The United Nations Development Programme’s mandate declares gender equality and the empowerment of women as key aspects of its development approach.
This commitment to gender equality includes supporting women’s and girls’ equal rights, addressing discrimination and inequality, promoting non-gender stereotypes and challenging historically shaped roles of women.
Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment training for U.N.D.P staff and project partners, including representatives of the Government of Samoa, took place last week, 24-28 July 2017 in Apia, Samoa.
The workshop was organised to strengthen U.N.D.P’s role in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment in the Pacific through ensuring that gender concerns are addressed in its current and future programmes and projects.
The objective of the training was to increase understanding on how to integrate gender aspects in the planning and monitoring of projects and in reporting and communicating results.
Koh Miyaoi, Gender Advisor from U.N.D.P Bangkok Regional Hub, led and facilitated the workshop. Ms. Miyaoi says “the first change that we would like to see is that colleagues in U.N.D.P think about gender equality and gender mainstreaming in a much more contextual and realistic sense for our projects and see what steps we can actually take through our projects towards gender equality, as opposed to just understanding the concept as an academic exercise.”
During interactive sessions with staff from different departments of the U.N.D.P Multi-country office and government ministries, participants were encouraged to share experiences, challenges faced and best practices in the design and implementation of projects in gender perspective.
Meetings with staff involved in projects with similar contexts (for example, the Environment team of U.N.D.P and their colleagues from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment)were aimed at identifying how their projects are aligned with U.N.D.P’s role in promoting gender equality and how gender inequality might have an impact on the project.
“Through this exercise we realised that U.N.D.P in Samoa has done a lot of good work in managing gender and delivering gender equality results, and now we can revisit our achievement to really understand the contribution we have already made and help us to find the way to improve our performance in future projects,” said Ms. Miyaoi.
According to Ms. Miyaoi, Pacific Island countries are behind in two major gender equality indicators: representation of women in national parliament and prevalence of gender based violence.
Both of these issues are the manifestation of gender inequality in society. Ms. Miyaoi explained: “U.N.D.P may or may not have a direct engagement in these two areas but we have opportunities to address them by addressing underlying causes for gender inequality.”
One of the participants of the workshop, Utulei Lui, Senior Strategic Planner at P.U.M.A, M.N.R.E, commented on the possible change that a gender balanced approach would bring: “In most villages, women are the driving force of the community. They plan, arrange and implement small projects (for example, vegetable gardens).
Women’s voices in decision making processes, which at present is responsibility of the village council and often comprised of men only, would increase effectiveness and provide substantial changes in outcomes of the development projects that we are offering to the communities.”
The success of the Millennium Development Goals globally demonstrated that the progress in gender equality indicators underpinned the success of achieving M.D.Gs in general.
According to the Gender Advisor, there is a lot of direct evidence from around the world to show that gender equality is good for development. In U.N.D.P, gender equality is promoted as a matter of human rights, as well as a factor that helps to accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
In her final address to U.N.D.P staff and their colleagues in the Government of Samoa, Ms. Miyaoi said: “Every project and every colleague has an opportunity to contribute to gender equality results.
And we should capture those opportunities. Each project has to send a message to the community that we want to hear more from women because we value men and women equally.”