How do you convince skeptics that gender mainstreaming is important? Is there a way to address gender issues when a project doesn’t specialize in them? Is there such a thing as a gender-neutral activity? At DT Global we think about these types of challenges every day, and in celebration of International Women’s Day 2021, we want to share some of the best practices we use to address them. 

How do we build a business case for why gender mainstreaming is important?

Unfortunately, for many people the importance of gender equity is not a given. Using clear data on gender gaps and the wider implications of these gaps can help to build a business case for gender equity and mainstreaming.

In our European Commission-funded Increased Access to Electricity and Renewable Energy Production project in Zambia, we implemented this tactic at five gender mainstreaming workshops for Zambian energy stakeholders. First, we presented sex-disaggregated data on men and women’s access to electricity, willingness to pay, participation in decision-making on electric appliance purchases, awareness of clean energy technology suppliers, and access to credit. Next, we showed that when women don’t have agency over these types of decisions, the overall uptake of renewable energy and energy efficient technologies is lower—so if we want to increase use of these technologies, women need to be part of the conversation.

How can we encourage more gender equitable, effective, and sustainable farming and business practices?

Our Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Plus program, which works to improve economic growth and rural livelihoods in the Pacific Islands, is rolling out a series of agriculture learning modules for farmers in the Pacific that are family-based. Known as the Family Farms Team approach, these trainings help men and women to review all work done by family members and make it more equal, as well as learn to make decisions together. The approach explores ways to develop and facilitate the business acumen, skills, and knowledge of women farmers and enable farming households to work as a family team to development and plan their agricultural activities.

Specific training topics based on hyper-local needs and priorities for women also helps. In our European Commission-funded PADSEL NOA program, which works on reducing social and economic disparities across North-West Algeria, we’ve created trainings specifically for rural women in certain wilayas (provinces) focused on areas such as artisanal basketry, pottery, and cultivating prickly pear.

How can we address critical gender issues outside of our primary program focus?

Our programs can’t always specialize in all areas needed to effectively engage women and girls. But gender and social inclusion matters in all the communities where we work, regardless of our core focus, so we often use partnerships with niche organizations to deliver effective solutions.

For instance, DT Global’s MFAT-funded Business Link Pacific (BLP) project, designed to build the first Pacific business advisory service network for local businesses, partners with organizations to build a pipeline of women-led businesses to receive advisory services. BLP also partners with organizations that provide support on issues such as gender-based violence, harassment, leadership, and childcare for small businesses owners; and with organizations that can provide niche advice on gender inclusion and equality. Our work with the Women Entrepreneurs in Business Council in Fiji, for instance, has enabled access to subsidies for Fijian women business members to develop and implement business continuity plans in the face of COVID and severe weather events, innovate their businesses, and improve operations.

How do we make sure that women’s voices are heard and that they are integrated from the initial planning stages of a project?

DT Global’s United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Transition Initiatives for Stabilization + (TIS+) project in Somalia uses a community consensus building approach to gain buy in from the local communities and local government with which it works. We’ve found that a key element of this approach is ensuring that women and other marginalized groups are present and active at our community consensus events. Without this presence, their opinions are an afterthought or unheard altogether in community decision-making.

Ensuring women’s voices are heard results in tangible actions; the construction of a new women’s market in Afmadow District was a direct result of a community consensus session, and, more recently, the project rehabilitated a local women’s market in Sabid Anole, a town in Lower Shabelle. After liberation from Al Shabab in 2019, Sabid Anole faced mass unemployment, and the rehabilitation of the market—a primary livelihood source for local women—is expected to boost economic activity for the whole town.

How do we mainstream gender and assess and integrate gender responsiveness into all activities—even ones that seem gender neutral?

Gender issues and equity for women and girls touches almost every type of program—even ones that might seem gender neutral. For instance, DT Global’s DFAT-funded Aus4Tranport project, which supports the Government of Vietnam in developing high-quality transport infrastructure, might appear to be a straightforward infrastructure and engineering contract. But we’ve found gender responsiveness is critical to this work.

Our Aus4Transport team conducts surveys to better understand mobility differences and transport needs of both men and women, and uses this information to inform safety measures, pedestrian crossings, parking, lighting, and public transport, as well as design a community-based road safety awareness campaign. The project has also found that construction projects that require large temporary workforces can lead to upticks in migration from other regions, which can increase gender-based violence in surrounding communities. To address this, Aus4Transport created a guidance document and put policies in place to mitigate gender-based violence.

How do we secure widespread buy-in for gender activities?

It can be difficult to gain widespread support for gender mainstreaming with partner governments but finding an institutional champion can help. Our USAID Ready project, which works with 11 Pacific Island countries to achieve their climate change adaptation goals, found this when working with Fiji's Climate Change and International Cooperation Division under the Ministry of Economy.

USAID Ready is assisting the Ministry to become accredited as a Direct Access Entity for Fiji, enabling the government to directly access climate finance and take a lead in adaptation and mitigation work. As part of this effort, USAID Ready is working with the Ministry to develop a Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) Policy and Action Plan, beginning by conducting GESI assessments on barriers to equity and opportunities for change. With each new phase of work, which began in one Division of the Ministry, interest and commitment from other Divisions grew. Other Divisions began to self-identify barriers to equity and inclusion, and identify strategies such as sexual harassment policies, safety equipment, and gender responsive budgeting.

Fighting for gender equality and supporting the next generation of female leaders is ongoing work that requires persistence and creative thinking. At DT Global it’s work we’re proud to support every day through our programs around the world. Stay tuned as we continue to highlight this work throughout the year!