Shilpa Vasavada is a gender and livelihood specialist based in India, where she works with the Working Group of Women for Land Ownership. The WGWLO is a Gujarati network that focuses on agricultural land ownership from the angle of promoting the livelihood and empowerment of women.
This year, Shilpa joined the ILC Gender Experts Network, a safe space for ILC members to come together and share knowledge, skills and resources on gender justice.
Her knowledge of gender mainstreaming is one of the valuable additions she brings to the table, so we asked her to help us understand what gender mainstreaming is and how to conduct training on it.
What is gender mainstreaming and why is it important?
According to Shilpa, gender mainstreaming means integrating a gender equality perspective at all stages of policy-making and programme development. This type of approach takes into account the different needs, living conditions and circumstances that women and men have, including unequal access to and control over power, resources and institutions. By adopting a gender mainstreaming approach, the goal is to have policies and programs that are responsive to gender imbalances. The Beijing Platform for Action prioritised gender mainstreaming as the mechanism to achieve gender equality.
“Through gender mainstreaming, women, men, and other genders can benefit equally from programmes and policies”, says Shilpa. “Other than ensuring equal benefits, the mainstreaming processes ensure the transformation of gender roles, as well as the redistribution of resources (such as land) and power in favour of the marginalised gender.”
From Shilpa’s experience, gender mainstreaming is a very transformative approach if the mainstreaming is done properly. To manage any possible resistance and ensure that the process yields positive results, Shilpa notes that it is essential to work with all genders and not just women or the marginalised gender. “Working with all genders creates gender sensitivity, so the programme becomes gender responsive,” Shilpa explains.
Gender mainstreaming: training best practice
Shilpa also conducts training on gender mainstreaming: she works with development organisations that focus on agriculture (including land), forestry and water issues. The scope of her engagement entails conducting training programmes for their team members.
The training has three components: the individual level, the organisational level and the application to the project or programme. From her experiences, organisational gender mainstreaming is a must to have programmatic gender mainstreaming success. “The two should not be separated”, says Shilpa.
Based on her experience conducting training, Shilpa highlights the following best practices at different levels of the training programme:
- Before the training: Different methods can be used to inform the training curricula but the most successful one is through a formal needs assessment done by visiting the team and the field area, along with the review of the secondary literature of the organisation.
- During the training: The Harvard Framework for Gender Analysis is a toolset to identify the type and amount of work men and women do in a household, farm, or community. Since Shilpa works on natural resource-based issues, she adapted the framework, making the entire module more participatory, with several exercises for sharing, learning, and reflecting. “This helps the participants think independently rather than imposing the facilitator’s views, making the attitudinal change easy and acceptable”, Shilpa explains.
- After the training: From Shilpa’s experience, providing long-term hand-holding support after a gender training programme is better than a stand-alone training programme. This is because the gender mainstreaming process is a little long-drawn and requires hand-holding and mainstreaming support after training.
- Long-term: In most cases, the training programme helps Shilpa develop a gender strategy for the organisation. Understanding the team becomes a means to an end of gender mainstreaming in the organisation’s programmes. From the training, she can help the organisation develop gender indicators.
For Shilpa, being part of the ILC Gender Experts Network provides an avenue to contribute as well as learn from peers from across the globe, with varied competencies and skills.
“In my collaborations with the ILC, I felt there is a huge scope to contribute as well as to learn from members, ultimately impacting millions of women,'' says Shilpa. “That is my main motivation to join the ILC Gender Experts Network.”
Building upon Shilpa' s experience and knowledge, as well as on the wide expertise of the members of the ILC Gender Experts Network, ILC can grow as a gender just coalition. We trust that across the ILC membership there is a treasure of wisdom that we want to share with other members. This is why we created this network of gender experts and we will keep featuring them through dedicated blog posts while organising learning events for and with the Gender Experts.
The interview was conducted by ILC gender intern Prisca Adong