2010 CEECIS and Baltic States: Regional Highlights from Gender Assessments in CEE/CIS conducted in 2009-10
Author: Silke Steinhilber
Since 1994, UNICEF has committed itself to gender mainstreaming, as central to achieving greater gender equality and as a critically important element of the Human Rights based Approach to Programming. In 2006, a UNICEF Programme Directive (CF/PD/PRO/2006-05) mandated the assessment and review of gender mainstreaming at least once per cycle in UNICEF-supported Country Programmes. UNICEF has developed guidance for Country Offices to undertake a flexible approach to gender mainstreaming assessment and review process (Programme Policy and Procedure Manual, Chapter 6, Section 17). In this context, and linked with more recent efforts by UNICEF to strengthen gender mainstreaming, the CEE/CIS Regional Office supported 20 of its 22 offices to conduct significant review in 2009-2010 of gender mainstreaming within the context of their support to country programmes of cooperation.
Terms of reference for each of the assessments were drafted by the Country Offices, in consultation with the Regional Office, which provided quality assurance and oversight of the contracting process. In addition, TORs were assessed against evaluation standards and gender criteria through the Regional Office’s technical facility for Monitoring and Evaluation, comprising third party review by external experts.
Independent expert consultants were engaged by Country Offices to conduct the assessments. The experts were identified with the assistance of the Regional Office through the pre-qualified roster of gender consultants, and were selected competitively based on experience and performance in conducting gender assessments, knowledge of the regional and country context and language skills. The prevailing organisational Guidance on Gender Assessments (see Programme Policy and Procedure Manual, Chapter 6, Section 17) provided flexibility to Country Offices in defining the scope the assessments and the participation of staff. Draft reports were shared with the Regional Office for expert review and quality assurance prior to their finalization by the Country Offices.
Findings and Conclusions:
While the assessments identified significant levels of awareness and attention to gender equality in important areas of UNICEF support, they also highlighted a need to systematically strengthen gender mainstreaming in all programme areas, enhancing staff capacity on gender issues and clarifying responsibilities for gender mainstreaming at country level. The assessments highlight that Country Programmes in the CEE/CIS region have most experience in the promotion of gender equality and women’s/girls’ rights in the following programmatic areas:
- Education, particularly support of the promotion of Life-Skills-Based-Education, child-friendly schools programmes, and activities addressing the early drop-out of students, mainly of girls, from secondary and
- Early-Child Development, particularly the role of fathers in parenting,
- HIV/AIDS prevention and programmes addressing the situation of most-at-risk adolescents (MARA), as well as especially vulnerable adolescents (EVA)
- programmes addressing domestic violence
- support to the promotion baby-friendly hospitals.
While the assessments noted UNICEF’s experience in these areas, they also point out that support on gender mainstreaming was not always explicit or systematically documented in the programmes’ objectives and targets, and that indicators were not always specific enough to measure changes in gender-related issues.
A number of gaps were identified in country programmes with respect to gender mainstreaming, including limited attention to the concluding observations of the CEDAW committee in areas of programme cooperation. Analyses of the situation of women and children were noted to not be fully gender-sensitive; for example, identifying sex-disaggregated data in only some areas but omitting substantive gender analysis.
The assessments indicated that attention to gender equality was not comprehensive in a number of programme areas, including:
- child protection, in particular juvenile justice
- health & nutrition
- social policy
- violence in schools
A number of assessments highlighted that gender equality in country programmes (similar to the broad view of CEE/CIS societies) may be perceived as an issue relevant to the situation of women and girls. As a result, there is a risk that UNICEF-supported activities, which are intended to benefit women and children directly, are interpreted wrongly as gender mainstreaming initiatives by Country Offices and without examining the impact of these activities on issues related to women’s empowerment, perceptions of traditional roles and wider gender equality. Conversely, the assessments noted limited attention to gender
relations as a reflection of power relations in society, to the role of boys and men in gender equality, and to the gender-specific needs of boys (e.g. as clients of the juvenile justice system). The integration in a number of country programmes of support to the promotion of the active role of fathers in early child development was an exception.
While several assessments pointed to a growing awareness by UNICEF staff of the need to engage more with boys and men for gender equality, the assessments did not identify Country Offices with significant experience in this regard. A number of assessments point to limitations in office capacity that may impact on efforts to improve gender mainstreaming progress. In particular, the gender focal point system did not appear to meet its mandate, in part due to incompleteness in the assignment of focal point responsibilities (terms of reference were often unclear) and the limited authority of the focal points. At the time of the assessment, a majority of Country Office did not use explicit management or evaluation instruments specifically designed to assess gender mainstreaming. Most Country Offices had only formulated generic standards how to ensure gender sensitivity in communication material and publications, nor were gender sensitivity or competences routinely required of outside experts or in hiring processes.
The assessments highlighted a strong general commitment by UNICEF staff to the principle of gender equality and the promotion of girls’ and women’s rights by all staff. However, staff articulated a need for gender sensitization and capacity development in general. The need for context specific capacity development for CEE/CIS countries was noted.
The assessments recommended that UNICEF Country Offices should ensure a more systematic approach to gender mainstreaming in all programme sectors, while at the same time deepen gender mainstreaming in sectors where it is currently most visible (i.e. Education, ECD and MARA).
The assessments recommended strengthening national data systems on gender equality that feed into national policy decisions and UNICEF’s knowledge base to improve programme support decision making on gender mainstreaming. As a matter of principle, UNICEF-supported analyses on the situation of women and children should identify context-specific gender issues.
The assessments also recommend that UNICEF document its programme experience on gender mainstreaming to effectively demonstrate on-going commitment to gender mainstreaming and make lessons learned and good practices widely available in the organisation.
All of the assessments recommend that the terms of reference for Gender Focal Points to be clarified and the profile of the role strengthened, for example by greater involvement in the advisory bodies of the country office and more participation in programme planning decisions. Other examples include facilitating greater exchange of experience between gender focal points in the CEE/CIS region.
All assessments recommend specific and tailored capacity development on gender mainstreaming in all programme areas, highlighting specifically a need for training, guidance, tools and instruments that are adaptable to the context of CEE/CIS countries, including specific sub-regional conditions such as EU accession. Some assessments also recommend general gender equality sensitization and basic capacity development on gender mainstreaming concepts, approaches and instruments.
The assessments recommend that the prevalent but misguided interpretation which equates gender mainstreaming activities with activities directed specifically to benefit women, and thereby reinforce traditional gender roles, needs to be addressed.
Several assessments recommend that specific resources be made available for gender mainstreaming, including resources to enable Country Offices to increase their knowledge base on gender equality issues as well as for specific activities/ programmes for girls’ and women’s empowerment. Moreover, assessments recommend that gender sensitivity and UNICEF’s commitment to gender mainstreaming should be more explicitly highlighted in partnerships at the national level. Some reports recommend that UNICEF should directly collaborate with the respective national institutions responsible for promoting gender equality and the status of women. Others recommend that Country Offices should involve relevant NGOs or academic partners at national level more directly, and that gender expertise be a criterion in the collaboration with national experts. Some assessments recommend increased engagement of Country Offices in UN Gender Theme Groups.
The need for increased support through the Regional Office is highlighted: ensuring the exchange of experience of Country Offices (mainly, but not only of GFPs), developing region-specific capacity building and programmatic guidance and shared standards for gender mainstreaming in management and programmes, introducing and sustaining substantive input, for example with respect to the engagement with boys and men for gender equality, providing information resources and tools such as good practice examples, as well as ad-hoc expertise and assistance are the main areas where RO assistance is considered helpful.
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