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Addressing Rural Gender Issues: A Framework for Leadership and Mobilisation

8. Towards Effective Leadership for Addressing Gender Issues
Suppose you are a programme officer in a developing agency, responsible for overseeing some aspect of the planning and implementation of a development programme. How are you going to use your position to take the lead in ensuring that this programme is properly gender oriented, in all aspects of planning and implementation?

Here we shall make a preliminary attempt to address this question in general terms, by pointing to some of the main leadership imperatives, for each stage of the process of programme planning and implementation.

Leadership Imperatives

Situation Analysis. Ensure that the Situation Analysis does not use gender blind vocabulary (people, farmers, target group), but includes gender disaggregated vocabulary and data, and identifies gender gaps and discriminatory practices.

Policy Imperatives. Ensure that the programme plan mentions the relevant principles and goals from all guiding gender policies, and that these principles and goals are properly pursued throughout the sequence of planning and implementation. Make it clear that planners and implementers do not have personal discretion on whether to implement or drop policy imperatives.

Problem Identification. Ensure that all gender policy is set against the situation analysis, for the proper identification of all gender issues that are relevant to the programme goals, or that stand in the way of project success. Also draw attention to wider gender issues which may not be directly relevant to the technical aspects of project goals, but which can be addressed by using or extending programme interventions. Make sure that there is a proper investigation of relevant gender issues and their underlying causes. Involve the women of the affected community and target group in this identification and analysis.

Formulation of Goals. Ensure that the programme expresses the intention to address all gender issues identified as problems, by formulating goals to address these problems. Ensure that these goals express intention specifically and quantitatively (e.g. to completely close a particular gender gap during the five year programme period).

Intervention Strategies. Ensure proper identification of intervention strategies for addressing gender issues, in terms of effective measures to address underlying causes, in terms of feasibility, in terms of previous experience of success elsewhere, and in terms of facing or circumventing the likely patriarchal opposition. Involve women in the affected community in identifying and planning workable strategies. Do not allow strategies to be 'set in stone', but make strategic planning formative and adaptative, with participation from the local community.

Implementation Strategies. Ensure that both intervention and implementation strategies are not top-down, but instead use the process of women's empowerment as a bottom-up method for recognizing and addressing gender issues.

Objectives. Make sure that the list of objectives is specific on women's participation and intended outcomes. Include both outcome and process objectives, with the latter spelling out the objectives for the process of women's empowerment. Encourage the view that the process of empowerment is valuable in itself, quite apart from the measurable material outcomes.

Implementation System. Ensure that the implementation system and sequence is not purely linear, but allows for feedback adjustments on the basis of findings from M&E. Leave space within the implementation system for trying and testing different strategies for women's empowerment. Involve the women of the community in this process.

Management System. Distinguish between the overall management board that oversees the project, and the management committee of implementers. Include women of the community in both of these committees, to ensure that gender issues are properly recognized and addressed throughout the process of planning and implementation.

Monitoring and Evaluation. Ensure that indicators are concerned with measuring progress on activities, and the quality of these activities, as well as quantitative measures of outcomes. Devise methods and indicators for monitoring progress on implementing and developing the process of women's empowerment.

Overall, make it clear to the rest of the management team that gender issues are not 'separate' issues, but are development issues like all other issues. Be constantly aware that attention to gender issues will be overlooked if they are not made explicit at every stage. This is not only because of patriarchal resistance, but also because the adoption of a gender neutral and technical vocabulary serves to ensure that gender issues remain hidden from view.

Insist that responsibility for gender orientation of the programme must not be compartmentalized, or dealt with only by a separate 'gender specialist'. If there is a gender specialist, the role of this person should be to keep everybody else on their toes. Concern with addressing gender issues must be mainstreamed within the programme, and concern everybody.

Insist that the logical sequence of planning and implementation must be applied rigorously to the process of recognizing and addressing gender issues, in the same way that it is applied to all other development issues.

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