Local and regional governments should be at the heart of 3rd EU Gender action plan!
The most recent webinar in a series on how local authorities and coalitions of associations can contribute to development cooperation looked at the ways to accelerate achievement of gender equality and the successful implementation of the forthcoming EU action plan on gender equality and women empowerment in external relations for 2021-2025 (GAP III).
The 24 September webinar gathered over 70 local and regional governments representatives (technical and political) and their representative associations, representatives of the European Commission, as well as civil society organisations active in women’s rights and development cooperation.
The objective of the webinar was to create a space to exchange on the possibilities for GAP III to ensure a “Stronger Europe in the world”, how local and regional governments can contribute to its success, and to learn about inspiring examples of local action in favour of gender equality and women’s empowerment in the EU and partner countries.
Putting local and regional governments at the heart of GAP III
Tamar Taliashvili, Member of the Tbilisi City Assembly (Georgia), Vice-President Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe and member CEMR Standing Committee for Equality opened the discussion, stating that: “GAP III is an opportunity to leverage the commitment, competencies and cooperation of local and regional governments in Europe and in partner countries to accelerate the achievement of gender equality and girl’s and women’s empowerment.”
Local and regional governments have shown a strong political commitment to be active in the area of gender equality and they have specific competences and unique access to citizens’ daily lives that makes them effective agents of change, and they must be recognised as such. This was echoed by Aïssatou N’diaye-Sydnei, Gender Focal Point/Policy Officer (Unit C5, DEVCO), who highlighted: “Education is another area in which local governments have an important role to play, against discrimination, they responsibilities to ensure and incentivize policies to enable girls go to school. In terms of economic independence, they can design an environment in which women can have the same opportunities as men. They have important responsibilities!”
During the exchange, it became clear that going forward, it will be important to strengthen country level engagement (policy coherence, alignment, coordination, dialogue). According to Virginia Manzitti, Coordinator of the Gender Team (Unit B1, DEVCO): “While GAP III has strong country-level engagement, there is still space for local and regional governments to participate more.”
The cooperation and work with the EU Delegations is also a key issue regarding local and regional governments. The new financial instrument, still under negotiations, called Neighbourhood Development International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI), changes the way the EU is planning to work with local and regional governments; shifting to an approach to “geographise” support to them. Concretely, it is the end of direct funding through calls (apart from some thematic programmes that will remain, like DEAR projects) and support to municipalities and regions will be channeled through country programmes or regional programmes. PLATFORMA and its partners are concerned about the long chain for funding to reach local and regional governments that this approach implies.
Monica Silvana González (S&D, Spain), Member of the European Parliament Committee on Development (DEVE) highlighted that the impact of climate change and women needs to be better taken into account: “Climate change isn’t only about protecting nature but also people. In this sense, women are the first victims of climate change, especially migrant women.” She also called on the European Commission and local and regional governments to “strengthen the link between local and European policies […] and correct course to address the shortcomings of GAPII.”
This includes raising awareness of gender mainstreaming and making it easier to understand and apply. “We must show that gender mainstreaming pays off and can deliver results. Gender sensitive policies at local level have been done in some cities, those are examples we’d like to study and represent”, indicated Virginia Manzitti.
They should be in regular dialogue with local and regional governments in programming cycle for GAP III and implementation of funding instruments such as NDICI.
During the question and answer session with participants, Jean-Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General of UCLG Africa, concluded “If you resolve the issue of gender inequality in each [local] government, you resolve it for the all countries and the world.”
Women’s political participation and representation is essential at all levels
The issue of parity in decision-making and ensuring that local leadership reflects the community it represents remains a top priority for PLATFORMA and this is broadly supported by the European Commission in GAP II and likely in GAP III. Virginia Manzitti drew attention to the ongoing backlash against women politicians: “Women politician are targeted online, discouraged by the threat of violence. It is important to have statistics on women’s participation in local governance.”
Aïssatou N’diaye-Sydnei added that “Women should feel empowered and legitimate to intervene at local and regional level, political parties should integrate woman in lists, gender equalities in the staff including highest managerial positions.”
PLATFORMA partners show the way ahead
The session concluded with presentations from PLATFORMA partners on their decentralised cooperation activities in the area of gender equality.
Luisa Iglesias Hitos, responsible for Territorial Development and Multilateral Programmes at the Andalusian Municipality Fund for International Solidarity (FAMSI), presented a project on gender-based violence that targeted youth.
FAMSI works to promote gender equality at the local level in cooperation with civil society organisations and other stakeholders. Boys and men are also among key stakeholders and beneficiaries in order to overcome obstacles to women’s empowerment and to prevent and eliminate gender-based violence. The project “Youth against gender violence” was carried out in Brazil, Cape Verde, Italy, Mozambique, Romania and Spain through a series of workshops and discussions with young people. The exchanges (some with girls only, some boys only and some mixed groups) focused on stereotypes, preconceived ideas about what it means to be a man or a woman, boy or a girl.
Participants reported that this project changed their lives, girls started to dare to talk about their experiences and boys had the opportunity to think about their behaviour. Having carried out the project with youth from different countries, FAMSI concluded that the issues and challenges are more or less the same across the different countries when it comes to inequalities.
Stan Abma, Project manager at VNG International presented a current activity being implemented in Eastern Ukraine to map the career trajectories of women government officials. The goal of the project is twofold, first, to find reasons for the low representation of women in government by look at path to office and perceived roadblocks. Second, to Contribute to engendering the local governmental processes with development of gender action plans. This done through collecting sex-disaggregated data and the findings formed a good basis for discussing which things need to change and where energies should be directed (for example lack of access to senior positions for women through involvement in women’s networks). For the activity VNG International connected with the Association of Ukrainian Cities to find good local experts in Ukraine in order to make a locally-rooted team that maximises impact.
Semra Amet, Project officer at NALAS: the Network of Associations of Local Authorities of South-East Europe, presented the NALAS e-academy course designed to support local government associations and local and regional governments in building capacity for gender mainstreaming. NALAS is an ambassador of The European Charter for Equality of Women and Men in Local Life and in response to the persistent gender gap in local decision-making, NALAS decided in 2016 to develop an online course to foster participation of women in local politics and equip local governments to better promote gender equality.
The course is built around 4 modules:
- An introduction to gender equality and gender mainstreaming – providing an overview at national, EU and international levels and the legal frameworks available;
- Gender-responsive budgeting at local level: practical tools for good and transparent budgeting;
- Local government associations as promoters of gender equality at local level;
- Best Practices
A new version of the course will be released in October. It has been translated into more local languages (Albanian, English, Macedonian and Turkish) to make it accessible to a broader range of participants. The course duration is 5 weeks and participants can access it at any time.
PLATFORMA will continue activities in support of gender equality and women’s empowerment and increase the network’s capacity to understand and use tools and methodologies such as gender audits and gender mainstreaming, to ensure that the positive effects of equality are built into our work from beginning to end.
The recording of the webinar is available here.