Gender mainstreaming in national institutions in the Arab region: greater achievements for all
Capitalizing on the successful results of the UN SWAP in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment (GEWE) in the UN system entities and their outputs, ESCWA is leading an initiative to roll out and implement a similar Action Plan to mainstream GEWE in national institutions in the Arab region. ESCWA has successfully rolled out the implementation of the Action Plan, with proven results at early stages of implementation, in the Ministry of Social Affairs, childhood and the Family in Mauritania with support from National Women’s Machineries (NWMs) in Jordan and Morocco.
The ultimate objective is to accelerate the achievement of SDG5 by providing NWMs with a concrete Action Plan to mainstream GEWE in their internal procedures and enhance their outputs and by strengthening their capacities to roll out and implement the Action Plan. The approach builds on effective institutional capacities of NWMs to accelerate the achievements of SDGs given that NWMs are mandated to ensure gender is mainstreamed in legal frameworks and policies across the board at national level impacting thus the achievement of all SDGs. Furthermore, the initiative aims as building the capacities of NMWs in a first step, so they are able to implement the Action Plan in other national institutions expand therefore considerably the scope of the potential change.
The practice builds on the assumption that mainstreaming GEWE in the internal processes of an organization including its planning, monitoring, budgeting and communication to name a few, systematically on reflect its outputs and influence the equal access of all men and women to and their benefits from its services. This approach contributes to ensuring equal access and full participation of all in all facets of social, political and economic life. It accelerates the achievement of SDG5 and consequently all other SDGs given that SDG5 is considerate as a pre-requisite and driver of all SDGs.
In consultation with NWMs in the Arab region, ESCWA developed in 2016 a tailored framework, “Action Plan on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women at the level of the national institutions in the Arab region”, to mainstream gender in national institutions. This Action Plan, comprised of 15 performance indicators, is a unique accountability framework that addresses their needs and reflects their specificities. The implementation of the Action Plan is targeting in a first step NWMs to further enhance their capacity and also to ensure their readiness to support themselves, in a next step, other national institutions to implement this Action Plan. This scalable approach is thought to be most appropriate to advocate for and promote the implementation of the Action Plan in the ultimate view of achieving gender equality in the region. Training tools in Arabic on selected indictors were prepared to support the overall process. A capacity building programme, made of two regional workshops, was designed and implemented to build the capacity of NWMs to implement the Action Plan namely achieving the indicators and reporting on them on yearly basis. Each workshop addresses a specific set of indicators. In addition, given that Participatory Gender Audit (PGA) constitutes a pre-required step to the implementation of the Action Plan, ESCWA created pool of certified ILO facilitators within NWMs in the region to support the implementation of the Action Plan in National Institutions in the Arab countries. The Action Plan has been first piloted and implemented in Jordan in 2018. It was then initiated in Qatar (2019) and Mauritania (2020). In all three institutions the Action Plan started by a PGA following ILO methodology.
In Mauritania, following the roll out of Action Plan through the institutional gender audit and an organization-wide capacity building programme, a ministerial budget increase was approved in line with promoting gender equality and mainstreaming in Mauritania’s NWMs annual budget for 2021. This is considered as a direct result of engagement of key personnel in the Gender Audit process and findings despite it being virtual. This positive change is considered a major policy influence that is attributable to this initiative. Increase in institutional capacities and budget is a key driver to acceleration in the implementation of SDG 5 at the national level. Furthermore, NWMs in Mauritania and Jordan were better equipped, namely in terms of capacities, to work and contribute to including a gender dimension into the national responses to CIVOD-19 pandemic.
The clarity/achievability of the Action Plan and the flexibility of the approach to implement it are key enabling factors as they give the implementing institutions considerable margin to draw a tailored road map appropriate to their needs and specificities and decide on steps that are suitable to their capacities and resources. Implementing institutions are in full control of their path of advancement. Furthermore, the commitment and engagement of all involved stakeholders were key.
To support rolling out and implementing this Action Plan, ESCWA: Developed necessary knowledge products namely associated guidelines to advance the progress on the indicators and technical notes to support the reporting and follow-up; Built a pool of experts from NWMs in the region in participatory gender facilitation following ILO methodology as the gender audit is thought od preliminary step roll the Action Plan in an insitutions; Built needed national capacity through tailored programmes and technical assistance missions to advance of the achievements of the indicators and required reporting process; Put in place online platform to facilitate proper reporting and follow-up. The knowledge, capacity and infrastructure in place ensure the sustainability of this initiative over years and its expansion to as many as interested national institutions.
COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting consequences have caused some delays in the implementation of the initiative overall. However, it provided a valuable opportunity to pilot the implementation of a participatory gender audit online in addition to a capacity building programme. This was a successful experience that provided lessons learned for future audits in large national institutions particularly that most likely funds are to be shrunk with the financial crisis ensuing the pandemic. It demonstrated the feasibility of online participatory audits and provided insights on how to do so with less budgets.
Deliverables & Timeline
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The practice has been implemented in Mauritania with support from Jordan and Morocco. It is part of a broader initiative being also currently implemented in Jordan and Qatar. This initiative targets Arab States.