Theory to practice; lessons from UNDP led gender mainstreaming training

Nov 5, 2015

Participants at a recent gender mainstreaming training in Asmara. Photo: © UNDP Eritrea/Abraha

“I have learned that gender is a society issue and it cannot be separated from development. Poverty reduction and decision making are not gender neutral.” This is what one of the participants at the UNDP facilitated gender mainstreaming workshop had to say. The workshop was held on the 17th and 18th of October in Asmara. The workshop was part of UNDP work in enhancing the capacity for gender equality and women empowerment. The objective of the workshop was to enrich the participants’ understanding of the gender concept.

What is gender? Contrary to its definition - social construction of femininity and masculinity, many people have perceived gender to be about being male or female. According to UNDP Gender Advisor, Ameena Al Rasheed, gender is about the structure of the community. How the community set-up, its hierarchy and how decisions are made. This is one of the key lessons that the participants at the gender training identified. Another area is gender responsive budgeting; even though many organizations talk of gender mainstreaming in their programmes, many times the activities and actions for integrating gender are not considered while budgeting for programmes. Eventually, these activities and actions end up not been realized.

For Issaias Beyene, a trainer and strategic plans developer,  the training will help him in articulating and providing input related to gender issues especially during design, monitoring and evaluation phases of the projects. The training broadened his knowledge on gender mainstreaming, budgeting, accountability and gender based discrimination. The training also provided a good opportunity to share experiences on gender mainstreaming with other participants.

The participants committed to ensuring that the knowledge acquired during the training will be used in their organizations. Most participants said that they would conduct gender mainstreaming trainings in their respective organizations, ministries and departments. Others said that they would ensure that gender issues are mainstreamed into their policies, strategic & operational plans, projects and programmes. Some participants also said that they would raise more awareness on gender issues.

A major highlight of the training was the recognition that Eritrea is very aware of gender issues. Gender equality and women empowerment issues have been championed by the National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW), one of UNDP’s implementing partners. For the last 10 years, NUEW has promoted participatory an balanced political action at both national and grassroots levels in Eritrea by: raising awareness on gender equality and justice in the society; encouraging implementation of policies that consolidate women’s rights and equality of opportunities; creating a strong political foundation for the economic empowerment of women. Bases on successful gender and women empowerment interventions in Eritrea, the discussions and contribution from the participants at the workshop were very informed.

An area of improvement is gender analysis. To make well informed gender strategies and to effectively mainstream gender into projects and programmes, there is need for data that can be collected through surveys, assessments and research. The participants said that they would like to have updated statistics as well as success stories on gender strategy and implementation from other countries.

Going forward, the participants asked to have a knowledge network for gender specialists. UNDP is committed to supporting gender mainstreaming work in Eritrea as underscored by the Country Programme Action Plan (CPAP) for 2013 – 2016.

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