Mainstreaming of a Gender Perspective

“Gender equality is an issue of development effectiveness, not just a matter of political correctness or kindness to women. New evidence demonstrates that when women and men are relatively equal, economies tend to grow faster, the poor move more quickly out of poverty, and the well-being of men, women and children is enhanced.”

The World Bank, “The Business Case for Gender Mainstreaming”, from Integrating Gender into the World Bank’s Work: A Strategy for Action 2002

What is gender mainstreaming?

Gender mainstreaming is a strategy to assess the implications for both men and women, of any planned actions, policies or programmes in all areas and at all levels. This approach recognizes the need to take social and economic differences between men and women into account to ensure that proposed policies and programmes have intended and fair results for women and men, boys and girls.

What is the Government of Canada doing to implement gender mainstreaming?

The Government of Canada adopted the Federal Plan for Gender Equality in 1995 (PDF version, 226 KB) as a response to the Beijing Platform for Action (PDF version, 282 KB) created at the Fourth World Conference on Women (1995) The key commitment of the Federal Plan was to “implement gender-based analysis throughout federal departments and agencies”.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Human Rights Act outline legal obligations to ensure gender equality in Canada.

Why do gender mainstreaming?

Gender mainstreaming makes good policy sense:

Canada has made a commitment in:

What is gender based analysis and how do you do it?

Gender-Based Analysis (GBA) is a tool that examines gender differences. Gender-sensitive assessments are needed to determine the different impacts of policies and programmes on women and men. It takes into account important social and economic differences between men and women at all stages of the planning and implementation processes and makes it possible to identify potential differential effects before they are put into place. GBA challenges decision-makers to question the assumption that policies and programmes affect everyone in the same way.

Gender-based analysis in your daily work

The process and opportunities for GBA vary with the type of activity (policy development, research, programme delivery, technical assistance etc.) The key is to develop a conceptual framework – a way of thinking – that captures the different situations, priorities and needs of women and men. Whether it is in the area of human security, multilateral and regional fora, bilateral relations, governance, human rights or trade, gender analysis must be integrated into daily work. It is not about “adding-on a women’s component” to an existing intervention, nor is it only about achieving gender representation. It’s about ensuring effectiveness in the work we do.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Aren’t we really talking about initiatives targeting women?

  2. Our job is about effectively implementing policies and programming for everyone. Why does it matter whether someone is a man or a woman?

  3. Is gender-based analysis biased against men?

  4. Aren’t we already including “women’s issues” in our work? Why “mainstreaming” rather than specific measures in support of women?

  5. Isn’t this yet another issue in a lengthy list such as diversity, or sustainable development, that we are asked to address?

Aren’t we really talking about initiatives targeting women?

Gender-based analysis considers the real-life conditions of both men and women and seeks to ensure that policies/programmes have a broader and more equitable effect on all those affected.

Our job is about effectively implementing policies and programming for everyone. Why does it matter whether someone is a man or a woman?

Gender mainstreaming is precisely about providing effective policies and programming to men and women, boys and girls. Using GBA provides an understanding of how being male or female impacts capacity and access. There may be times when men will best be served through the provision of different resources.

For example:

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada found First Nations men attend university in smaller numbers as compared to First Nations women. As a result of this analysis, INAC is researching the causes of this imbalance and adjusting its educational policies and programming according to these gender-disaggregated figures. Its educational initiatives will target boys and men in order to address this issue.

Is gender-based analysis biased against men?

A gender-based analysis looks for socioeconomic data about both women and men. Without both genders represented, no valid comparisons or conclusions can be drawn. GBA is about fully investigating policy and programming consequences on both men and women boys and girls, and not about promoting or denigrating anybody.

Aren’t we already including “women’s issues” in our work? Why “mainstreaming” rather than specific measures in support of women?

Gender mainstreaming does not preclude specific initiatives targeting women. Women-specific programmes continue to be necessary and play an important role in promoting gender equality.

The mainstreaming strategy is a response to the lessons of experience. It has been found that in many programmes gender-based analysis has had a broader effect on the condition of women. Gender mainstreaming aims to lift the analysis up to the policy level at the outset of programming.

Gender mainstreaming is based on the premise that all issues should be analysed according to gender to respond to the realities and needs of both women and men.

Isn’t this yet another issue in a lengthy list, such as diversity or sustainable development, that we are asked to address?

Gender should not become the predominant theme, nor the only category of analysis. Instead, the strategy seeks to ensure that gender is one other relevant cross-cutting theme, such as the environment and diversity, addressed when assessing issues. Looking at gender in addition to other factors broadens and deepens the analysis rather than limiting it.

The inclusion of gender issues in a document should not be superficial or forced such as filling in a form or a separate box or a sprinkling of phrases such as “with special attention to women” throughout the document. A more substantive approach must be achieved by considering gender issues from the outset and throughout the planning and implementation stages.

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