How Decentralisation and Local Governance Projects are Promoting Gender Equality

From urban governance, to local finance and fragile contexts, DeLoG Members and Partners are not only advocating for gender mainstreaming in DLG-Projects but leading by example.

© UN Women Gallery via Creative Commons

Inspired by today’s celebration of the International Women’s Day all around the world, the DeLoG-Secretariat wants to use this important festivity to showcase the way some of its Members and Partners promote gender equality throughout the entire year.  

Putting their focus on programmes tailored specifically to women and gender equality, organisations in the urban governance sector like Cities Alliance and UN-Habitat work towards inclusive cities by facilitating and strengthening women’s representation in the urban political sphere. Cities Alliance’s Cities for Women Global Programme recognises the role cities play in fighting gender-based violence in the public and private spheres, promoting and implementing gender-mainstreaming in urban policies and planning. The projects within the programmes are financially supported by the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC), in their support to Cities Alliance’s vision of “a world where all women and girls can live in inclusive and equitable cities and communities”. UN-Habitat, as another prominent organisation in the urban field, identifies gender equality as a premise for achieving social sustainability, embedding it into the New Urban Agenda (NUA). This premise is based on the realisation that even though urbanisation can mean poverty reduction for one group, it doesn’t necessarily encompass marginalised groups like women and girls. Deeming planning as crucial, UN-Habitat underscores the support given by the NUA in helping governments to enhance stakeholder dialogue, gender-responsive approaches and the empowerment of women by effective participation and equal land rights. Today’s launch of HerCity, as a new open-source digital platform to guide urban actors and decision-makers, is just one of many activities done to strengthen female participation in urban planning and design processes.

Inclusive and gender-sensitive finance is another important approach used by international organisations in the field of DLG to empower women. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is a longstanding financial institution with programmes targeting the nexus of gender and development. Besides the provision of financial programmes, the ADB is making resources on gender-based financial inclusion available for diverse stakeholders in the field in form of webinars, articles and publications. Laying a specific focus on COVID-19, the ADB recognises that inclusive financial recovery is needed to ensure a better future for all. Following suit, the UNCDF offers a bright spectrum of projects on local financial inclusion. Connecting subnational finance and localised gender-responsive recovery effort, the UNCDF ties gender equality to locale finance and emphasises why women’s financial inclusion is more important than ever. Another international financial institution that dedicates its programmes to promoting gender equality is the World Bank (WB). Working towards bridging the (financial) gender gap by uniting private and public sectors, the WB has a comprehensive portfolio for promoting Women in Trade and Women in Business. Bundling their expertise in divers open resources the WB’s International Development Association strongly advocates for using and unleashing women’s productive potential in the economic sphere on all levels of governance. The Gender Data Portal is a wide-ranging source the WB offers that covers a multitude of sectors like education, health and access to economic opportunities in terms of the latest sex-disaggregated data and gender statistics.

Another pressing challenge these days is gender mainstreaming at the local level in the context of local democracy and fragile contexts. Especially present in this sector are Sweden’s government agency for development cooperation (Sida) and the Swedish International Centre for Local Democracy (ICLD). Sida makes global gender equality a priority issue. Infused in its overall development cooperation, Sida targets gender equality as a human right in promoting women’s economic power, political participation and influence in its programmes. ICLD, basing its work on a similar approach, aims for gender mainstreaming at local level. The Centre locates the possibility to bring the desired institutionalised change for gender equality on the local level. Therefore, the organisation tailors its training programmes, knowledge sharing and capacity building in gender mainstreaming methods accordingly.

Weaving gender equality into the overall strategy while embedding it as a core element into the framework for any project is a complex challenge for international organisations. United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) as well as Global Affairs Canada (GAC) are both committed to this major task. Important working groups and committees like the UCLG Standing Committee on Gender Equality and the GAC-Feminist International Assistance Gender Equality Toolkit for Projects not only ensure that gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls are put at the heart of their work, but consequently transported into their cooperation and partnerships. Acting as advocates in their development cooperation, the gender equality focus can therefore translate into every process from the project design to implementation just like monitoring and evaluation.

In their quest for gender equality, these organisations are just a few of many, actively engaging in women’s empowerment in the field of DLG. Even though the challenges for gender equality seem to become more complex every day, the list of organisations with innovative approaches is just as rapidly evolving and is set to take on the quest for a fair future for everyone.