% of these positions. The annual growth rate toward the fifty percent target is predicted to be 0.4%. On top of this slow growth, there is a considerable hierarchy based on sex. As of 2004, women held 83.3% of positions at the lowest professional level, P-1, but just 16.7% at the highest staff level. In a similar vein, concerning the European Union, Lombardo (2005) reports that as of 2003 women represented only 20% of the representatives of the head of state or government the member states, 10% of the representatives of national parliaments, 31.25% of the representatives of the European Parliament and so forth.
2. Improper implementation of gender mainstreaming.
Although it has not been difficult to encourage the adoption of the vocabulary of mainstreaming, there is little evidence of monitoring or follow-up. A consistent problem for all the organizations that adopted gender mainstreaming is the translation of the commitment into action. Progress is variable and there are signs of gender mainstreaming fatigue within the UN, caused by a lack of adequate training and support. A review of gender mainstreaming policy as implemented under the UNDP, World Bank and ILO found inadequate budgeting for the gender components of projects, insufficient development of analytical skills, poor supervision of the implementation of gender components and a general lack of political commitment both within the organization and at the country level.
3. Damage to Previous Accomplishments.
4 Stratigaki (2005) claims that positive action was sidelined after the launch of gender mainstreaming as a result of the specific way GM was used by the opponents of gender equality. Almost all analyses of gender mainstreaming agree that is a strategy which complements, but does not replace previous gender specific equality policies, like equal treatment and positive action. However, in a hostile gender equality policy environments, GM may be conceived and applied as an alternative to positive action and used to down play the final overall objective of gender equality.
See also 
- Booth, C. and Bennett, (2002) ‘Gender Mainstreaming in the European Union’, European Journal of Women’s Studies 9 (4): 430–46.
- "II. The Origins of Gender Mainstreaming in the EU", Academy of European Law online
- UN Fourth World Conference on Women, Platform for Action, Women in Power and Decision-Making 189, Beijing: Sept. 1995.
- United Nations. "Report of the Economic and Social Council for 1997". A/52/3.18 September 1997.
- Lombardo, E, (2005) ‘Integrating or Setting the Agenda? Gender Mainstreaming in the European Constitution-Making Process’, Social Politics 12(3): 412-432
- Charlesworth, H, (2005) 'Not waving but Drowning: Gender Mainstreaming and Human Rights in the United Nations', 18 HARV. HUM. RTS. J. 1.
- Lombardo, E, (2005) ‘Integrating or Setting the Agenda? Gender Mainstreaming in the European Constitution-Making Process’, Social Politics 12(3): 412-432.
- Lin, Fang-Mei. "性別主流化在台灣：從國際發展到在地化實踐". 第一屆性別研究與公共政策學術研討會, Taipei:Shih Hsin University. April 13, 2005.
- Stratigaki, M, (2005) ‘Gender Mainstreaming vs Positive Action. An Ongoing Conflict in EU Gender Equality Policy’, European Journal of Women’s Studies 12 (2): 165-186.
- WomenWatch, the United Nations Internet Gateway on Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women
- Women's Empowerment, the United Nations Development Programme's gateway on women's empowerment and gender equality
- Active work for Gender Equality, SALAR's booklet ”Active work for Gender Equality – a challenge for municipalities and county councils”"
- EIGE, the European Institute for Gender Equality official website
- The European Community of Practice on Gender Mainstreaming, The European Commission's learning network on Gender Mainstreaming within the European Social Fund (ESF)”"