Gender-sensitive Governance - What does it look like and how can we work towards it?
By Judyannet Muchiri
Social Media Editor, NAYD.
Governance involves a series of complex decision making within interconnected levels in the society through which authority is exercised. The levels of governance at the household, local community, national, regional and global all matter because ultimately they affect the lives led by citizens in any given country. Governance at the household and local community will be very important in the next phase of development that seeks to be all inclusive. As such effective governance involves accountability, transparency, inclusiveness, equity, responsiveness and upholding of rights.
Having seen how important governance is in a country’s development and well being, then the question of gender in governance arises. Over time women at almost all levels have been excluded from participating in decision making either subtly or overtly based on their gender. There are many reasons explaining this from culture, tradition to power relations in a society. It is important to understand the situation as it is now in governance in relation to gender so as to determine how to address the problem and create gender-sensitive governance institutions in a country.
In all levels of governance there is still fewer women than men in decision making positions. However countries like Rwanda have made significant reforms at the local and national government levels in form of electoral quota systems, other countries in Africa are highly encouraged to follow the example set by Rwanda. At the same time many countries like Kenya have already enacted the quota system but they haven’t been as effective. It is also important to note that even when women have gained access to governance institutions they are not always accorded the same respect and equality with men. Existing systems of governance reinforce this marginalization; thus systems must also be changed to recognize and treat women equally. For example women are still relegated to ‘soft’ policy areas like health and education based on their gender.
Governance institutions have also failed to take into account the ‘double burden’ carried by women. Women often take the role of caretakers at the household level which makes it hard for them to balance between work and family. Often such women are not even able to take part in citizen-focused participatory processes. Finally, governance policies fail to take into consideration the different needs of women and men making it hard for women.
What can be done?
· Women’s entry into governance institutions can be enabled by effectively implemented quota systems, by employing more women in senior decision making positions, and provide financial resources to women.
· Ensure all forms of discrimination are addressed in governance institutions and processes by including all marginalized groups in society.
· Ensure women in institutions are given equal opportunities and treated equally.
· Ensure policy making processes are more inclusive and involving women in all levels
· Adopt methodologies that facilitate equal participation in citizen-led governance approaches.
· Build women’s capacity by training them in advocacy, lobbying, leadership skills and in literacy.
What would gender-sensitive governance mean?
· More women and men who don’t conform to heterosexual stereotypes will be in decision making processes.
· Women and men will be actively involved in shaping governance institutions, processes and policies.
· More women will be involved in civil society organizations holding governments into account.
· It will be responsive to the different needs, interests and priorities of women and men.
· Governance institutions will have the upholding of principles of gender equality and social justice as central principles.
· All women will be recognized as citizens of their countries of residence.
Finally, governance is a process that should involve all citizens of a country at every level without discrimination based on gender, age, religion or geographical location. To attain gender-sensitive governance will mean that all women and men must be active in initiating a change in attitudes and culture that look down on women. It is as much a struggle for men as it is for women because both are equal members of the society. It is also paramount for women to have the capacity to actively take part in governance, they must strive for the highest educational levels in their fields, they must also go further and make themselves versed in all the issues that affect their community this way they will be a voice of authority at the decision making table and will be treated as equals.
As a young woman actively engaged in development work, after doing this course I have resolved to do even more in as many capacities as I can including other young women in the process. Therefore this is a call to all young women there regardless of what they are involved in or where they are based; it is time to engage. At the individual level we must rise because in doing so we render our strength to the women's collective voice and pave way not only for us but also for generations to come which will thus enjoy a community that accords all people equal opportunity, resources and respect.
This is a summary of an e-course offered by GenderHub here http://www.genderhub.org/build-capacity/elearning-from-us/.