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Final Report
Online Working Group on National Machineries for Gender Equality

8 February - 19 March 1999

National Machineries as Catalysts for Gender Mainstreaming
"Good Examples" and "Lessons Learned" in Implementing the Beijing Platform for Action

Voices from Activists, Researchers and Government Officials

Prepared by WomenWatch
A United Nations Inter-Agency Project
Initiated by DAW, UNIFEM, and INSTRAW
The UN Internet Gateway on the Advancement and Empowerment of Women



National Machineries as Catalysts for Gender Mainstreaming - “Good Examples" and “Lessons Learned" in Implementing the Beijing Platform for Action

  1. Cooperation with other parts of Government

  2. Initiating Organizational Change

  3. Creating Political Will and Accountability

  4. Gender Budgeting

  5. Capacity-Building

  6. Cooperation with NGOs

Annex: Invitation to join the Working Group


Why an online working group?

The Online Working Group on National Machineries for Gender Equality was a unique opportunity for representatives of national machineries, NGO activists and researchers to make their voices heard in the international arena. The discussion was part of a series of online dialogues launched by the United Nations WomenWatch project . The United Nations uses new technology to give a wide range of people the opportunity to participate in the review and assessment of the implementation of the Platform for Action adopted in 1995 at the Fourth World Conference on Women which will be held in June 2000.

For six weeks (8 February to 19 March 1999), 428 individuals from all parts of the world exchanged experiences via e-mail and learned from each other. The number participants grew steadily as people from all regions made their voices heard. As a result, the United Nations received valuable input for the review and assessment of the implementation of the Beijing Platform.

This report will be available to the 44th session of the Commission on the Status of Women in March 2000. It will also serve the UN Division for the Advancement of Women when assessing the implementation of the Beijing Platform. Furthermore, the report will be made available at the General Assembly's Special Session to assess the follow-up to Beijing to be held in June 2000 in New York.

Background Information

The goal of the Beijing Conference was to achieve gender equality through action in the critical areas laid out in the Beijing Platform for Action. Eleven critical areas are of substantive nature and address the situation of women in the areas of poverty, education, health, violence, armed conflict, the economy, decision-making, human rights, the environment, and the girl child. One critical area in the Platform deals specifically with institutional mechanisms that should be put in place to ensure the implementation of the substantive critical areas.

Many national machineries have long been responsible for programmes to improve the situation of women in their country. The Beijing Platform goes beyond this mandate and asks national machineries to fulfill a new and additional responsibility: Mainstreaming of a gender perspective. According to the Platform, a national machinery is the “central policy coordinating unit inside the government. Its main task is to support government-wide mainstreaming of a gender perspective in all policy-areas." (paragraph 201).

In its agreed conclusions 1997/2, the Economic and Social Council provided the following definition:

“Mainstreaming a gender perspective is the process of assessing the implications on women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in all areas and at all levels. It is a strategy of making women's as well as men's concerns and experiences an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres so that women and men benefit equally, and inequality is not perpetuated. The ultimate goal is gender equality.

Focus of the discussion

The discussion centered around the new challenges national machineries for gender equality face after the Beijing Conference: How can national machineries implement the new mandate to mainstream gender? How can they act as a “central policy coordinating unit inside the government"? How can they be catalysts for gender mainstreaming? Participants shared how the Beijing Platform is implemented in their country or organization. This report highlights “good examples" and “lessons learned" provided by contributions from all over the world.

Who participated?

The number of subscribers to the working group grew steadily, reaching 428 by the end of the discussion.

Contributions were received from all regions:


Messages posted

Europe and Others

34.1 %

Asia and Pacific

15.9 %

Latin America and the Caribbean

13.6 %


9.1 %

Eastern Europe

9.1 %

International Organizations*

18.2 %


100.0 %

*International NGOs, UN Secretariat and Commonwealth Secretariat

Active contributions mostly came from representative of national machineries or from NGOs:

Professional background of participants

Messages posted

National Machinery*

31.8 %


31.8 %


11.3 %

International Governmental Organizations

11.3 %

UNDP Country Office

11.3 %


2,5 %


100 %

*Including the heads of the national machineries in the Philippines, Trinidad and Tobago, Northern Ireland and the Basque Country and the former head of the national machinery in Costa Rica

National Machineries as Catalysts for Gender Mainstreaming - “Good Examples" and “Lessons Learned" in Implementing the Beijing Platform for Action

  1. Cooperation with other parts of Government

    The Platform for Action states that in order to integrate gender perspectives in legislation, public policies, programmes and projects (strategic objective H.2.), national machinery should, inter alia,

    • “[…] promote coordination and cooperation within the central Government in order to ensure mainstreaming of a gender perspective in all policy-making processes. (paragraph 205,a)

    • Promote and establish cooperative relationships with relevant branches of government […]" (paragraph 205,b)

    Many participants described how in their country, the national machinery has institutionalized cooperation between different ministries by setting up an interdepartmental group. Representatives from different ministries meet regularly to analyze their policies from a gender perspective and develop new strategies on how to achieve gender equality in their respective fields of responsibility.

    Other contributions shared how the national machinery in their country has built formal and informal links with ministries responsible for agriculture, the economy, labour, health, education etc. to engender policy making in these sectors.

    Farah Ghuznavi, United Nations Development Programme, Bangladesh

    We have been very encouraged to note that after extensive efforts to involve line ministries in the task of gender mainstreaming, five ministries to date have undertaken sub-projects under the Gender Facility, including key ministries such as the Planning Ministry (the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics will be preparing a WID compendium of gender-disaggregated statistics), the Ministry of Labour and Manpower and the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives. We are expecting others to follow suit. Although the Ministry of Women and Children has a number of major projects coming up in the forthcoming five year period, we feel that the Government of Bangladesh can only be really effective in addressing the issue of mainstreaming gender into sectoral plans if the other line ministries and sectoral agencies come on board in this process.

    Cecilia Manyame, Zimbabwe

    The Zimbabwe Government established the Department of Women's Affairs within the Ministry of National Affairs, Employment Creation and Co-operatives, to advance the cause of women. […]The Department liaises with other government ministries involved in promoting the advancement of women and safeguarding their rights. Some of the ministries that the Department liaises with include Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs; Agriculture; Home Affairs; Education; Health and Child Welfare. Currently, the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare is working on a strategy to engender the Ministry's next five-year programme of action.

    […]President Robert Mugabe appointed a Minister of State who is responsible for monitoring mainstreaming of gender in all government ministries. In 1998 the minister was part of a group of ministers and provincial governors who visited Uganda to farmiliarise themselves with the AIDS epidemic in that country and upon their return she addressed several meetings on AIDS awareness and women. Since her appointment, Minister Opah Muchinguri has traveled to most parts of the country addressing people on gender issues and development.

    Ana Alberdi, EMAKUNDE (Basque Women's Institute), Spain

    We are sending you a description on the way our organisation (an institutional machinery) promotes a gender perspective in government policies.

    Interdepartmental Commission:

    By means of Decree 97 of April 6, 1993, the Interdepartmental Commission was created in order to co-ordinate the "Positive Action Plan for Women in the Basque Country" as a strategy to guarantee a greater involvement and commitment by the Departments of the Basque Government, as well as to establish a clear means of communication between these departments and Emakunde, which is responsible for the monitoring, co-ordination and assessment of these actions.

    In addition to the management of Emakunde, this Commission, headed by the President of the Basque Government, is made up of one person from each Department at a Deputy Minister level, so that he/she may co-ordinate the rest of the areas or sections of his/her Department and act as permanent interlocutor in all questions relating to the development of the actions for which he/she is responsible in the Positive Action Plan.

    At the beginning of each year the Interdepartmental Commission approves a document/programme for each Department indicating the specific actions of the Plan to be carried out during the year, the available resources and means utilised. Based on this document/programme, a preliminary report is drawn up at the end of the first six-month period, which monitors the actions taken and the means of resources that have been used, together with an appraisal of the objectives set out in the Plan. At the end of the year, the annual monitoring report is approved, with the same characteristics as the previous one. Through this Commission, each of the Government Departments is directly involved in carrying out the Plan.

    Parallel to the Interdepartmental Commission, a working group was set up with technical personnel. This group is made up of technical people from each of the Government Departments and Emakunde, and appointed in order to draw up the proposals contained in the document-programme, channel information between the different area/sections of each Department, monitor the performance of these actions, acting as technical interlocutor with Emakunde. The objectives of the group are to co-ordinate activities, study possibilities of joint action and analyse the progress and difficulties encountered in the performance of these activities, as well as attempting to make a joint appraisal to complete the six-monthly and annual monitoring reports drawn up by the Departments.

    The Interterritorial Commission:

    But in view of the fact that the public policies aimed at placing women and men on the same level go beyond the activities of the Government, and that Positive Action Plan must be put into practice throughout the Basque Administration, another basic structure for its co-ordination has been the Interterritorial Commission. It is made up of representatives of the local administrations and Emakunde.

    This Commission holds periodic meetings and its function is to co-ordinate surveys, campaigns, subsidies for women's associations, as well as different activities included within the Positive Action Plan. The aim of the Commission is to avoid the duplication of activities and optimise existing resources. In short, to achieve a satisfactory level of co-ordination between the different territorial bodies.

    The methodology which has been followed is similar to that of the Interdepartmental Commission and has represented one more step towards introducing the equality of opportunities between women and men in all activities, programmes and policies. Technical personnel has been appointed in these local administrations to monitor the Plan.

    In both cases, the Commission works with each of the departments in two directions:

    • Review the general policies and programmes in order to incorporate a gender perspective
    • Analyze the specific needs of women in each sector and propose specific programmes aimed at women.

    Mary Busulwa, Secretary to the Women's Sub-committee, Manufacturers Association Uganda

    In Uganda at the moment, the ministry of Gender has incorporated a directorate of women development. This includes two departments, legal affairs and gender. The gender directorate is in particular a catalyst and facilitator, lobbying other sectors of government to mainstream gender in their policies and programmes.

    This function is seen as a long-term process and is being carried out in partnership with sectoral ministries, including the ministry of agriculture, natural resources and others.

    The decentralisation policy (government) for example made a commitment to integrate gender into development plans at all levels to ensure that programmes address women's multiple roles and reduce their work burden; and to promote gender awareness among local politicians and bureaucrats

    Lucie Marchessault Lussier, Status of Women Canada, Canada

    I am part of Status of Women Canada, directing a small team in one Province, Québec. In the hope of influencing other regional federal Departments in using Gender-based analysis not so much in their policies, as these are more often than not prepared in the national offices, but to have them examine their programs and how their clientele is affected by “neutral" policies and programs, we set up an interdepartmental group to do so. We have been meeting 2-3 times a year for the past two and a half years, giving information, sharing experiences, having resource persons addressing this issues of health, work and employment policies, etc.

    Ann Weston, North-South Institute in Ottawa, Canada.

    My particular interest is learning more about what roles national machineries in donor countries play in mainstreaming gender into foreign policies and programs of other government departments. This research is being undertaken as part of a larger project we are undertaking on policy coherence.

    It seems that there are now quite well-developed, though still somewhat informal, links between Status of Women and our international development agency (CIDA). The question is: are other government departments aware of, let alone articulating and integrating, the concepts of gender equality as developed by CIDA, or gender-based analysis as developed by Status of Women, into their international activities? (Examples include Departments of Health, or Agriculture, or Natural Resources, which are increasingly becoming engaged in international activities, whether international negotiations, the management of multilateral organizations, delivery of policy advice, and even execution of projects in developing countries.)

  2. Initiating Organizational Change

    According to the Platform, a national machinery's “main task is to support government-wide mainstreaming of a gender perspective" (paragraph 201). This task requires the promotion of organizational change in government institutions.

    Many participants shared new theoretical frameworks for changing organizations so that they take gender into account as an integral part of all their activities. They described overall strategies and methodological approaches on how to achieve gender mainstreaming in governments.

    According to one of the frameworks presented, all organizational change has to be based on a strong political will: a clear commitment by the leadership for gender integration, and the allocation of staff and financial resources. This commitment by the leadership should then lead to three vital changes:

    a) positive organizational culture, which involves a more gender diversity among staff at all levels, and equal valuing of women's and men's perspectives and working styles;

    b) technical capacity to mainstream gender, including staff skill in gender analysis, availability of gender disaggregated data, and development of gender sensitive tools and procedures;

    c) system of accountability, incentives and requirements that enforce and encourage new behaviors.

    Other contributions described how they draw from the concepts of change management and organizational development. One national machinery, for example, hired change management consultants to train their staff and to jointly develop strategies for to make their work more gender sensitive.

    Suzanne Kindervatter, Commission for the Advancement of Women, InterAction, USA

    I'd like to continue discussion on a question a number of you have raised:

    HOW do national machineries work, which to me means, WHAT IS THEIR STRATEGY FOR ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE? If we see national machineries basically as catalysts, promoters, and monitors, then their work necessarily involves influencing other government bodies. Though I have been working principally with NGOs rather than governments, I think that what we've been learning about the gender mainstreaming process is applicable to this year's deliberations of the Commission on the Status of Women.

    Beijing was a turning point for our member NGOs, in terms of commitment to gender equality in their programs and organizations. Just as the governments in Beijing adopted a forceful Platform for Action, our Board ratified a set of gender equity standards for governance, management, and programs, which the members are accountable for implementing.

    Subsequently, the role of our Commission has become parallel to that of a national machinery, in terms of enabling our member agencies to become gender sensitive in their organizational structures, procedures, and activities. After working intensively on these challenges over the past four years, we have learned that integrating gender in an organization's activities and structures has both an external and internal dimension. Externally, gender integration fosters the participation of and benefits to women and men in an organization's initiatives or services. Internally, gender integration promotes women's leadership and equality in an organization's own policies and structures.

    We see gender integration or mainstreaming as an organic process, akin to a living tree. At the root of the process is political will. An organization with strong political will, like a tree with strong roots, can support the development of three vital branches: technical capacity, accountability and a positive organizational culture. Interestingly, the paper the UN prepared for the Beijing +5 PrepCom March 15-19, focuses on a number of these areas as well (DAW/EPCN.6/1999/PC2).

    For gender mainstreaming to be attained, a national machinery or gender focal point must build organizational capacity and ownership through addressing the four areas mentioned above.

    Political will is fundamental and involves top-level leadership publicly supporting gender integration, committing staff time and financial resources, and instituting needed policies and procedures. These conditions can lead to a favorable organizational culture, which involves progress toward a gender balanced staff and governance structure, as well as equal valuing of women and men in the workplace. As organizational culture transforms, technical capacity must develop, including staff skills in gender analysis, adoption of systems for gender disaggregated data, and development of gender sensitive tools and procedures. Because gender integration ultimately involves organizational change, systems of accountability are also essential. Both incentives and requirements are necessary to encourage and reinforce new behaviors, within individuals and within an organization as a well.

    Our Commission is using this framework for organizational assessment, through our 'gender audit' tool, and to develop organization-specific action plans for change. If political will has been mobilized (and continues to be nurtured), then it is possible to address the three other areas of our the framework, with differing levels of emphasis depending on the organization's strengths and weaknesses.

    Another important learning for us has been the critical importance of recognizing and rewarding 'good behavior'. Leaders and organizations respond favorably to awards for progress or documentation of best practices. Such incentives seem to create a positive energy for moving ahead.

    Rawwida Baksh-Soodeen, Commonwealth Secretariat, UK

    I am working on an innovative Commonwealth approach to gender mainstreaming, which is titled Gender Management System (GMS).

    Based on the WID/ WAD/ GAD experiences of “putting women on the policy agenda" since the mid-1970s, the various GAD approaches which have emerged since the mid-1980s, as well as the critiques and debates which have taken place in the last 25 years, the Commonwealth Secretariat has sought over the last 3 years, to develop the GMS as a systemic (conceptual and methodological) approach to gender mainstreaming.

    The GMS may be defined as a network of structures, mechanisms and processes put in place within an existing organisational framework, to guide, plan, monitor and evaluate the process of gender mainstreaming into all areas of the organisation's work (policy, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation), in order to achieve gender equality and equity within the context of sustainable development. A GMS may be established at any level of government, or in institutions such as universities, inter-governmental, non-governmental and private sector organisations or trade unions. It seeks to coordinate efforts among all stakeholders involved in gender equality and equity (government and non-state), with the national women's machinery acting as lead agency in the process. The GMS brings together the gender concepts and methodologies developed in the last 25 years with those of organisational development/ management. It is also meant to be flexible and adaptable to the national context, in terms of both the entry points for gender mainstreaming and the structures/ mechanisms to be put in place.

    The Commonwealth Secretariat is in the process of developing a GMS Resource Kit, which includes a GMS Handbook (conceptual and methodological guide to setting up a GMS); guides to gender mainstreaming in a range of sectors, including agriculture, education, environment, finance, health, information and communications, legal and constitutional affairs, planning, public service, science and technology, and trade and industry; and a number of other resource materials of relevance to countries/ institutions interested in mainstreaming gender. We are planning to have the first 10 documents in the series out by mid-1999, including the Handbook, a number of sector guides, and a couple of supporting documents (on gender sensitive indicators, and monitoring and evaluation).

    Ermelita Valdeavilla, National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW), The Philippines

    How can national machineries initiate organizational change?

    National machineries should recognize that a large percentage of their function is actually about change management. In the Philippines, our staff and senior officials had to learn the theories and principles of change management from organizational development experts. These were useful tools that helped us interpret our experiences with sound theoretical handle. It also enabled us to understand better our roles and those of the entities and individuals we work with.

    How did we initiate organizational change? We obtained the services of experts on organizational development to help us look outward, inward, then outward again. On the first, we clarified the overall vision, identified the entities we need to work with in order to attain such vision, plotted out the strategic roles that such entities should assume in relation to us, and identified strategies that would harness their support in relation to the vision. All of this was done in a very participatory process so that the results are something we also own.

    Second, we got the services of organizational development experts to help us check the fitness of our existing organizational framework with the demands of catalysing action to attain the gender and development (GAD) vision. The results were: (1) we took stock and dealt with our strengths and weaknesses as a national machinery, (2) we modified our mandate, mission, vision, objectives, programs and budget structures, (3) we modified the standard job descriptions given to us by the Civil Service Commission, so that they may be in conjunction with the revised mandate, vision, mission, etc., (4) we assessed the capabilities of the staff holding the positions so that we could know their training needs, and (5) we initiated a capability building program for the staff and NCRFW. The one for the staff consisted of developing our core values as a national women's machinery, which are honesty, empowerment, equality, professionalism, commitment to GAD, and teamwork. The one for NCRFW consisted of systems, tools (policy analysis and performance assessment for agencies) and skills in using the systems and tools.

    Looking outward again, we saw that the national machinery is not just the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women, but a composite of entities, individuals, and adhoc mechanisms that we have to enlist and develop to attain the vision. It was like forming a rag-tag army, equipping them with the proper commitment and mind-set, and skilling them for fitness towards a long and arduous battle. In effect, what we did with ourselves as national machinery, we had to help them go through also. The purpose is for them to sing one song whenever they act on their own, and for us to dance together to the same music whenever we act collectively.

    […]How did your organization try to create a culture that values women's perspectives?

    The leaders of the organization are a great factor in creating such culture. We have to live by our values. We have to treat them as equals (they call me by my first name, not ma'am or director). We discourage formalities in dealing with each other and in meetings. I discourage overtime and leave at 5:00 PM so that they would not think that I value their working beyond office hours. I spend informal hours with the staff. The new recruits receive a letter from me on their first day. I speak in their orientation. I hold pep-talks for new staff and those with sagging spirits. We have a "creative minds' circle" which optimizes the talents of right-brained staff, low ranking staff have representation in all decision making bodies within our office, etc. We have sessions to heal the emotional wounds inflicted upon us by experiences of sexual abuse and violence as children.

  3. Creating Political Will and Accountability

    The implementation of the Platform for Action requires a strong political will on the part of the leadership in government. Participants stressed that national machineries have the potential to mobilize this political will and should develop mechanisms to ensure that the government implements its commitment.

    Participants shared how their machinery managed to create political will and to hold governments accountable for its implementation. Strategies include the formulation of a mission statement and clear policies on gender mainstreaming, presentation of awards for gender sensitivity, public declaration of the commitment to gender equality, pressure from the women's movement and the use of legal power.

    Suzanne Kindervatter, Commission for the Advancement of Women, InterAction, USA

    In my first contribution to this discussion, I presented our "gender integration process" which grows out of solid political will. I also presented this framework on a panel at the UN last week. Through our on-line conversation and questions at the panel, it is clear that many organizations are still grappling with the issue of "political will", as a necessary precursor to capacity building and accountability.

    So, I'd like to share what we've done in our community to mobilize political will, i.e. the support of CEOs of our member organizations and our Board.

    InterAction was established in 1984, and until the early 90's, we took an "awareness-raising approach" to mobilizing political will. We convened workshops and seminars on women's "critical roles in development". We conducted surveys on women in senior management and on Boards of Directors amongst the members. Though these efforts went on for many years, there was little impact on organizational policy and practice.

    The Beijing Conference was a turning point for us, as it's been for many NGOs as well as government "national machineries". Over half our member agencies were involved in some way in the Beijing process, which for them, elevated "gender issues" to a new level.

    Building on Beijing, we decided to ratify our own internal "Platform for Action", in the form of a set of "Gender Equity Amendments" to our coalition's official standards. InterAction is governed by a set of ethical and operational standards, which our members take very seriously; they are required to sign an annual statement of compliance as part of their membership. After a 18 month participatory and sometimes conflictive process, our Board adopted the amendments in May 1996. The amendments encompass governance, management, and programs.

    For us, the amendments have provided a publicly ratified set of "minimum requirements" for our members, which they themselves set. As a result, the role of our Commission has expanded to one of providing technical assistance to enable members to comply with the standards, as well as to continue to nurture political will (which must be an on-going concern).

    While the amendments have enabled us to make a huge leap in terms of political will, there are inconsistencies amongst various member organizations and fluctuations within those that have been making progress.

    Here are some additional ways we continue to nurture political will: We

    • document, publish, and distribute "best practices" of our members on various aspects of gender integration;

    • give an annual award to two members who have made significant progress, which is presented before a large audience at our annual meeting;

    • tailor our technical services to meet particular "capacity building needs" of members, so that they feel they are benefiting;

    • require that senior managers serve on a "committee" or "task force" to guide an organization's gender initiative;

    • provide fora for CEOs whose organizations are making progress to be role models for other CEOs and to meet with leaders of business and government; and

    • support the efforts of change agents within our member organizations, in terms of identifying effective change strategies and learning to cope with resistance.

    I view "political will" as a continuum; it's easy to slip backward, so creative thinking is needed to be able to continually move forward.

    Having worked in women and development/gender and development for about 25 years, I'm pleased finally to be seeing progress in terms of concrete change in organizational policy and practice. It is a truly exciting time to be doing this work and critical that we share our strategies and insights with each other!

    Joan Smyth, Chair of the Northern Ireland Equal Opportunities Commission, United Kingdom

    I would like to share an example of how we stopped a policy that would have had negative consequences for women by carrying out an impact assessment before the policy was enacted.

    […] The Equal Opportunities Commission for Northern Ireland decided to use a legal power under the Sex Discrimination Order 1976 to carry out a Formal Investigation into Competitive Tendering.

    Competitive tendering involved the privatization of public services. The question was not whether the policy itself was legal but whether it had, in its implementation, had a disproportionate effect on women and their terms and conditions. Anecdotal evidence said it had and this was backed up by evidence furnished by the trade unions. The early tenders had been issued to seek firms prepared to carry out catering and cleaning services where women worked and had not targeted hospital portering or gardening.

    The investigation examined the health and education sectors and found that women had been disadvantaged more than men. Findings were forwarded to Government and the then Secretary for State for Northern Ireland. There was no public announcement of a reversal of the policy but no further tenders were issued and the Government agreed to examine the guidelines we put forward.

    Ermelita Valdeavilla, National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW), The Philippines

    How did we create the political will for gender mainstreaming?

    It is a continuing process, not something that happened overnight. It consisted of multiple strategies, large and small. First, we rode with the momentum of dramatic national political events, such as the people power revolution, having a first woman President, changing of the Constitution, having a first woman head of national planning body, etc.

    The national women's machinery should have the foresight and the skill to maneuver in and around these events in favor of the women's agenda. I remember that when we had our first woman President, we made her make a major public pronouncement like, " I don't want it said with any degree of credibility that the conditions of Filipino women did not improve considerably under the term of its first woman President". With her successor, we asked him to sign a covenant with the women when he was running for Presidency. After the election, we enlarged the document he signed, framed it, and to remind him (to his great surprise) that he had made that commitment, we showed the huge frame (like the ten commandments in two tablets of stones) at our first meeting with him. He was amused and bewildered to find out that he signed it at the height of his campaign. These are initial steps that work, but they are not enough. We had to build upon these strategies.

    We need to recognize that the political will might not be there genuinely in so far as the President is concerned. The real political will resides in us, as the national machinery, attached to the Office of the President. We are the President's conscience, and therefore, the conscience of the bureaucracy when it comes to women. We will always pester them, like a mosquito, always making that irritating noise and giving them a bite so that they may develop the "itch" to address gender/women's concerns. But the combined effects of many strategies would help a lot, such as:

    pressures from the women's movement - the women NGOs, governmental organisations, youth, etc. should be able to project that they are one, they believe in their agenda, and that they are many. They should be able to create as much noise and show that they matter in number. The national machinery and focal points are the spies that prompt them when, where and how to make noise. The Philippines is probably the only country in the world that has a women's day, women's week and women's month, all supported by law/executive order. These are great occasions to make noise and press for renewed political will;

    a sound rationale that will convince the administration that the women's agenda is great to enhance its favorite programs - If the main concern of the government is national poverty, then, they should understand our analysis of how the program affect women and how women affect such program. We always need to stress the value-added by the gender and development (GAD) approach;

    making the President issue orders and circulars on women that would make his administration look great (they are very concerned with public image and they feel great showing that they exercise their power for the public interest);

    regular meetings with the Cabinet to report to the President on the accomplishments of his cabinet (who is performing and who is not);

    pressures from Congress and the budget department attaching GAD performance with proposed budgets;

    There are a lot of practical strategies and how I wish we had written all of these. But what is important is for national machineries to scan its environment and look for strategic entry points. Every situation is unique and they might have more hidden opportunities that only need to be discovered. Often, they are masked as a threat.

    […] How can governments be accountable for gender mainstreaming? There are mechanisms like performance contract, performance assessment, rewards and promotion system and budgeting that could be tapped. You may have a policy that no one could be promoted unless he/she is gender sensitive. I talked about the GAD budget in the Philippines during the panel on national machineries, parallel with the meeting of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. This is supported by strategies on how to make agencies accountable.

    Shirin Rai, University of Warwick, United Kingdom

    Suzanne Kindervatter posed the important question - what is their (national machineries') strategy for organisational change? The UN Expert Group Meeting on National Machineries was clear on the issue that national machineries should NOT get involved in implementation of policy. They should be catalysts and monitors. I would suggest that the relations with civil society become even more critical in this context. national machineries are organisations - and organisations tend towards bureaucratisation unless clear arrangements and mechanisms are put in place to hold them accountable. But the question arises - accountable to whom? As the NGOs do not constitute an identifiable and stable group, the question of accountability has to be seen linked to the levels of legitimacy of national machineries. The capacity national machineries have to shift the thinking of government policy machineries on gender issues for one part of this legitimacy building. For this, national machineries have to confront the question of political will of governments, make judgements about feasibility of policy options, as well as how best to challenge the status quo. Leadership of national machineries thus becomes an important issue - whether a government minister or a 'public figure' from within the women's movement is best placed to play this dual role.

  4. Gender Budgeting

    Some participants stressed that gender mainstreaming requires that the government disaggregates all outlays in terms of benefits to women and men in its budget documents. They shared information on gender budget initiatives, a relatively new focus receiving growing attention in both developed and developing countries.

    Heike Wach, BRIDGE, United Kingdom

    I would like to draw your attention to gender sensitive budget analysis as a way to analyse national machineries. In my work for BRIDGE which is an information service on gender and development, I have been involved in compiling an annotated bibliography on gender budgets for the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). As Sida has been involved with several national initiatives, especially in South Africa, the focus of my task was to find out more about gender budgets at institutional level. National "inside government"- initiatives exist in South Africa, Sri Lanka, Barbados (supported by the Commonwealth Secretariat "Engender Budgets Programme") as well as in Namibia, Australia, Switzerland, Sweden and Norway (and as I understand, in the Philippines). "Outside-government" projects include those in Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique, Canada, the UK and the USA. This is to our knowledge, but I hope there are more.

    As it happens there is more information available on the analysis of national budgets and how they benefit men and women differently, so I can share with you some of the information that is available. A well-illustrated example is South Africa. The Women's Budget Initiative (WBI) has published three books which analyse the budgets of all ministries from a gender point of view. These books by Debby Budlender also explain the principles and recent initiatives in other countries. I will not attempt here to outline the South African example because I am sure that there are participants of this list who have a better knowledge about this than I have. There are also initiatives which support gender budget analysis on a regional and local level.

    The Commonwealth Secretariat has been involved with concepts of gender budgets in Southern countries. Diane Elson has worked with them and published a number of articles which describe the concept from an economic point of view. Debbie Budlender and Rhonda Sharp (from Australia) with Kerri Allen have also recently published a report "How to do a gender-sensitive budget analysis: ontemporary research and practice", supported by the Commonwealth Secretariat and AuAID. It explains the basics and can be used as a guide to do your own gender-sensitive analysis.

    No such governmental initiative exists for Britain. The Women's Budget Group is an independent think tank on women, men and economics which aims to analyse the UK-Budget and which makes recommendations on structure and policy of the Treasury. As they are in dialogue with the Treasury, they form an important lobby (one hopes)

    Ermelita Valdeavilla, National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW), The Philippines

    The Philippines has been implementing a gender and development (GAD) budget policy since 1995. This a policy under the annual General Appropriations Act (GAA) that directs all instrumentalities of the government to allocate a MINIMUM of five percent of their total annual budgets for programs and projects on women/gender. It began as an innocuous one-sentence directive in the GAA four years ago, and building upon it each year, it has since blossomed into a 3-paragraph mandate.

    The GAD budget policy, as it is now, has some basic features in addition to the mandate for allocation. Let me cite three of them. One, it requires agencies to submit a GAD plan which is being reviewed by my Commission. Our review enables us to substantially advise the agencies on how to improve their GAD mainstreaming work. We provide feedback to the different agencies and to the various committees of Congress on the status of actions in each agency. For the latter, we field questions that they may wish to ask the agency heads during its budget defense.

    Second, the national economic planning and the budget departments are tasked to develop implementing guidelines in partnership with NCRFW. This guideline prescribes what types of programs, projects and activities may be funded by the GAD budget. And third, my Commission and the Budget department monitor the amount of allocation and make reports on the overall aggregates, highlighting the problem areas and raising our recommendations.

    From 1995 to the present, the amount of total allocations had increased from P 9 million in 1995 to P 2.6B in 1998. The number of agencies had also risen from 19 to 92 and still counting. In short, the progress is slow, but generally advancing.

    In a situation of tight competition for the national funds, the GAD budget policy assures us that agencies will have no "convenient" excuse (of not having funds) not to implement GAD mainstreaming.

    National machineries should be encouraged to ask for regular funds. Mainstreaming policy without allocation is not serious. But don't be blinded by allocations alone, because a GAD budget without a meaningful GAD plan is going to be a disaster.

  5. Capacity-Building

    Participants emphasized that in order to mainstream gender in all policy making, government staff need the knowledge and skills to do so; they have to learn how to assess the gender implications of their work and how to develop gender sensitive policies and programmes. The Platform for Action stresses the importance of capacity building and states that national machineries should “provide training and advisory assistance to government agencies in order to integrate a gender perspective in their policies and programmes." (paragraph 205,f). Many participants shared how this capacity was built in their country. Examples include the delivery of gender training session, production of training material, mentoring programmes and the establishment of working groups.

    Aileen Clarke, Gender Affairs Division of the Ministry of Culture and Gender Affairs, Trinidad & Tobago

    A programme of training and sensitizing in gender and development was implemented by the Gender Affairs division in March 1997. The Division, with an expert facilitator, exposed a number of key individuals and groups in Trinidad & Tobago to gender concepts. The major objective was to equip participants with the knowledge and skills they need to be able to incorporate and address the issues of gender in the development policies, plans and programmes of Trinidad and Tobago.

    The programme of training and sensitization in gender and development had three major components.
    1. A pilot programme of gender training
    2. A training of trainers programme
    3. The Development and production of a training programme

    The target group for these training sessions included Permanent Secretaries, Cabinet Ministers, Members of the Legislature, protective and judicial services. Participants also included individuals from the private sector, as well as the media, NGOs, unions etc.

    The Division produced a gender training manual and a gender training video. Our aim is to disseminate these training tools to our colleagues locally, regionally and internationally.

    Ana Alberdi, EMAKUNDE (Basque Women's Institute), Spain

    The Government has made efforts to train its own personnel and the professionals who work in different service departments of the Public Administration. This group of people plays an important role in the implementation of equality policies throughout the Administration, because they are often the people who design, propose and assess specific programmes in their own fields and the daily exercise of their profession may cause a multiplier effect through those who receive their messages and actions. We refer specifically to professionals from the fields of education, culture, social services, health, etc.

    The training has been carried out, on the one hand, through the seminars and meetings organized by Emakunde on a periodic basis. The object was to bring together professionals from different fields so that each of them may reflect upon the question of the equality of opportunities and/or the different aspects of the status of women in each of the fields dealt with. On the other hand, courses have been included relating to the equality of opportunities between women and men, and positive actions in the provision of training that the IVAP (Basque Institute of Public Administration) offers Government workers.

    Ermelita Valdeavilla, National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW), The Philippines

    How do we develop our staff's skills? First, we have a very rigid screening process so that we don't anymore have to spend so much time developing them. We tap the "brightest in the bureaucracy program" where cum laudes, magna and summa cumlaudes could be accessed. From here, we get young, idealistic, and hard working staff who give their best and are raring to climb up to the top. Then, we inventorize available training programmes and send our staff according to needs. No favoritism, because there is a system for matching training with needs and for prioritizing who will attend what. We have in-house sessions. I talk about the historical heritage of the organization, the movement on women, the concepts and principles, the roles of the staff, etc. We have on-the job mentoring, and a lot of exposure to various engagement with our partners. We allow them to manage and exercise discretion in their assigned work, committing mistakes often, but learning a lot from them. We have a semi-annual performance assessment which is participatory and consensual. We route all insightful documents and entertain one-on-one dialogue with whoever needs direct exchange of thoughts with the top officials.

  6. Cooperation with NGOs

    The Platform for Action states that the involvement of civil society is one of the necessary condition for the effective functioning of a national machinery (paragraph 201,b). National machineries are urged to “promote and establish cooperative relationships" with actors of civil society (paragraph 205,b). Participants reported how in their country, NGOs supported the work of the national machinery. Examples for successful cooperation include regular meetings between the government and women's NGOs, consultation of NGOs in government decision-making, and joint projects and programmes.

    Shirin Rai, University of Warwick, United Kingdom

    National machineries should have a strong relationship with civil society associations, while keeping in mind the fact that all civil society associations are not sympathetic to women's empowerment. A strong relationship with civil society associations will create a legitimate base for the national machinery vis a vis national governments. It would also be helpful in contributing to agenda setting not only in terms of government policy, but also in the conversations on gender relations among civil society organisations. The fora that might be used for strengthening this relationship could be varied, as reported in many of the case studies.

    Kinga Lohmann., KARAT Coalition - a network among women's NGOs from Central and Eastern Europe.

    Women's NGOs play an active role in our region; without their pressure there would not be any national machinery or a National Action Plan (NAP) inmost of the countries. The NGOs remind governments about the commitments to act on women's affairs they made at the Beijing conference.


    In general, sustainable communication and cooperation between national machineries and NGOs is not being developed on a regular basis. However, some positive examples have been observed, especially during the formulation of NATIONAL ACTION PLANS:

    In BULGARIA, an inter-ministerial working group headed by the Secretary General of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs succeeded in developing a National Action Plan after consultations with women's NGOs, which was then adopted by the Government in October 1996.

    In HUNGARY, a so called "Civil Forum" initiated by the Department for Equal Opportunities will cooperate with the Section for the Representation of Women. The government intends to set up a number of Councils to prepare decisions concerning various disadvantaged groups such as handicapped, women, etc. The one dealing with women's issues will be of the deputy state-secretaries of the competent ministries, the representatives of women's NGOs and experts. Its tasks will be to express an opinion on provisions of law, government action plans and to initiate new programmes related to women's equal opportunities. It seems that it the future NGOs opinions and needs will play an important role in the formulation of the Section's policy. The Section wants also create local Committees of NGOs to cooperate with them in the countryside to implement gender policies.

    In POLAND, the cooperation forum of NGOs and the Plenipotentiary was established upon the initiative of the Plenipotentiary of Family and Women(May 1996-October 1997). The Forum was an institutional form of cooperation and held a monthly meeting. It used to be consultative, advisory and opinion-making body that included 38 NGOs. The work on National Action Plan was the most spectacular cooperation within the Forum.

    In ROMANIA, despite the growing involvement of women's NGOs in social life, the national machinery seems to favor the cooperation with human rights NGOs. The Pilot Center for Assistance and Protection of Women - Victims of Domestic Violence was established in 1997 under the direct coordination of the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection. Two important NGOs cooperate in the program: the Romanian Independent Society for Human Rights and the League for Human Rights Defense. However, the cooperation agreement has been concluded between national machinery and some women's organizations established within the main Romanian trade union confederation.

    In SLOVAKIA, representatives of NGOs are part of the national machinery: members of the Coordination Committee for Women's Issues, together with the representatives of research community, trade unions, churches and other relevant organizations.

    Ana Alberdi, EMAKUNDE (Basque Women's Institute), Spain

    Our organisation (a national machinery) works to co-operate with non-governmental organisations in the following way:

    A Consultative Commission was created to act as a bridge between Emakunde and the women's associations. This Commission provides a forum for debate and the exchange of proposals and information, which allows the identification of requirements and the demands of women themselves.

    This Commission is structured in four working areas, which group the associations according to their main activity: Socio-cultural area, Training, Health Care, and the Feminist Movement. This Commission began work on an experimental basis in 1993 and after a positive appraisal by both parties, was formally set up by Decree 103 of June 9 1998.

    Sarah Ocran, Africa Secretariat of Third World Network, Ghana.

    Following the Beijing Conference, the Africa Secretariat of Third World Network initiated a Project aimed at strengthening national machinery for women in Africa. The project had the following main components. First, research on the current state of national machineries in a number of African countries; second a workshop to discuss research findings and plan the dissemination and advocacy stages of the project.

    The ultimate aim of the project is to generate a campaign amongst NGOs and other civil society organisations working on gender issues to work to strengthen and support national machinery and other institutions mandated with implementing the Beijing commitments made by governments.

    The first part of the project, the research phase, started in 1995 with the preparation of a research proposal which was discussed with a number of NGOs and women's organisations who had expressed interest in the project. Following these consultations we commissioned NGOs and Women's organisations in six African countries to undertake research on their national machinery's. Initially we had planned to do research in ten countries but due to financial constraints we limited it to six countries. These were: Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Morocco, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

    The main objectives of the research was to provide an NGO evaluation of the work of the state sponsored institutional mechanisms, namely national machinery for implementing gender policy in a number of countries in Africa. The research explored amongst other things: the challenges facing national machinery, their relationship with civil society organisations, the political and socio-economic context within which they operate, their mandate, structure, programmes and their capacity to implement the Platform for Action. The research involved interviews with representatives of the national machinery, civil society organisations, government departments and donor agencies. The research phase of the project ended in November 1998 with the preparation of country reports ranging from 30-50 pages.

    The findings of these studies were presented at a regional workshop we organised in Accra, Ghana from 1-3 December to discuss the findings of the research and to also plan the dissemination and advocacy phase of the project. This workshop, which was attended by twenty five representatives of civil society organisations from fifteen countries, adopted a programme of activities based on the dissemination of the research findings at the national, regional and international level and identified the March meeting of the CSW as an important meeting to disseminate the research findings. The workshop also drafted a statement containing recommendations to national machinery's, governments and civil society organisations to strengthen national machinery's and agreed to use this statement for lobbying at the national, regional and international level. At the Workshop two participants from Cameroon and Tunisia also expressed interest in conducting research on their national machineries as part of the project. We are planning to publish and disseminate the country studies in May this year in collaboration with the organisations that lead the national level research.


    This online working group made it possible for activists, researchers and government officials from all over the world to make their voice heard in the follow-up to the Beijing Conference. Participants highly appreciated this exchange of experiences:

    • “I wish to express how thought-provoking and useful this online discussion proved to be" (Sayyed Nadeem Kazmi)

    • “I have no idea what my national government is doing that is comparable to the wonderful examples shared by participants from other nations. […] I plan to keep the messages about what other countries are doing and, to the extent possible, continue discussing the need to carry out the promise of the Beijing conference and all the work which has been done since [..]. Thank you again for this exchange." (Karen Humphrey)

    • “I have followed this series with great interest" (Marion E. Doro)

    • “Ce fut une très belle occasion d'échanges. Le temps m'a manqué d'y participer avantage, mais j'utiliserai certains des commentaires et des expériences pour encourager le groupe de femmes qui , au Québec, travaillent au sein de l'appareil gouvernemental fédéral pour faire progresser l'égalité et la notion d'analyse comparée entre les sexes. Merci!" (Lucie Marchessault-Lussier)

    The United Nations is now expanding the possibilities for online participation in the process of reviewing the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. Online working groups on other critical areas of the Platform will be launched soon. Up-to-date information on these activities will be available on the WomenWatch website: http://www.un.org/womenwatch.

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