Report of DeLoG in DiaLoGue – Transforming DLG: G for Gender #1 – Cities that work for women, work for everyone

Gender mainstreaming is guiding our development efforts at local level – or is it? On Tuesday, May 10th, DeLoG Members and Partners came together to discuss with Cities Alliance what it means for development organisations to mainstream gender. Here is what they told us.

DeLoG in DiaLoGue – Transforming DLG: G for Gender is a series of informal expert conversations focused on gender transformative approaches. The first session addressed the topic of gender mainstreaming across all levels and operations of an organisation. Our guest was Giulia Maci, head of Cities for Women Global Programme and Gender Focal Point at Cities Alliance. Giulia told us about the challenges of developing a comprehensive gender strategy that includes all areas of local policy making and that can be implemented by all colleagues.

Cities Alliance is a global partnership that includes national states, municipal and local authorities’ associations as well as NGOs. Cities Alliance works with cities to advance inclusive urban development, mostly in informal settlements. In December 2021 Cities Alliance published its Gender Equality Action Plan 2022-2023 (GAP). The GAP aims at applying a gender lens in all areas of work, including climate change, migration and slums upgrading.   

Paving the way towards a strategy for gender equality

Including women voices in the city-making process is a key goal for the organisation. Giulia reminded us that women are often local leaders especially in informal settlements. Including them already in project planning allows for more impact and better results on the ground. Tools can help organisations to do this throughout the whole of the programme cycle, a practice called gender mainstreaming.

In the 2022-2023 GAP gender mainstreaming processes had to be included decisively in existing programmes, also by increasing the involvement of the partners. For example, the GAP includes gender markers for grant making and project design or capacity building trainings for members and partners. Besides programme development, Giulia suggested also looking at procurement as a chance to open up towards local women-led companies.

Ambitions and challenges of a gender strategy

Giulia referred to the main goals of the GAP as being interconnected and multi-dimensional. These are to contribute to global efforts for women empowerment; collecting better data and closely monitoring projects at city-level; to raise awareness through capacity building and to implement specific gender-related programmes.

However, once the paperwork is done, implementation does not necessarily follow suit. Institutions are infamous for being particularly change resistant. New challenges arose for Giulia and her team: how do we convince our partners and colleagues that gender mainstreaming can benefit everyone?

Changing the narrative for more commitment

Giulia’s advice is a change in the narrative around gender equality in cities. Clear benefits for the whole society are the most convincing arguments for gender mainstreaming in city planning. Piloting projects, carefully monitoring progress and finally presenting their results and impact makes the case for effective implementation. A result-based narrative, together with community and stakeholders’ consultations in programme planning and institutionalised capacity-building tools can amplify the impact of your gender mainstreaming strategy.

Gender has to become part of our identity as a community of practice and development partners because: a city that works for women, works for everyone.