Reflecting on International Women’s Day: Progress made by the international development community

Dr. Andrea Bertone has more than fifteen years of international development and research experience including gender integration, girls’ education, anti-human-trafficking, gender-based violence, women’s empowerment and economic productivity, life skills, and HIV and AIDS. She has co-authored two girls’ mentoring guides, including Girls’ Success: Mentoring Guide for Life Skills and Girls’ Success: Mentoring Guide About HIV and AIDS, published by FHI 360. She has several articles in peer-reviewed journals.

Reflecting on International Women’s Day: Progress made by the international development community
The theme of International Women’s Day 2013 is The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum. How have we made progress on gender equality?

We have made a lot of progress since Hillary Clinton has been in the leadership position of Secretary of State. Clinton pushed to have the development, diplomatic and even the defense communities pay attention to gender in the U.S. foreign policy arena. In addition, last year the U.S. gender policy was updated for the first time in thirty years. That was a big step forward. Gender is not only about women and girls. Gender is about the relationships between men and women, as well as the social dynamics and the norms that frequently lead to women and girls being at a disadvantage in many societies.

How does FHI 360 integrate a gender perspective into its work?

We developed a Gender Integration Framework, which is a set of guidelines that encourages FHI 360 staff working on programs and research to take gender issues into consideration from the start of a project through implementation. We formed a gender advisory council, which includes representatives from all of our major business units. We are also looking strategically at how we can include gender issues in proposals, provide technical assistance to our projects and more effectively talk about gender to our external audiences. I would say there is a lot of momentum and commitment to implementing our Gender Integration Framework.

What still needs to be done?

Ideally, we will do gender analyses at the outset of all of our projects so that we are always paying attention to gender dynamics from early in the project life cycle. The 2012 World Bank World Development Report shows that when we pay attention to gender dynamics and try to equalize the gender imbalances among men and women, and girls and boys, it has a positive ripple effect across the community. When we are developing proposals or implementing a project, we need to take a look at the gender dynamics in the communities we serve. For example, if we are implementing a project that gives women microcredit opportunities, we need to be aware that some women may go home to partners who beat them because the women have access to more money. We also have to find ways to bring men into the conversation so that they understand that if their wives or partners are economically, socially or educationally empowered, it is better for everyone. When men are brought in as champions of gender equality, it leads to better development outcomes. The work that still needs to be done is about changing the ways that men and women think about themselves and each other, as well as how they interact. This is the case in nearly every country of the world.

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