Author: ITAD LTD UK
The Mali Country Office (CO) was one of the six countries to participate in the global evaluation of UNICEF’s gender policy implementation. The evaluation of the Mali CO is expected to add a valuable dimension to the evaluation in terms of capturing how UNICEF’s Gender Policy is understood and applied in the West African region.
The global evaluation seeks to identify institutional constraints encountered by country offices in implementing gender policy, analyse strategic partnerships and document the type and scope of gender results achieved. In addition, it also aims to determine where good practices exist, and how these could be replicated in other programming and geographical areas of UNICEF’s operations. The evaluation strives to make practical recommendations to enhance UNICEF’s gender policy implementation
The evaluation mission Mali took place from September 3-15, 2007 including a field trip to Segou from September 9-11, 2007. The evaluation process consisted of a review of key programme documents , individual semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions (FGDs) with participants from the programme sections of the Mali CO, government partners, UN agencies, NGOs, donors, and beneficiaries. In Bamako, a total of 56 interviews were held including with (2) senior UNICEF Mali management, (14) programme staff, (29) government partners, (3) UN agencies, (8) donors, and (13) NGOs. Ten FGDs were conducted with diverse beneficiary groups of three UNICEF’s programmes in Bamako and Segou; and a site visit to a local NGO in Bamako was also undertaken on September 6, 2007. The site visits included the (a) Yangasso CSCom where respondents included medical staff, community management and ‘relais’ members as well as female and male beneficiaries of the community health centre, (b) Yangasso CDPE included FGDs with the management committee, the ‘mother teachers’, and female and male beneficiary groups, and in Segou (c) Bagadaji School where focus group discussions took place with the management committee and parents, and (d) l’Académie involved a meeting with the ‘Parlement d’enfants’ and with staff and administration.
Upon arrival, the evaluation team was also able to ask for additional interviews with the Embassy of the Netherlands, Save the Children, SNV, Plan Mali, Oxfam GB, The Office of the Verificateur General, the Danish Embassy and USAID. It was not possible to hold meetings with Plan Mali, the French Embassy and USAID. Of the three UN agencies scheduled for appointment, it was only possible to meet with the UNDP and the World Food Programme. At present, UNIFEM is represented by UNDP in Mali.
Findings and Conclusions:
Given its country context the Mali CO has designed programmes that address gender equality from both a practical needs and strategic interests perspective. For purposes of this evaluation, these results are only observed. Most of the gender-specific results are already documented in the CO’s annual reports and some were identified through the interview process.
There were also some measures newly introduced by the CO and others that staff did not necessarily perceive as contributing to increased gender equality, but which in the view of the Evaluation still represented good practices. A summary of all of these are outlined below:
a. The establishment of the Gender Task Force (GTF) at the Mali CO is an innovative approach as it strives to distribute the responsibility borne by the current GFP across all the major sections of the CO. This idea stemmed from similar initiatives for HIV/AIDS and Communications, where it was deemed necessary to create a committee drawing focal points from the programme and operations sections. The GTF, headed by the Deputy Representative and coordinated by the current GFP includes members from seven sections, including Communications and Human Resources. The task forces mandate seeks to promote a management culture that supports gender equality and diversity at the administration level, and to improve the implementation of gender mainstreaming approaches. The committee has met once since it was established in July 2007, and aims to meet at least 2-3 times per year.
b. The Mali CO is supporting measures against gender-based violence and has recently teamed up with SIDA to set up a national commission to combat FGM practices.
c. Child trafficking in Mali occurs within the country as well as across international borders . The children affected are for the most part young girls who run away their rural homes and find themselves working in low and often exploitative situations in urban areas. UNICEF Mali is working to combat child trafficking through its Protection programme and is also collaborating with the Belgian cooperation in this area.
d. Mali is known for its extensive set of laws and regulations. However, almost all of these documents are in French and their understanding is also made difficult by the use of judicial terminology. UNICEF has supported the vulgarization of some legal texts that are relevant to its mandate, namely the Constitution, the CRC and CEDAW.
e. The Mali CO supports the work of the MPFEF in various ways. For example, it has just provided institutional strengthening support to the Ministry by assisting them to develop their 5-year action plan, as well as provides other forms of capacity building support.
f. Advocacy on the elaboration and approval process of the ‘Code de la Personne et de la Famille’.
Using the rating system of the Institutional Assessment Framework, the Evaluation Team concluded that the Mali CO is at the semi-integrated mainstreaming stage of gender policy implementation.
The Mali CO has succeeded fairly well in gender integration at the planning, implementation, and monitoring stages. This is particularly evident in gender-specific programmes where the primary targets are women and girls. However, it would be useful for the CO to also adapt to a more systematic approach so that the same level of attention is accorded to gender issues in all programmes. The table below indicates two scenarios for the Mali CO, the first one depicting its current status with regard to gender mainstreaming and the second (right-hand side) outlining what else it needs to do to implement a more seamless and consistent gender strategy. The recommendations outlined below pertain to the CO level only. The larger scale institutional recommendations that need to be directed towards the RO and HQ will be integrated in the final evaluation report.
Recommendations for Mali CO
1. Review of mandate within the UN System in Mali
The Mali UN group needs to examine overlaps and gaps in its mandates related to gender equality as part of the ongoing global reform of the UN system.
This reform in general work is already underway but has not yet developed a great deal of momentum as the global reform is taking a long time to show results. In Mali the reform also does not yet focus on gender as each of the UN agencies has a gender policy and there may be a presumption that gender has been “mainstreamed” and does not require additional attention. UNICEF management could start with sharing the results of this evaluation with other UN agencies in Mali and then lead a discussion on the best approaches to gender equity work in the Malian context.
2. New definitions of gender
There is a need to develop a new language to describe gender equality and equity in French and within the Malian context that will provide greater clarity about the meaning of these concepts and which will not be so closely associated with the now unfortunately negative connotations of feminism.
There is potential in starting new office-wide discussions around local concepts of complementarity (e.g. ngogon dafa, in Bambara). This concept includes understanding of the different roles but equal importance of men and women in society. The discussions could explore the differences in positions of men and women in society to develop areas of support to women that make sense in programming work and in the Malian context.
3. Training opportunities
UNICEF Mali could explore the possibilities of organizing joint gender training initiatives with other UN organizations in the country, e.g., there are opportunities for UNICEF and WFP in Mali to find common gender related areas of interest (support to school canteens, nutrition programmes).
This training should not be carried out as an end in itself, but should be linked to immediate use of the training. It also needs to use different learning modalities such as workshops, online training tools, discussion groups, etc. so that different learning styles can be supported and learning shared within the office. The timing of the evaluation fits with planning of new country strategy and plans and the plans could be addressed directly after receiving training.
4. Program work on Recognition of Rights
The UNICEF program needs to take a more direct role in the diffusion of legal texts related to gender equality in local languages.
This would directly address the ignorance of legal instruments that offer protection of rights and promote discussions of the meaning of “rights” within the Malian context. The work would require several stages: translation and abridgement of legal texts into short texts in plain language; translation of simple text into local languages; design of publications using images, cartoons and good graphic styles; and, facilitation of discussions at community level based on the texts.
The development of simple texts needs to be regularly tested at community level and should be integrated with other work that is in close contact with local authorities and communities. UNICEF is in a good position to carry this out with its integrated programs and committed program staff.
5. Greater attention to a more gender-sensitive life cycle approach
There is a need to target adolescent girls and boys, who have dropped out of school and may not have access to social services and resources.
Discussions on education issues with parents and committees highlighted a persistent problem facing adolescent girls and boys who leave school for various schools. This concern was also raised in the context of higher illiteracy rates among women in Mali.
6. Systematisation of gender in program documents
All program and project documents need to be assessed for gender approach and special attention paid to work within community, family and government contexts so that the situation of women is addressed as part of a more holistic approach.
Work with women and girls should not be continued in isolation from changes going on in households, institutions (e.g. schools) and society (e.g. local government, NGOs, etc.). An immediate tool would be the replacement of all neutral nouns with gender-specific nouns. This may be resisted as tedious but should allow more penetrating analyses of the current situation. It would also facilitate the identification of gender-sensitive monitoring and evaluation methods including specific indicators.
7. Accountability of gender in management
Senior management needs to require each program team to show how it has enlarged its approach to involve more gender-sensitive approaches and to hold individual staff accountable for this during their annual performance evaluations and in the annual report.
There may be less work required to reach this point in education and women’s health than in HIV/AIDS and other programs. Initially there would need to be extra supervision of routine procedures in design and monitoring and evaluation to ensure a more consistent and systematic integration of gender equality approaches.
UNICEF staff in the Mali CO currently do not seem to want to be assessed on gender work as part of their PER. This could be more accepted if each officer had gender elements specified in their Annual Work Plans.
However, as this evaluation has shown and has been feared in many areas of international development, mainstreaming has not been successful in itself and needs to be supported by specific gender specialist inputs and making all staff responsible for the gender approach in their work.
8. Access to gender specialists
The Mali CO could develop a roster of local gender specialists to help programme staff work actively to conduct gender analyses as a regular part of the programme planning process.
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