Gender-Main streaming : A Strategy To Fulfill The Goal of Gender Equality
The exclusion of and discrimination against women in the country continues to be deeply entrenched and widespread. The socio-economic conditions, caste based political scenario and patriarchal ideologies have all contributed towards creating this gender inequality. Even though women contribute to the well being of their families and communities in many different and crucial ways, their contribution is often not recognized and acknowledged. Imagine a woman working for four hours to gather firewood and then doing the household work and child care. This is not the problem - this is Life. The problem is beyond statistics and is a nightmare world of dominance, exploitation, violence, rejection, destitution, loneliness, depression and the complete erosion of self worth. The question before us today is not how we got ourselves in this mess but how do we get out of it.|
This issue of gender disparity keeps on confronting and influencing all aspects of our life and hence it becomes indispensable that new approaches, ways, schemes and policies are employed such that gender imbalances could be allayed and the goal of gender equality is fulfilled. It has been widely recognized that de jure equality rights have somehow not resulted in de facto equality. There is no denying the fact that there are differences between men and women but such differences should not be exploited so as to have negative impact on the lives of both men and women. Promoting gender equality and empowering women is also one of the goals of United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which are agreed by all the United Nations members to meet by 2015. One of the strategies that now appear to deal aptly with gender bias and gender in equality is gender mainstreaming. Before proceeding further, we should understand the meaning of gender equality.
Meaning Of Gender Equality
Gender equality means an equal visibility, empowerment and participation of both sexes in all spheres of public and private life. Gender equality is the opposite of gender inequality, not of gender difference, and aims to promote the full participation of women and men in society. The consideration of equality between men and women, is seen as a fundamental human right. To understand gender equality, a closer look has to be taken at the gender concept. Two aspects are important in this context: the social construction of gender and the relationship between the sexes. Gender is a socially constructed definition of women and men. It is the social design of a biological sex, determined by the conception of tasks, functions and roles attributed to women and men in society and in public and private life. It is a culture specific definition of femininity and masculinity and therefore varies in time and space.
Gender is not only a socially constructed definition of women and men, it is a socially constructed definition of the relationship between the sexes. This construction contains an unequal power relationship with male domination and female subordination in most spheres of life. Men and the tasks, roles, functions and values contributed to them are valued - in many aspects - higher than women and what is associated with them. It is increasingly recognized that society is characterized by this male bias: the male norm is taken as the norm for society as a whole, which is reflected in policies and Structures. Policies and structures often unintentionally reproduce gender inequality.
Thus, gender equality means accepting and valuing equally the differences between women and men and the diverse roles they play in society. Gender equality includes the right to be different. This means taking into account the existing differences among women and men, which are related to class, political opinion, religion, ethnicity, race or sexual orientation. Gender equality means discussing how it is possible to go further, to changes the structures in society which contribute to maintaining the unequal power relationships between women and men, and to reach a better balance in the various female and male values and priorities. It implies a real partnership between women and men and their shared responsibility in removing imbalances in public and private life. It is a question of using the competencies, skills and talents of each and every citizen, of involving both women and men in building society, solving problems and preparing the future. Society, in order to develop, is dependent on the utilization of all human resources, and both women and men must participate fully to meet the different needs of society. Gender equality must be constantly fought for, protected and promoted - like human rights, of which it is an integral part.
Important Targets To Achieve Gender Equality
The most important targets for gender equality include the following aspects :-
• An important target is the recognition and full implementation of women's rights as human rights. This includes effectively respecting, protecting and promoting the human rights of both women and men and by taking the necessary measures, enabling both women and men to enjoy fully these rights. It also means combating interferences with women's liberty and dignity (combating violence against and trafficking in women or forced prostitution, promoting free choice in matters of reproduction and lifestyles, addressing the specific problems of migrant and minority women.
• Besides human rights, the development and improvement of representative democracy is the most important pole. The persistent under-representation or sometimes absence of women in decision-making at all levels and in all fields of life is a major problem. Thus, it is important also that women become visible in societal events to the same degree as men, and in the history of every state.
• Another very important target for gender equality is the individual's economic independence, which leads to the securing of equal pay, equal access to credit, equal conditions on the labour market and the distribution of assets. The position that women and men have in the economy is in many ways crucial to the balance of power between them.
• Education is a key target for gender equality as it involves the ways in which societies transfer norms, knowledge and skills. It is crucial that the education systems and all elements of these systems (teachers, schools, textbooks, research institutes and so on) empower both girls and boys.
• The last target to be mentioned is women's and men's common acknowledgement of the need to remove imbalances in society and their shared responsibility in doing so.
It can be assumed that the achievement of all these targets can resolve imbalances and can lead to a society where both women and men experience well-being in public and in private life. It is also a way to a deeper understanding and implementation of democracy as such.
Gender-Mainstreaming : A New Concept
As imbalances between women and men continue to influence all walks of life, it is becoming increasingly clear that new approaches, new strategies and new methods are needed to reach the goal of gender equality. The issue of gender equality needs to be addressed at a higher, i.e. more structural, and broader level and it should include a wider range of actors. 'Gender mainstreaming' appears now as one of these strategies.
Gender mainstreaming, as a new concept, appeared for the first time in international texts after the United Nations Third World Conference on Women (Nairobi, 1985), in relation to the debate within the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) on the role of women in development. It was seen as a means of promoting the role of women in the field of development and of integrating women's values into development work. We can define the concept as mainstreaming a gender perspective is the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in all areas and at all levels. It is a strategy for making women's as well as men's concerns and experiences an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres so that women and men benefit equally and inequality is not perpetuated. The ultimate goal is to achieve gender equality. So, it concerns itself with gender equality at all levels and points at the change of structures and belief-systems, which are creating gender-specific inequalities and discrimination.
A New Pathway Of Gender-Mainstreaming: An Effectivie Strategy To Bridge Gender Inequality
There have been many strategies to achieve gender equality. The new strategy of gender-mainstreaming is a major global strategy for the promotion of gender equality as it recognizes the fact that achieving greater equality between women and men will require changes at many levels, including changes in attitudes and relationships, changes in institutions and legal frameworks, changes in economic institutions and changes in political decision-making structures. Therefore the gender mainstreaming was introduced as a strategy to incorporate into all policy making process so as to bridge the gap of gender inequality in all these domains.
The gender mainstreaming strategy emerged as a result of dissatisfaction with earlier approaches to narrowing gender gaps. The earlier strategies often focused on women (providing them with more education, more resources, etc.) and on specific targeted initiatives. While these projects were often well intended, it became apparent that gender inequalities were not going to be resolved through marginal initiatives but rather that broad processes of change, particularly at policy and institutional level, were needed. There was also recognition that inequality between women and men was a relational issue and that inequalities were not going to be resolved through a focus only on women. More attention needed to be brought to the relations between women and men, particularly with regard to the division of labour, access to control over resources, and potential for decision-making. There was increased understanding of the importance of seeking out male allies and in working with men to jointly redefine gender roles and relations. Thus there was a need to move away from 'women' as a target group, to gender equality as a development goal. It might be useful to think of gender mainstreaming not merely as a strategy to push for a gender aspect into policy or project, but to recognize that it is a response to the inadequacies of the existing systems which fail to take into account the concerns, interests and well being of women as well as men.
Possible Changes Through Gender Mainstreaming
• Mainstreaming is important as it puts people at the heart of policy making. It goes beyond women issue and takes up women's and men's lives on the agenda, facets that have not been objects of attention in the past. Mainstreaming gender equality may be a step forward to a more human and less economic approach of the general development of contemporary democratic societies.
• As gender mainstreaming takes gender equality perspective into account, the policies will be better defined in terms of the real needs of women and men. The lives of people, both women and men, will thus improve.
• As gender mainstreaming involves both men and women it makes full use of human resources. Gender mainstreaming involves many people, both women and men. It would also make clear that society nowadays is dependent on using all human resources, and the experience of both women and men. It thus acknowledges the shared responsibility of women and men in removing imbalances in society.
• Gender mainstreaming makes the gender equality issues visible and thus integrate it into mainstream of society, whereas until now they have always been on the sidelines. It recognizes that imbalance between women and men cannot be efficiently combated without interest, involvement and commitment of the political system and of society as such. It intends to change attitude towards gender equality, too often negative and launch a new debate on the equality issues.
To conclude, these changes would not be easy and large-scale procedural changes, knowledge, techniques, educating general public, etc. would be required. It should be a cooperative effort of politicians, administrators, people, NGOs, pressure groups, media, researchers and experts. In India, various legislations and policies have been targeted to gender mainstreaming like National Commission for Women protecting the women rights, health policies targeted towards improving women health, reservation in public institutions, in funds allotment and education. Further, in Indian Constitution Articles 14, 15 and 16 provide equal rights to all men and woman and Article 21 talks about right to live with dignity. Women have the right to vote, the right to own property, the right to move freely and earn a living. The right to inherit property came in 1956 through legislation. The real thrust came in 1993 with the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments that give women one third of elected seats - a definite impact on the participation of women in the democratic process. Further, there is an amendment in Sec. 6 of Hindu Succession Act, making daughter as coparceners. Thus, India has seen a spate of legislations, statutes and government policies that are targeted at gender-mainstreaming.
But these are just few steps but the problem of gender inequality is enormous and could be treated only by strengthening participatory democracy, educating masses and by achieving economic self-sufficiency. Gender mainstreaming would definitely be helpful in eliminating gender inequality and would make our World a friendly, harmonious and prosperous place to live.
|Ms. Nidhi Beniwal
Department of Law K.U.K.
|Mrs. Preeti Bhardwaj
Department of Law K.U.K.
1. Amy S. Wharton, Introduction to the Sociology of Gender, Blackwell Publishing, Singapore, 2007.
2. UN (2002), Gender Mainstreaming : An overview, Office of the Special Advisor on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, New York,http://www.un.org/ womenwatch/osagi /pdf/e65237.pdf.
3. Stefanie Ehemann, Gender Mainstreaming in The European Union, Auflage, Germany, 2007.
4. Council of Europe (2004), Gender Mainstreaming :Conceptual Framework, Methodology and Presentation of Good Practices', http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/standardsetting/equality/03themes/gen der-mainstreaming.pdf.
5. European Commission (2008), Manual for Gender Mainstreaming: Employment, Social Inclusion and Social Protection Policies, Luxembourg, available at ec.europa. eu/social /blobservlet.
6. UNIFEM (2001), Introductory Gender Analysis and Gender Planning training Module for UNDP staff http:/ /www. undp. org/ gender/tools.htm,Equador, United Nations Development Programme available at http://arasbstates. undp. org/ contents/file/gendermainstreamingtraining.pdf.
7. UN (2002), Gender Mainstreaming : An Overview, Office of the Special Advisor on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, New York, http://www.un. org/womenwatch/osagi/ pdf/e65237.pdf.
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