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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, Kenya. The idea has been pushed in the United Nations development community. The idea was formally featured in 1995 at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, 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.
- 1 Principles
- 2 Examples
- 3 Criticism
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
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 violence).
The United Nations, the international Institution with the most expansive universal perspective, characterizes gender mainstreaming as, employing gender perspective in all policies and programs so that, before decisions are taken, an analysis is made of the efforts on women and men, respectively. This analysis also implies that all ramifications of such policy undertakings be considered at both global and local levels. Feminist advocates of the 1970s challenged the Women in International Development (WID) stating that provisions to International Labor Organization (ILO) reports did not acknowledge women's roles toward productive labor in remunerated or unremunerated economies. Those critical of the WID avenue stated that this approach was only considering women's contribution to society rather than the unmet needs of women. Both critics stated that pushing for equalities in the economic realm, "advantaged economic efficiency arguments and existing male-centered agendas", which were fixated primarily on matters of explicit market economy rather than issues of social injustices in the domain of macroeconomic organization. This inquiry has been helpful in expediting the paradigm shift of gender inequalities through the subordination of women.
The aforementioned relates to specific gender biases pertaining to the global scope of economics and women's subservience. The Indian Act of Canada, is the principal federal statute dealing with status, local government and the management of reserve land and communal monies. Correlation with these gender mainstreaming biases is observed. Until 1985 the rules for registration as a Status Indian advantaged men. Insofar as Indian women who married a non-Indian became unable to be recognized as an Indian as well her children could not be registered. By preference an Indian man who married a non-Indian women remained registered and his wife and children were also registered. Through ratification of The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, the Indian Act had to be amended to account for this discrimination. This amendment prevented any future Indians from gaining or losing their membership on account of any type of marriage union. They removed this tension to restore any lost sense of identity. Bill C-31 was put into place with aims to harmonize any competing frames of reference and to align the legislation with that of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
McIvor v. Canada, a case in point gained sufficient ground to pursue allegations of this type of discrimination women. The civil law case commenced on October 1989, challenging Section six of the Indian Act stating it impinged upon rights granted from Section 15 of The Charter of Rights and Freedoms. After the twenty-year battle came to a close, a precedent setting ruling in the British Columbia Court of Appeal had been granted. This is considered to be one of the landmark rulings in Canadian Law pertaining to native rights and gender mainstreaming respectively.
Incorporating gender into politics
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.
Including women in decision making
Prioritizing gender equality
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.
Shifts in institutional culture
Gender mainstreaming can be seen as a process of organisational change. This change involves three aspects:
- 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.
- 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.
- The range of actors participating in the policymaking process is broadened to include gender experts and civil society.
The Nicaraguan circumstance was similar to many authoritarian regimes in Latin America in the late 1970s, but Nicaragua had particular challenges with the oppressive nature of the Somoza dictatorship. This led to the revolution initiated by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), in which mass mobilization of the poor and exploited formed the combat force, of which 30 percent were women. The mobilization of women by 1979 was 8,000 members of the Association of Women Confronting the Nationalist Problem (AMPRONAC), which formed the body of women in the FSLN. These women were a crucial part to overthrowing the Somoza dynasty, through not just traditional gender roles of conflict like aid and care, but new trend-breaking roles normally reserved for a masculine structures like involvement in guerrilla warfare. Then by 1984, there were 85,000 women members and approximately half of the members of the Sandinista defense committees were women. The scope of women participation within the FSLN and the revolution forced a reexamination of the oppression of women in Nicaragua within the context of new governance.
Then after the revolution and after a session of presidency from Daniel Ortega, the election in 1990 brought to office the first woman president in the Americas. On April 25, 1990, Violeta Chamorro became the first and only woman to defeat a male incumbent presentment. This helped to change and mobilize mainstream gender structure within Nicaragua. In 1993 after a retreat in the Sandinista influences, the outdated Sandinista Women’s organization, the Nicaraguan Institute for Research on women, was revitalized and renamed by the Chamorro government as the Nicaraguan Institute for Woman (INIM). This was to encourage the involvement of Nicaraguan women in the country’s economic, social, cultural, and political development and to promote a change in mainstream gender constructs. In 1994, the INIM with 62 women’s groups held discussions to mobilize their initiatives and form a bill of action. The discussions formed a plan, which defined patriarchy, sexism, and gender stereotypes to reduce inequality in education, employment, and violence. The INIM did receive criticisms for there lack of funding and allegedly having non-feminist leadership.
Though in a UN General Assembly on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the INIM was seen upholding and implementing values and strategies of mainstreaming gender equality into agriculture, socioeconomic development, higher education, and sexual and domestic violence prevention. This assembly also brought criticism from experts over the backlog of important women’s rights legislation in the country. NGOs like the INIM have, and always will struggle with reforming the ideas of mainstream gender structure, but with the continual support of global bodies like the UN and with an increasing number of women appointed and elected to positions of government and bureaucracy, the effective implementation of policies will be conducted in a more gender-equal way.
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.
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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 so-called "patriarchal" family model and "traditional male-centric" gender roles will be banned from kindergartens and elementary schools.
Infrastructure changes have included "unisex" playgrounds for city parks, which encourage young 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)
UN Peacekeeping Operations
The United Nations began acknowledging the importance of gender mainstreaming, as a tool towards achieving gender equality in the mid-1990s, as outlined in the Beijing Platform for Action and the Report from the Secretary General to the Economic and Social Council. UN Women describes mainstreaming as including, “ensuring that gender perspectives and attention to the goal of gender equality are central to all activities—policy development, research, advocacy/ dialogue, legislation, resource allocation, and planning, implementation and monitoring of programmes and projects”. 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 was an area of particular concern, and the Security Council recognized, "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.
True recognizes that the word gender has been used to convey different meanings across international institutions. The World Bank, International Criminal Court, UN Human Rights Commission, and the European Union have each used the word to imply different meanings, from a synonym of gender; to describing the economic differences between men and women; and as a policy focus for equity and justice. While the UN has taken significant steps towards including a gender perspective in peacekeeping operations, it has yet to achieve gender equality, and without a clear, established use of "gender", using gender mainstreaming as a tool, will have limited success.
Through feminist institutional analysis, the reasoning behind and the forms in which gender mainstreaming has been adopted and implemented can be ascertained. There have been significant increases in female peacekeeping personnel since 1980; the increased attention and acknowledgement of the benefits of women during peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding processes; and increased awareness of the unique presence women offer to conflict-ridden communities. As of 2012, women only make up 29% of international staff and 17% of national staff, and only 3% of military personnel involved in peacekeeping operations. These numbers demonstrate the lack of gender parity, however the percentage of females in peacekeeping operations has increased by up to 200% in some divisions since 1993. Using this analysis, it could be noted that gender mainstreaming was successful within peacekeeping operations, as the gender perspective was implemented across a range of areas from in multiple areas from policy, to an increase in female staff in international and national offices, to encouraging nations to send more female military personnel.
Discursive feminist analysis determines success through whether or not languages, social perspectives, and foundational concepts change. The increased participation of females and inclusion of the gender perspective in the creation and implementation of policies and programmes related to peacekeeping, does not indicate whether the perceptions and cultural norms surrounding gender and peacekeeping changed. The implementation of policies, and encouraging the involvement of women, failed to change social constructions of the role of women in the peace process. The women who are working in peacekeeping operations are primarily working in lower-level and administration positions, with only 4% of military experts engaged in missions being female. The implementation of mainstreaming frequently fails to question how address the state and international institutions “privilege masculine agency and reinforce gendered inequalities in power and resources in the market, state and civil society”.
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.
Some say that gender mainstreaming has not increased women's participation in decision making. 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.
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 policies 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.
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 it 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 downplay the final overall objective of gender equality.
Ignoring local context
Jacqui True (2010) claims that mainstreaming gender does not end in simply increasing the number of women within a specific institution. It is about changing social consciousness, so that the effects of a policy for both women and men are truly analyzed before they are implemented. While it is necessary for feminists to engage with mainstream institutions, the ability of gender mainstreaming to deconstruct the imbedded masculinization of institutions varies depending on the characteristics of the policy, the political nature of the institution, and the depth of the institution's consultation with civil society and other members of the women’s rights movement. The danger of gender mainstreaming is that large compromises can be made for small gains and can lead to what feminist and sociology professor Carol Dines calls “trickle-down feminism”—i.e., “working to increase the ranks of women in elite jobs without a strategy for wider economic and social change represents a kind of "trickle-down feminism".
In practice, attempts to mainstream gender within international institutions have led to the marginalization and increasing invisibility of gender in each policy area. Goetz and Sandler argue that ironically, mainstreaming gender runs the risk of becoming everyone’s responsibility, yet nobody’s at the same time. Gender mainstreaming can allow those in power who are not genuinely interested in the women’s movement to adopt the language of women’s rights, a reflection of power politics that becomes more of a tool used to legitimize the actions of governments. Gender mainstreaming then becomes more about advising governments than advancing gender equality. The policy therefore works to uphold existing norms that continue to leave women behind.
Enacting policies on behalf of all women indicates a "one size fits all" approaches and glosses over differences among women such as class, race, sexual orientation, disability, or indigeneity. As differences are silenced, the kind of feminism that is likely to be mainstreamed could be a western, white, or middle class brand of feminism. When mainstreaming decisions within international organizations are made by elites can undermine the input of local women’s groups. Moreover, the type of women that may be empowered by gender mainstreaming may not necessarily be feminist or connected to the women’s movement. Addressing gender equality within an organization through hiring more women not necessarily shift the organization’s androcentric culture unless these women are interested in addressing issues that effect women.
In relation to civil society, donors include gender mainstreaming is a requirement in their own language. This causes civil society organizations to approach gender mainstreaming, on the donor’s terms, as a means to secure funding, instead of an end in itself. It can cause NGOs to limit their services and advocacy to fit a model that is acceptable to donors but may not fit their local context.
When gender mainstreaming polices are drafted without consulting sections of the women’s movement (i.e. women’s rights civil society groups), they lack ground level-expertise. Policy decisions related to gender that are made without consulting sections of the women’s movement do not demonstrate a clear political willingness to addressing gender inequality. When institutions reach out to the women’s rights movement, it demonstrates transparency, inclusiveness, accountability and the implementation process is more likely to be monitored with diligence. For example, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), as an attempt at mainstreaming gender into development, were formed with minimal consultation with women’s groups. The MDGs have led to a considerable amount of theoretically discourse about the goals but less analysis about how they will be implemented.
The above critiques of gender mainstreaming suggest that it can silence the voices and ignore the needs of those it theoretically seeks to benefit. In order for gender mainstreaming to achieve transformative outcomes, political and social institutions must undergo fundamental restructuring.
- Special Measures for Gender Equality in The United Nations(UN)
- Feminist economics
- History of feminism
- Material feminism
- Youth mainstreaming
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- 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)”"