Yesterday I took part in a meeting organised by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris, where were presented the main points of the evaluation of the French strategy regarding gender and development. The meeting was followed by a discussion on gender equality and the post-2015 agenda for development.
In the first part of the meeting we were given an overview of the evaluation (see the synthesis), which includes up to 40 recommendations with 4 main priorities:
- Carry the political dialogue on gender at all level
- Reinforce the human and financial resources
- Create networks of gender focal points
- Develop relevant indicators
Speakers recognised the important role of women as major economical actors and highlighted gender as a transversal objective, cutting across areas such as health or the environment. The need to focus on adolescent girls also came out strongly, as policies often target women or children but not so much on young girls, who can face risks such as early marriage, violence against women, or maternal mortality. Another key message was that current support for research on gender issues is insufficient.
In the second part of the meeting I listened to various presentations linking up gender issues to the post-2015 debate. Here are some of the key messages that I retain from the presentations and ensuing discussions.
First of all, while all participants agreed that gender should be a transversal issue across all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and at the same time be a standalone objective, it is important that:
- we keep the successes from the MDGs and learn from them;
- we include in the post-2015 agenda issues that are missing from current MDGs (such as reproductive rights)
- we include new focus areas, such as adolescent girls; and
- we further develop our efforts in promising sectors, such as women’s access to productive assets, which is a key argument closely related to the new environmental challenges.
A number of issues were raised, for example one participant mentioned the lack of coordination between all actors on the ground, which could lead to confusion in terms of the different strategies and approaches, and the need for a bottom-up approach in the methodologies.
However many solutions were proposed in order to ensure that gender is sufficiently taken into account in the post-2015 agenda: one speaker said that we should put more emphasis on a dialogue with civil society representatives in the South; also, all development actors should receive gender training and we must involve men and boys to positively act towards women’s autonomy. In terms of linking gender equality to other areas, one speaker made clear the linkages between gender and climate change and suggested that we listen to both women’s and men’s voices when it comes to solutions, as men often look at technology as a solution while women tend to change their behaviour in order to reduce their ecological footprint, which forms part of the solution too. I was glad to see that some of these topics and solutions were actually addressed via Wikigender’s online discussions in 2012!
In the end, participants all agreed that the new objectives post 2015 should be global (not just focusing on developing countries), measurable and sustainable, given the new challenges we face. Adopting a gender approach in development is clearly the most efficient one (for example, development budgets should all be gendered, and all data should be sex-disaggregated whenever possible).
This meeting was certainly one step of many in the thought process towards including gender in the post-2015 agenda, but an important one, especially as I realised that participants are aware that looking at the drivers of gender inequality is necessary to better grasp the bigger development picture. Throughout the meeting I took note of some scattered, but significant words such as customary law, social norms and traditions (including in Eastern Europe), female genital mutilation, women’s access to land, women’s access to public space and their political voice, religious fundamentalism, women’s civil status to enable them to vote or access property and early marriage – all of which point to the direction of social norms and traditions that prevent women from realising their full potential. I could not have left the meeting without gathering all these key words together and making this point clear: if we make sure those drivers of gender inequality are strongly present in the post 2015 agenda, we will have made a big step towards progress in development.