Addis Ababa, 30 July 2021 – Despite the remarkable progress made to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment on the continent, many regional institutions and member states still lag behind. Evidence continues to suggest that more must be done to create opportunities for women’s participation in public institutions at regional and national levels.
UNDP, in partnership with the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) and the government of Canada, concluded a virtual awareness training for ECOWAS Commission staff on ‘Promoting Accountability for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Through the Gender Equality Seal for Public Institutions (GES Public Institutions)’. The two-day training was delivered on 27-28 July 2021 to 42 ECOWAS and UNDP staff members (28 women and 14 men), in coordination with the ECOWAS Commission for Social Affairs and Gender and UNDP’s Gender Equality and Women Empowerment (GEWE) Unit of the Regional Service Centre for Africa, with the support of the UNDP Gender Equality Seal programme global team.
Gender equality is both an essential development goal and a driver of human development. Everyone has a right to participate in public life, but in most parts of the continent, it remains an ongoing challenge to achieve women’s equal participation, particularly in decision-making. Establishing standards within public sector institutions will improve the effectiveness of public policies and programmes and promote an equitable work environment for men and women.
The Gender Equality Seal for Public Institutions (GES) is an evidence-based initiative that recognizes good performance and accountability in delivering transformational gender results. The voluntary awarding programme aims to support and recognize public institutions globally that commit to and improve on advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment.
“ECOWAS leaders have consistently demonstrated ample commitment to eliminate gender inequalities and disparities in member states and promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in the region. For us to give real meaning to this commitment, we must begin with ourselves. This is essentially what the Gender Equality Seal for Public Institutions is about,” said Dr. Siga Fatma Jagne, ECOWAS Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, in her opening remarks.
Incorporating a gender lens in public sector management ensures that public institutions promote gender equality and do not inadvertently reinforce gender biases and disparities. The GES is an important strategy and tool for improving internal institutional capacity to deliver on transformative gender responsiveness and programming design to accelerate women’s equal participation and leadership in public administration.
“This awareness training is an important milestone. At UNDP, we are pleased to partner with the ECOWAS Commission and the government of Canada in advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment in the ECOWAS Commission and in ECOWAS member states,” stated Njoya Tikum, Manager of UNDP’s West and Central Africa Hub in Dakar. “The partnership is a recognition of the role played by RECs in bridging political blocks and supporting AU member states to fulfil their gender equality and women empowerment commitment in realization of Agenda 2030 and the AU Agenda 2063.”
Unlike the usual gender audit or gender evaluation, the Seal certification process creates an inclusive and open space for building a broad-based consensus around the goals and implications of gender mainstreaming, stimulates out-of-the-box thinking and facilitates the identification of opportunities for strategic cross-department collaboration.
In her remarks, Tsitsi Fungurani, Senior Development Officer, Global Affairs Canada, described the partnership as “a crucial opportunity to respond to the unfinished business of gender equality. The full, meaningful and equal participation of women in leadership and decision-making is a key feature of inclusive and democratic governments. Canada’s feminist international assistance policy highlights participation in public life as an important policy and programming priority intended to increase the participation and leadership of women and people from marginalized groups in the public life and decision-making of their communities.”
The training is expected to lead to a consensus on key steps and action points to inform the roadmap for the rollout and implementation of the Gender Equality Seal for Public Institutions in the ECOWAS Commission, and to increase knowledge and shared understanding of staff of ECOWAS Commission on gender equality and women’s empowerment.
The training is also part of a wider programme that will include other Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in the second phase. Plans are currently underway to roll out the GES for Public Institutions in three RECs, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).
Additionally, UNDP is rolling out and implementing the Gender Equality Seal in the private sector and internally at UNDP. Three African countries across three regional economic communities, Rwanda, Uganda and The Gambia, are currently implementing the Gender Equality Seal in the private sector in Africa, with more than 60 companies engaged in the process.
UNDP is the leading United Nations organization fighting to end the injustice of poverty, inequality and climate change. Working with our broad network of experts and partners in 170 countries, we help nations to build integrated, lasting solutions for people and planet. UNDP’s Regional Programme for Africa contributes to development by addressing challenges facing the continent and amplifying opportunities related to the priorities and aspirations defined by the African Union and other regional entities.