Reflections on the Gender 360 Summit: Voices of the GPC

On June 11, 2018, FHI 360 and other sponsoring organizations hosted the third annual Gender 360 Summit in Washington, DC. This year’s theme was “Positive Boy and Girl Development,” with sessions that explored the intersections of education, health, economic empowerment and gender-based violence among girls, boys, and youth of diverse gender identities. A recording of the livestream and resources from the Gender 360 Summit are available here.

Members of the Gender Practitioners Collaborative (GPC) attended the Summit and participated in activities ranging from facilitating Gender Lounge table discussions, speed mentoring, moderating fireside chats, and presenting on the Minimum Standards for Mainstreaming Gender Equality. Below are a series of reflections and takeaways on key themes from the Summit written by members of the GPC.

Expanding “Gender” to Include Youth
Elizabeth Silva, Senior Program Officer, Women’s Empowerment Program, The Asia Foundation

The theme of positive girl and boy development for the 2018 Gender 360 Summit was a critical topic. Panels explored the intersections of gender issues and health, education, economic empowerment and gender-based violence among girls, boys, and youth of diverse gender identities. Over the past few years we have seen an increased commitment among donors and development organizations in elevating and responding to gender issues among girls and boys. The U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls is one such positive development, as it has drawn additional resources and attention to the fact that around the world, girls are often not provided with the same opportunities as boys, and that adolescence is such a critical point in their lives. This presents the unique opportunity to intervene and change the trajectory of their lives.

I had the privilege of serving as a facilitator for a gender lounge roundtable discussion about girl-focused gender analysis, which spotlights the specific challenges facing girls. Boys play an important role in this analysis as well, since they are central in examining and comparing the different levels of power, needs, constraints, and opportunities facing girls. Two key issues the conversation centered around included: 1) All gender analyses should (but rarely seem to) consider the roles, norms, opportunities and project impacts related to girls and boys; and 2) There are not enough quality gender analyses being conducted for youth programs, which too often remain gender blind. While much work remains, the Gender 360 Summit theme was very timely, and is an example of thought leadership on gender equality work with girls’ and boys’ that will move the development community forward on this important issue.

“Walking the Talk” on Inclusion
Jennifer Collins-Foley, Senior Advisor, Inclusive Development, World Learning

The Summit organizers are to be commended for their proactive attention to integrating gender and social inclusion throughout the format, speakers and participants. Examples include: attendees were asked at registration if they need special accommodations; sign language interpreters were present throughout the sessions; and the event was livestreamed, making it accessible to those who could not participate in person. The organizers clearly prioritized diversity among the speakers, particularly voices from the Global South, resulting in discussions where each speaker provided a unique perspective. Discussions consistently moved beyond the gender binary, exploring how gender and social inclusion analysis and approaches can strengthen development outcomes.

A session on “Cutting Edge Resources” offered participants a valuable new tool to expand the gender analysis lens and embrace the imperative of social inclusion. The Transforming Agency, Access and Power (TAAP) Toolkit and Guide for Inclusive Development provides a new approach to inclusive research and development. This toolkit offers an analytical framework and practical resources to enable users to identify who is left behind, reasons why and how it impacts agency, access and power, and offers guidance for the development of action steps toward inclusive, positive social change.

The Gender Summit 2018 has set a new, high standard for applying the principles of inclusion and set a model that we hope more conferences – and organizations – will follow.

Inclusive Partnerships Are Necessary for Sustainable Change
Hilary Mathews, Director for Strategy and Operations, Gender Justice Team, CARE USA

One of the “principles in action” that was represented so well at the Gender 360 Summit was the idea that social change processes require broad-based partnerships. Realizing gender equality and positive girl and boy development depends on change on multiple levels – within individuals, in communities, and throughout social and institutional structures. This is complex and political work, and we know we can’t confront and dismantle the forces of inequality and exclusion without collaborating across a diverse set of actors, each according to their competencies.

The Summit brought together an impressive array of development stakeholders as speakers and participants, representing INGOs, governments, civil society groups, activists, multilaterals, and academia. The value of and need for collective action was captured not only in this diverse representation, but also in discussion throughout the day, and in the forthcoming Gender 360 Summit outcomes statement, which will reflect critical synergies and a common advocacy platform issuing from the proceedings.

Beyond Gender Norms, Uncovering Power Dynamics
Dina Scippa, Senior Technical Advisor, Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality, Winrock

Even though gender inequality remains one of development’s most intractable issues, it is a profoundly exciting time in the global movement for equality. From the most recent G7 meetings where a Gender Equality Committee was formed; to sustained focus on gender within the SDGs; to thousands who have come forward to protest sexual harassment and violence with the #MeToo global movement, important conversations are happening globally. Development organizations, donors, companies, academic institutions, and the private sector are discussing how to support gender equality more meaningfully and deliver on commitments. But is it enough? Gender inequalities intersect with other aspects of oppression, which result in unique constellations of experience, impact and opportunity affected not just by gender, but race, sexuality, ability, caste, marital status, and citizenship (to name a few).

The Gender 360 Summit played a critical role in convening experts from a diverse range of sectors on key issues in addressing gender equality and social inclusion, with an acute appreciation of how intertwined, and intersectional, inequality is. What was abundantly clear at this year’s conference is how fundamental it is to leverage different sub-sets of expertise to address the interplay between gender and interconnected forms of discrimination. Improving opportunities for women and girls requires a fundamental change in societal norms, attitudes, and power. Looking through the lens of intersectionality is ever more critical to understanding the complexity—particularly of inequality—in the lives of women and girls. To promote effective and sustainable progress, experiences and identities of women and girls cannot be reduced to a single reality or prioritized at the expense of others, leaving other elements invisible and unaddressed.

Inclusive Mentorship and Peer Learning
Jenn Williamson, Senior Director of Gender and Social Inclusion, ACDI/VOCA

Like many conferences, a valuable aspect of the Gender 360 Summit is the opportunity for networking and learning exchange among colleagues. These opportunities are particularly important for young women who are less likely to receive advice from managers and senior leaders on how to advance and have less access to mentoring opportunities. I was delighted to participate in a “speed mentoring” session that gave me the opportunity to engage with talented and dedicated young people who are already achieving great things and are eager to learn how to grow their potential, their skills, and their opportunities. Mentoring and working with these young professionals not only benefits them, but it strengthens our organizations as they bring innovative ideas and new perspectives to our teams, organizations, and approaches. Furthermore, as we hope to better engage youth in our programming, we must improve this in our own organizations through mentoring and other ways that enable them to own processes and grow.

During one of the rounds, a woman joined my group who would be classified as a mid-career professional. She began her career in her home country in West Africa, transferring to DC headquarters not long ago. She tentatively joined my group, asking, “Am I too old to ask for a mentor?” It struck me how important it is that we not only mentor young people but that we also continue to ensure access to this important professional development resource for people of all ages, genders, and social identities. Because the Gender 360 Summit deliberately brought together people of different genders, ages, sexual identities, nationalities, and physical abilities and openly emphasized inclusion and accessibility, the conference facilitated learning and sharing as well as networking opportunities that are frequently not available to people in marginalized groups. This opportunity for learning and networking is particularly important for people in marginalized groups who have had less access to mentoring and career support throughout their professional careers. So, of course my answer was and will continue to be: “You’re never too old or young to seek a mentor!” It is important that we seek and offer mentoring—and peer learning—inclusively. Mentors and mentees will all benefit from expanded opportunities to share experiences and gain new perspectives in our professional development.

If you have a story to share about how your organization is promoting gender equality, inclusion,  or positive boy and girl development using the #GenderStandards, please reach out to us on Twitter @GenderPC or via email info@genderstandards.org. This blog was compiled by Jenn Williamson.