Charles Chauvel and Agata Walzcak
It has been more than 20 years since the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1325 on the Agenda for Women, Peace and Security (WPS). With the support of the Norwegian government, UNDP recently convened members of parliament for a series of South-South knowledge exchanges on how the WPS program can catalyze positive change, particularly in the context of the COVID response. -19.
Members of Parliament from Bangladesh, Eswatini, Guatemala, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Tanzania attended. Despite the differences in geographic location and development, six common themes emerged, each highly relevant as UNDP debates its new gender strategy.
1. Enlist male allies
Gender equality can never be the responsibility of women alone. Getting things done in politics is, in its crudest form, a numbers game. Thus, while the leadership of women parliamentarians is essential, in isolation, it will almost always be insufficient. Parliamentarians from Eswatini explained how male MPs supported campaigns on sexual and reproductive rights during the pandemic and a parliamentary motion to declare an upsurge in gender-based violence a national emergency. It is essential to empower women parliamentarians to find the most effective ways to gain the support of their male colleagues, while making a commitment to advance women-friendly laws and policies.
2. It’s a waste to preach to the choir
“Whether it’s vaccinations, PPE distribution, curfews, education, jobs, we clearly recognize that gender has to be a part of it. – Hon. Prof. Jacqueline Oduol, Kenya
Kenya’s response to the pandemic was initially overseen by an ad hoc COVID committee and then by existing sector committees. Gender was not constantly integrated. The message from the deputies was clear; that development partners only engage committees working on issues traditionally considered “women’s issues” miss the mark. Gender equality and women, peace and security are the responsibility of all, as they are equally accountable to the women constituents. The work of finance and defense committees so often ignorantly stereotyped as “men’s affairs” is just as important as that of health, education and social services committees. They all need a mandate and internal rules that integrate gender.
And women are not a one-dimensional group, noted the Hon. Dutta flavor from Bangladesh. Of course, gender equality agendas and the work to ensure no one is left behind are separate. But when designed and implemented together, they can have an effect beyond the simple sum of their parts. Just ask women and girls with disabilities; or those of an ethnic, religious or linguistic minority on the difference in quality and impact between holistic and ad hoc services.
3. Numbers are necessary, but insufficient
As the number of women in politics continues to increase, albeit slowly, it is also clear that something more is needed. More women means few substantial changes in law and policy, unless accompanied by a change in attitude. To be effective in institutions originally designed by and for men, women must have equal access to resources, education, mentoring, training and career advancement. Until it is as customary for a woman to be minister in charge of security services as it is to be minister of health, the change remains quantitative rather than qualitative.
4. If it’s not in the budget, it doesn’t exist
“The success of gender sensitive laws has everything to do with the budget. »- Sofia Vasquez, Gender Analyst, UNDP Guatemala
Countries are increasingly embracing gender mainstreaming. If, as happens too often, such measures lack adequate funding, they fail. The public resource allocation gateway, the parliamentary budget process, is one of the key determinants of the quality of public policies. Gender Responsive Budgeting (GRB) systematically integrates a gender perspective into the budget process. A highly technical exercise, it asks Members of Parliament and those who work with them to develop a very specific set of skills. These skills must be integrated into the monitoring of responses to COVID-19, as evidenced by the work of the Senate finance and health committees in Guatemala. They are also essential to ensure the institutionalization and funding of gender equality within the parliamentary institution. In Sri Lanka, women members successfully championed and operationalized a gender responsive budget approach in 2018.
5. Inclusiveness, integrity and respect are bulwarks against gender-based violence
“The way we can have (a strong voice for gender equality) is to be politically mature and to be inclusive of the views and positions of all women and people from diverse OSIEGSB. »Marleni Matias, President of the Women’s Forum, Guatemala
WPS and gender equality programs do not aim to idealize women. Some will only be elected to pursue programs of populism and division. It is far more important to stress the importance of an inclusive public space for people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities whose positions on key issues will necessarily be divergent. The low representation of Indigenous MPs must also be addressed
Inclusiveness, integrity, and respectful, evidence-based discourse can be a powerful bulwark against the rising tide of online and in-person violence against politically active women. Guatemala’s MPs noted that the WPS agenda can point to ways to speak meaningfully about gender and security in the most contested areas. These include sexual and reproductive rights in places where anti-gender movements and sexist patriarchal perspectives prevail.
6. The democratic offer is a facade without democratic demand
“We all have different roles. Unless we (MPs and civil society) can work together, we will not be able to activate the policies needed for transformative change. – Hon. Dutta flavor, Bangladesh
Along with the SDGs, the WPS program places people at the heart of sustainable human development and human security. Such systematic relationships depend on the existence of responsible institutions and the demand for such accountability. This demand must be encouraged and developed in particular for women, young people and all those at risk of being left behind.
In Eswatini, MPs worked with women-led NGOs to address the increase in gender-based violence during the pandemic. In Bangladesh, an extensive consultation process with civil society resulted in a people-centered WPS national action plan for 2019-2022. In 2020, successful partnerships between women’s rights defenders ensured continuity after a crisis of the Guatemalan Council for Women’s Equality, a primary coordinating mechanism for women’s rights and participation. In Kenya, where no law can be passed without public consultation, the quality of engagement remains an issue. A lack of awareness and information regarding the opportunities and processes for participation is the main challenge, noted Senator Mercy Chebeni.
Institutional development goes hand in hand with empowering broad and diverse public engagement. Supporting more systematic relationships between parliaments and civil society has been identified as a priority to bridge the current gender gaps. It has been observed more than once that one of the most effective partnerships for sustainable and inclusive change is a systemic and adequately resourced partnership between MPs and society.