Gender Mainstreaming can be defined as ‘ integration of a gender perspective into the preparation, design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies, regulatory measures and spending programmes, with a view to promoting equality between women and men, and combating discrimination.’ It is an effective tool for bridging the gap between theory and practice of gender equality policies and is increasingly being adapted by various development sector organizations to ensure gender equality and equity in their functioning and program implementation.
Adhering to the internationally accepted and expected norms of mainstreaming gender in all their programs and policies, the Women’s Empowerment Desk (WED) at Central Tibetan Administration or CTA also developed and adopted a Gender Mainstreaming Framework in consultation with an external partner organization, ‘Gender at Work’. Orientation on this framework and Gender Mainstreaming in general was provided to all projects officers across all departments within CTA to initiate and inculcate this practice in implementation of their programs. However, it was found that there were gaps in both understanding of Gender Mainstreaming concepts and its importance as well as the capacity to integrate and implement it within projects.
As a part of my Fellowship project with the WED team, Gender Mainstreaming and its effective implementation was one of my main project goals. An analysis of the Gender Mainstreaming Framework revealed two main challenges in its effective application:
- Lack of a functional compliance or accountability mechanism
- Lack of a step by step practical guidance to integrate gender in individual projects
For the first challenge, a Gender Mainstreaming Compliance Checklist was developed to ensure accountability. The Checklist comprises a basic overview of Gender Mainstreaming, its importance and the processes for its implementation. It is essentially a 14-pointer Checklist with Yes/No questions to gain an understanding of whether or not gender is being integrated in the concerned program or project. It also includes scenario based explanations and defined parameters of the different Gender Mainstreaming processes in accordance with UN Women standards and definitions of Gender Mainstreaming.
The efficacy of this Checklist was tested as a pilot with the Non-Banking Financial Corporation (NBFC), an organ of the Department of Finance, CTA. Tashi Tsering, Head Project Compliance and Management, NBFC, was the focal contact person for this process. After being oriented again on Gender Mainstreaming and its processes as well as a point-by-point expounding session of the Checklist questions, NBFC submitted their responses for gender integration within their programs.
An analysis revealed a continued limited understanding of the concept and need for capacity, resources and expertise to integrate gender in projects. We were also able to identify the specific challenges faced by NBFC in integrating gender which highlights the need for customization and contextual understanding of each project to ensure Gender Mainstreaming.
There is scope for the Checklist to be applied across CTA to assess the status and actual implementation Gender Mainstreaming within the organization and ensure compliance and accountability. This will also help us in understanding project and context specific challenges and mitigate them accordingly.
For the second challenge, we chose to integrate gender in an individual project as a pilot. The ‘Telepsychiatry Project’ of the Mental health Desk, Department of Health was chosen for this pilot as it was in its conception phase and would help us mainstream gender right from the beginning. A gender focal person from the Telepsychiatry team, Tsering Yangdol, Mental Health Program Coordinator), was our main point of contact. An initial meeting with all the stakeholders including the leadership at the Department of Health, the project implementing partner – Sangath and the Mental Health Desk team helped us establish the need and importance of Gender Mainstreaming in the project.
A gender analysis survey was developed for the proposed beneficiaries to assess differences in needs, accessibility and impact of the project so as to include those in the project design. A gender analysis survey was also developed for the nurses who would be the main ground level implementers of the project. The Nurses were also oriented on the beneficiary gender analysis survey as they would be conducting it. Time constraints and changing priorities due to the second wave of the pandemic has delayed our beneficiary gender analysis survey. It will be conducted later and the results will be incorporated in the project activities as feasible. We were, however, able to conduct the gender analysis survey for the nurses virtually.
Gender Integration recommendations based on the Nurses’ survey as well as the project indicators have been shared with the Mental Health Desk for incorporation in the project design. This pilot has led to many learnings for us in terms of the challenges both at an institutional and project specific level in integrating gender which can be adapted for a cross organizational purpose at a later stage.
The main learning from both the pilots was the importance of will among the involved persons of the project as well as expertise since Gender Mainstreaming is a novel and nuanced concept which requires dedicated resources and capacity.
A positive outcome was that the will to learn and engage for making Gender Mainstreaming a reality in their project was high at both NBFC and the Mental Health Desk. However, there may be a number of departments wherein this could pose a challenge and so awareness of the importance of Gender Mainstreaming needs to be generated amongst all employees especially amongst the leadership who possess the power to make sustainable and impactful changes.
Within this dual and complex structure of both a government in exile and a Non- governmental organization or NGO for development and welfare of the Tibetan diaspora, CTA is setting a shining example in taking lead for mainstreaming gender across its programs. However, customized innovation, expertise, dedicated resources and capacity development are the need of the hour to translate this effective gender equality tool into a reality for the Tibetan community.
‘What is Gender Mainstreaming?’ European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), 2021. https://eige.europa.eu/gender-mainstreaming/what-is-gender-mainstreaming.