The international community is not giving enough attention to the impact that humanitarian crises have on women and girls or to the role they play in emergency response. We need to. It’s time to examine how women are disproportionately affected by conflict and emergencies and how they fill the roles of first responders, caregivers and peacebuilders.
Tagged: International Women’s Day
A version of this post originally appeared on Locus. Reposted with permission. Locus is a coalition of organizations dedicated to advancing evidence-based solutions to global development challenges that are integrated, driven by local communities and based on shared measures. FHI 360 is a member.
Here’s a development scenario you’re probably familiar with: Imagine a young girl growing up in a remote rural area, raised in a poor family. Girls here are not typically encouraged in the same way as boys are to imagine themselves having exciting future careers, nor even the more vanilla option of working at the sole local factory. Virtually all the local authority figures are men. Contraception (especially for adolescents) carries a shameful stigma and is difficult to access. The girl’s school is chronically underfunded. Some of her peers get pregnant early, some drop out of school, some marry early. In short, she faces several financial and social barriers to a healthy, stable and productive future. Now be honest: were you picturing a young girl from a poor country in Africa or Asia? If so, you’re wrong.
That girl was me. Who grew up in America and is now a healthy, educated woman with a successful career. Does now knowing that the girl in the story was American make the happy ending less surprising? Probably so, and that illustrates a fundamental problem with the way we approach empowering women and girls in the developing world. Indeed, clearly the privilege of growing up in America provided me with a deeply significant advantage in overcoming those initial roadblocks to a healthy and happy life. But what about all of the other various ingredients, that when combined together became my recipe for success? Shouldn’t girls and women be supported in the same way, no matter where they live? Let’s break it down.
An Interview with
Andrea Bertone, Gender Expert, FHI 360
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.
Just in time for International Women’s Day, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) released a new gender policy on March 1st. More comprehensive than the former 30-year-old policy, the new policy is a big step forward in the ability of the agency and its partners to tackle the root causes of gender inequality through development work.
USAID Deputy Administrator Don Steinberg emphasized that the agency is integrating gender “into the DNA” of everything they do to more adequately respond to the vast gender-related barriers that persist all over the globe. The new policy will serve as a guide for efforts to change the social norms that, in so many places, continue to lead to gender inequalities and worse. Deep-rooted changes in social mores are needed, as well as a comprehensive approach to the many factors that influence how girls and women fare all over the world.
One such place is Katanga Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Here, when a girl is beaten by a boy in her school, it is not an isolated incident but rather the tip of the iceberg in a country struggling to end conflict-related sexual violence and mend its torn social safety net.
Currently, FHI 360 is leading a project under its C-Change program to influence attitudes and practices in 31 schools in Katanga and surrounding communities. The project engages parents, teachers and students to diminish the instance of school-related gender-based violence. In this preventive program, participants are using innovative avenues of communication for social and behavior change to tackle, at the school and community levels, the underlying factors that make such violence a part of everyday life. For example, teacher mentors use a Congolese-appropriate Safe Schools Guide to work with designated youth clubs to discuss and strategize how to make schools safer.
Attaining gender equality takes long-term vision and time. Programs such as C-Change are tackling the foundation of gender inequality: unequal gender norms. Gains for women are being achieved, while making men champions of gender equality.
If the arc of opportunity is long, to paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it bends toward equality. And we have to be there to meet it.