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Article

Gender Expertise in International Organizations  

Özlem Altan-Olcay

Gender experts and gender expertise as a field of knowledge production and policymaking emerged in the late 20th century in response to the growing acceptance of gender mainstreaming in national bureaucracies as well as international organizations. Initially conceptualized as femocrats, gender experts and the resources devoted to them were welcome as important achievements of feminist movements in making their demands part of institutional frameworks. However, gender expertise is at the center of two important debates in feminist scholarship. First, feminist scholars, including those who have held positions as gender experts, debate the relationship between advocacy, professionalization, and the dangers of co-optation. These debates often connect with discussions of co-optation in broader scholarship on transformations in feminist discourses in institutional spaces. Second, critical scholarship has also produced much empirical data on the power inequalities in complex organizational settings within which gender experts operate. This scholarship focuses more on the actual experiences of gender experts. These debates may also give rise to new research on and with gender experts concerning the interactions between the researcher and the research subject, the positionality of thinking and writing today with hopes for (and despairs about) tomorrow, and the need to problematize binaries of the East and the West, the Global North and the South in knowledge production.

Article

Gender and Foreign Policy  

Alexis Leanna Henshaw

While explicit efforts at gender mainstreaming in foreign policy are relatively recent, a view of foreign policy through a feminist lens illustrates that foreign policy has always been gendered. Feminist scholarship in this area suggests that masculinity has historically shaped foreign policy in important ways, while the increased presence of women in national governments, government cabinets, and the diplomatic corps has produced some notable change in policy outcomes. An examination of two key concepts related to policymaking and gender—securitization and gender mainstreaming—shows how gender issues have come to the forefront of national and international security agendas since 2000. In particular, the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda promulgated by the United Nations has obligated individual states to address gendered security issues, and dozens of countries have responded with their own National Action Plans. While these national efforts have led to some improvement in the status of women and related humanitarian outcomes, feminist scholars generally agree that the WPS agenda has stalled in its efforts to produce transformative change. As a way forward, feminist foreign policy stances promise to produce more comprehensive outcomes, though a backlash toward gender mainstreaming and the re-emergence of more traditional security threats has led to questions about the future of such efforts.

Article

Gender Mainstreaming and Climate Change  

Margaret Alston

Women and girls are disproportionately impacted by climate change, not because of innate characteristics but as a result of the social structures and cultural norms that shape gender inequalities. Feminist activists and transnational organizations continue to voice their concerns regarding the need for greater attention to gender inequalities in the context of climate change. Gender mainstreaming is a policy process designed to address the gendered consequences of any planned actions—the ultimate aim being to achieve gender equality. Gender mainstreaming emerged in the late 1990s at the Beijing Women’s Conference as a result of the frustrations of feminist activists and international nongovernmental organizations about the lack of attention to gender equality. Yet its implementation has been hampered both by a lack of vision as to its purpose and by ongoing tensions, particularly between those who espouse equality and those who support the mainstream. This has led to resistance to gender mainstreaming within departments and units that are charged with its implementation, and indeed a reluctance of key players to commit to gender equality. Yet there is still strong support for the original feminist intent from activists and researchers addressing the impacts of climate change. The transformational potential of gender mainstreaming is still viewed as a process that could address and challenge gender inequalities in the context of increasing climate challenges. However, there are barriers that must be overcome for the transformational potential of gender mainstreaming to be realized. These include equating climate justice with gender justice, ensuring that the radical feminist intent of gender mainstreaming is not co-opted by the neoliberal agenda of maximizing economic development over gender equality and women’s empowerment, and ensuring that organizations tasked with facilitating gender mainstreaming not only understand its intent but also address gender inequalities within their own organizational structures and practices.

Article

Gender-Sensitive Parliaments  

Sonia Palmieri

While women have succeeded in promoting a feminist agenda in some parliaments, the international research shows that this is not always possible, and accordingly, not a realistic expectation for women. Parliaments, like any institution, have specific cultural norms and practices, some of which actively work against the advancement of gender equality. Understanding the conditions under which female—and male—parliamentarians might succeed in promoting gender equality outcomes has become an important avenue for research and development practice. The focus on gender-sensitive parliaments allows for a framework to identify, and encourage the development of, those conditions. There are four key elements of a gender-sensitive parliament. First, it accepts that the responsibility to achieve gender equality, both as a policy outcome and as a process, rests with the parliament as a whole (its male and female members and staff) and with the organizations that drive substantial policy, procedural, and normative development (political parties). Second, a gender-sensitive parliament is guided by institutional policies and legal frameworks, which allow the parliament to monitor its achievements toward gender equality and allow follow-up and review. Third, a gender-sensitive parliament institutionalizes a gender mainstreaming approach through its representational, legislative, and oversight work to ensure that all the parliament’s outputs consider, and counteract, any potential discrimination against women or men, girls or boys. This element requires a reconsideration of the process and structures of the parliament, including the respective roles and capacities of members and parliamentary staff. Fourth, a gender-sensitive parliament constantly strives to eliminate institutional cultures that sanction and perpetuate discriminatory, prejudicial norms and attitudes in the workplace against women members and staff.

Article

Women in Malawi  

Anika Wilson and Sitinga Kachipande

The status, rights, and roles of women in Malawi have been in constant flux since at the least the mid-19th century. In the pre-colonial period, principles of matriliny organized social structures within many communities in Malawi, affording women rights to land, property, products of labor, and children, and influence in group decision-making. The mid-19th century ushered in a period of disturbances and social transformations that led to changes in economic, political, religious, and familial practices. Changes in key institutions impacted women’s access to land and their influence in governance. Women in Malawi were excluded from new commercial and political opportunities as long-distance commerce increased in the region. Increasing commodification of people endangered women within intensified trade and military conflict. Patterns of increasing exclusion and endangerment of women continued beyond the mid-19th century after the slave trade was challenged. In the period immediately preceding colonial rule and also during the colonial period, women actively sought to maintain rights and influence through their involvement in Christian institutions, their appeal to courts, public protests, and through their subversive expression in songs, stories, and possession cults. In post-colonial Malawi, women did not gain the freedom that they had struggled for during the anti-colonial movements. Kamuzu Banda marginalized women from access to power and decision-making. He maintained a paternalistic approach to women’s issues which included controlling every aspect of their lives. The constitution adopted in 1994 with democratic reforms laid a strong foundation for women achieving rights and improving their socio-economic status. However, women still faced obstacles in fully realizing their rights and continued to be marginalized by Banda’s successors. Women’s participation in leadership was limited to showing support for the president. The election of Joyce Banda as the first female president did little to improve the status of women. Backlash against her ascendance to the position eroded women’s access to decision-making posts in the government. In the first two decades of the 21st century, the government of Malawi responded to pressures from women’s rights advocates to legislate against gender-based violence and child marriage. However, there has been little evidence of sustained and coordinated women’s movements and activism aimed at improving women’s socio-economic status. Much of the work women do to improve their position and that of their families and communities takes place on a small scale or involves cooperation with precariously funded nongovernmental organizations and community-based organizations.

Article

Gender and Transformative Education in East Africa  

George Ladaah Openjuru

Gender and transformative education are a unique combination that needs careful consideration. One is drawn to focusing on gender and education in an attempt to bring about gender perspective transformation. Gender-related transformation of education can be accomplished in a variety of scales and approaches. This approach could change how education is organized in ways that recognize gender differences or inequality, do not exacerbate gender inequity, and enhance gender awareness, and aim to promote gender equity and equality in education. This intervention could take the form of gender mainstreaming and other affirmative actions which can be achieved through gender policies, gender-responsive pedagogy, and curriculum development. There is no doubt that, regardless of all the efforts that have been put in place to overcome gender inequality in education, gender inequality still exists and continue to persist at all levels of education and hence the need for transformative education which is education for change. Educators should follow transformative education to enable them to identify practices and ways of teaching and learning that are not gender sensitive and can take corrective measures in the direction that can overcome gender disparity in education by avoiding action that promotes gender disadvantages.

Article

Gender Equality Policies and European Union Politics  

Christina Fiig

The European Union (EU) has been characterized as a “gender regime” with its distinctive patterns of gender (in)equalities and path dependencies. Gender equality policies have developed as a genuine policy field over the past decades from a single treaty article to a comprehensive legal and political framework dealing with multiple sources of discrimination. Besides, gender equality policies are frequently linked to other political projects and policy goals. Gender equality is often presented as a foundational value of the EU with reference to the Treaties of Amsterdam and Lisbon. Research has pointed out that it is an important aspect of the foundational myth of the EU. The development of gender equality policies has been characterized by alternations between progress and stagnation. These policies are also met by resistance. However, a general conclusion is that EU institutions have been important catalysts in shaping women’s economic, political, and social equality in Europe and in putting equality rights into effect. Historical, political, and sociological interpretations of the EU’s gender equality policies illustrate these dynamics. Gender equality policies are described in terms of the following phases: the 1970s (associated with women’s civil and economic rights and equal treatment), the 1980s (equal opportunities, positive action), and the 1990s (gender mainstreaming in the whole union and for all policy areas). Since the 2000s, a fourth phase of new policies against multiple discrimination has been developing. These different stages of EU gender policy continue to coexist. When the Treaty of Amsterdam entered into force in 1999, the EU committed to a new approach to work for gender equality through mainstreaming. Gender equality and nondiscrimination became guiding legal principles of the union. The Treaty of Lisbon reflects core vaues of the EU such as democracy, human rights and gender equality. One can approach gender equality policies as situated between concerns for gender equality and multiple discrimination on the one hand and priorities of economy and finance on the other. Critical voices in the literature have pointed out that these priorities have outperformed ideas about gender equality. In the aftermath of the financial crisis, EU austerity policies represent a “critical juncture” that could undo the long-term progress achieved in gender equality in Europe. Besides, gender equality policies suffer from a gap between institutionalization on the one hand and a lack of consistency and full political commitment on the other. In a context of a more permanent crisis scenario in the EU, gender equality policies are undergoing transformations and they are subject to change to the worse. A key point is that dynamic gender relations, multiple discrimination, and women’s various roles in society matter for understanding the EU and European integration. This raises questions about the EU’s role as a driving force for gender equality and against multiple discrimination. What happened to gender equality policies and to gendered effects of other policies as a result of the various crises in the EU?

Article

Gender and the State  

Natalie Florea Hudson

One of the main arguments advanced by feminists is that we must move beyond adding women to existing structures and institutions, and focus more on the theoretical, cognitive, and even moral commitments that emphasize the very creation and ongoing reproduction of such political bodies. Central to this concern are the feminist debates about the state and the gendered reproduction of the state in discourses ranging from security and violence to development and globalization. Feminist theorists have raised various approaches and critiques against the state. Some have shown how the state is deeply and fundamentally embedded to patriarchy, while others have described the state as a terrain that can be deconstructed and reconstructed in a manner that moves away from systems of domination, gendered hierarchy, and power over towards arenas that foster inclusion and emancipation. In response to mainstream international relations (IR) theory, feminists have argued that the state and its related notions of citizenship and sovereignty are gendered social constructs. They continue to challenge the primacy of the state in mainstream IR, while also engaging the state as an important political actor in the feminist quest for emancipation, equality, and justice. One strategy employed by some feminist organizations and women’s movements in an attempt to go beyond gender balancing and the rather basic goals of liberal feminism, but to still find ways to engage the state and state actors in meaningful ways, is gender mainstreaming.

Article

Feminist Perspectives on Foreign Policy  

Anne-Marie D'Aoust and Béatrice Châteauvert-Gagnon

Foreign policy analysis (FPA) deals with the decision-making processes involved in foreign policymaking. As a field of study, FPA overlaps international relations (IR) theory and comparative politics. Feminist perspectives on foreign policy look at global politics with the aim of understanding how gender as an analytical lens and a sophisticated system of power produces, and is produced by, foreign policy (analysis). There are two main spheres of feminist inquiries when it comes to foreign policy: the role of women as sexed power holders involved in decision-making processes and power-sharing in the realm of foreign policymaking, and the role of gendered norms in the conduct and adoption of foreign policies. One the one hand, feminist foreign policies as a state policy orientation embraced by some governments (e.g., Sweden or Canada) are geared toward gender equality in one or multiple areas pertaining to foreign policy (aid, trade, defense, and/or diplomacy). Such policies claim that prioritizing gender equality in foreign assistance serves broader economic and security goals. On the other hand, gender mainstreaming, one of the major international developments in foreign policy, moves toward a broader engagement with the way institutions have distinctively gendered cultures and processes that inevitably affect outcomes: do diverse assumptions about femininity and masculinity affect the bureaucratic procedures and, by extension, the policy results? Broadening feminist takes on foreign policy, queer perspectives aim to bring to the field a distinctive focus on how foreign policies are productive of, and produced by, not only gendered norms, but also sexualized norms, subjectivities, and logics. These different areas of policy focus do not preclude the instrumentalization of women’s rights for foreign policy purposes, such as military interventions made in the name of women’s rights, that can be detrimental to women.