Gender equality efforts must be integrated into the daily work

Gender equality became an issue for the United Nations Security Council 20 years ago, when the first resolution on women, peace and security was adopted. Today, ten resolutions make up the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. Central themes are women’s rights to participation and protection and gender mainstreaming in all the work for peace and security. Still, efforts for gender equality are often seen as belonging to a separate track, instead of being implemented on a broad front.

– It is important to integrate a gender equality perspective at all levels in organizations. Inequality is generated in daily life and the day-to-day work, says Gabriela Elroy, who is in charge of the Women, Gender Equality and Youth Unit at FBA.

There have been plenty of efforts to increase the number of women in international organizations such as the UN, EU and OSCE, and to improve the conditions for women to reach high, decision-making positions. But there is also a need for organizational change, with a focus on routines and processes as opposed to individuals.

Gender mainstreaming aims at securing that all operations undertaken by an organization are carried out in a way that supports men and women equally.

– There is still a need for targeting specific problems. But if you do not reflect upon this matter in regular, day-to-day operations, they risk being ineffective, says Gabriela Elroy. She continues:

– An understanding of how inequality affects our work is required in everything we do. While working with rule of law or security sector reform for example, we have to understand that it does not mean the same thing for men and women.

Despite progress being made in recent years, Gabriela Elroy has so far not encountered a single organization where gender equality is fully integrated. Most actors that carry out international peace operations today have a gender adviser, or even a unit dedicated to the topic. The problem is that they often become responsible for all gender mainstreaming efforts.

– The idea is not that everyone should be a gender equality expert. But efforts to promote gender equality must become integrated and a routine for the entire organization. Everybody has to take responsibility based on his or her respective functions, Gabriela Elroy explains.

Efforts must be institutionalized

She calls it bureaucratic gender mainstreaming. Efforts for equality cannot depend on the conviction or commitment of single individuals, the efforts have to be institutionalized. Directors have to set the direction and pursue the issues in the same way as they take responsibility for other matters, with support from intermediary managers and specialists.

– When we acknowledge that it is an institutional process, it becomes clear that leadership is key. No organizational processes take place without the directors being involved, Gabriela Elroy says.

This is why directors are an important target group for FBA’s trainings. According to Gabriela Elroy, we have to be aware that we have a problem to tackle, and take different variables into consideration in the analysis. There is also a need for creating routines for assessment, in order to develop the work methods.

– The requirements, and how to fulfil them, must be clear to directors. If you do not know what a gender equality perspective signifies in your work, it is hard to live up to the expectations, Gabriela Elroy says.

Conflicts are known to affect women and men in different ways. While young men are worse off instantly due to expectations of joining the military forces and possibly dying in war, women primarily suffer from indirect consequences of conflict, when social structures like healthcare break down. Women are also exposed to sexual violence to a greater extent.

In addition, men and women do not have the same possibilities to enjoy public services. In many countries, prerequisites for making a complaint to the police differ between men and women. It might be unacceptable for a woman to go to the police station, and it can be impossible for her to report a criminal act that her husband has committed.

There are also differences between women and men based on judicial inequality. In many countries, women cannot be land owners.

 – Land rights, a common issue in peace processes, has different meanings for men and women in many countries, which affects the solutions to the problems, Gabriela Elroy says.

Election processes is another example where conditions often differ between the sexes. It is crucial to find out if women are allowed to vote independently and able to stand for elections, when designing rules for registration to an election.

Good prospects for success

Gender equality should be “easy to do, and difficult to avoid”. Gabriela Elroy quotes Ann Bernes, Ambassador for gender equality at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and assigned to coordinate Sweden’s feminist foreign policy.

There are good prospects of success, with existing policy frameworks based on international law and conventions, and international peace and security actors agreeing on the importance of gender equality.

Posing simple questions would make a huge difference, according to Gabriela Elroy.

– Find out what men and women do during an ordinary day, where and how they move around. What time of the day you decide to hold a meeting, determines who can participate, she explains.

This spring, FBA has tried a new model for gender mainstreaming in the European Union Police and Rule of Law Mission for the Palestinian Territory (EUPOL COPPS), that connects directors, gender advisers and gender focal points with all other staff. Together they have identified areas where they will explore the implications of a gender perspective, and document key issues for everyone to consider in their work.

– When gender mainstreaming becomes an explicit priority for the organization, we can gain power!

First photo: UN Women
Second photo: Gabriela Elroy holding a training session for EUPOL COPPS


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