Marching Forth for Gender Equality

By Sahar Alnouri and Yeva Avakyan

On March 4, 2019, Save the Children hosted the Gender Practitioners Collaborative in an event celebrating the second anniversary of the release of the Minimum Standards for Mainstreaming Gender Equality. At the event, CEOs from Plan International, FHI 360, Banyan Global, and Save the Children US celebrated the successes of the standards and reflected on next steps.

The Gender Standards address programmatic topics, such as indicators, data disaggregation, Do No Harm principles, and the use of gender analysis. They also tackle issues pertaining to organizational processes, such as accountability, budgeting, internal capacity, and shifting organizational culture to achieve sustainable change. This dual perspective was echoed by Yeva Avakyan in her opening remarks, stating: “We need a comprehensive approach that cuts across programmatic and organizational areas of our work” to advance gender equality.

During the first panel, titled “Leading the Charge for Gender Equality,”  the four CEOs discussed both the programmatic and organizational components of achieving gender equality. Carolyn Miles, of Save the Children US, and Tessie San Martin, of Plan International USA, focused on gender equality in their organizations’ programming. Miles stated that achieving breakthroughs for children is not possible “if we do not address gender inequality.” San Martin reinforced this statement, saying: “We’re not seeking to just improve. We want to transform. And we don’t think we’re going to transform until we get to the root causes of gender inequality.”

Patrick Fine, of FHI 360, noted that the Gender Standards have helped to encourage accountability at his organization. He said endorsing the standards has affected how FHI 360 allocates resources within the organization, such as investing in employee training. Meaghan Smith, of Banyan Global, discussed how data from gender analyses can provide an important opportunity for field staff to have conversations on the Gender Standards in a culturally relevant way.

The Gender Standards were not developed by one organization, or funded by a single donor. They were conceived and drafted by the Gender Practitioners’ Collaborative (GPC), a working group made up of gender specialists from US-based humanitarian response and development agencies who lead gender integration in their organizations. After drafting the Gender Standards, the GPC invited practitioners from around the world to review and provide comments; almost two hundred practitioners offered feedback on the standards before they were finalized.

In addition to the CEO panel, lead gender technical specialists from the US Department of State, Mercy Corps, Chemonics, ACDI/VOCA and IRC reflected on the way forward.  Several of the gender technical leads noted the importance and challenges of maintaining accountability for gender mainstreaming within their organizations. Jenn Williamson of ACDI/VOCA said that the Gender Standards have provided a good framework to reflect on and continuously strengthen her organization’s work to promote gender equality.

While the event celebrated the uptake of the gender standards – from nine endorsing organizations in 2017 to 35 today – both panels acknowledged the need for continued work to achieve gender equality within organizations and programs. As Kelly Fish from Mercy Corps said, “We cannot move the needle on gender equality in our programming if we are not ‘walking the talk’ and looking internally at both our operations and policies.”

If you missed the live stream, you can still watch the recording here

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