Engaging in policy dialogue on gender equality with a public institution: Thoughts and reflections from Lebanon

Posted on 20 May 2013 by

**WLP spoke with Lina about CRTD.A’s experience conducting the Gender Audit:**

Click here to listen to WLP’s interview with Lina Abou Habib on her organization’s Gender Audit of Lebanon’s Ministry of Social Affairs (Audio File)

Nationality Campaign Protest for Women's Citizenship Rights in Lebanon with the Author

Nationality Campaign Protest for Women’s Citizenship Rights in Lebanon with the Author

During the past two years, CRTD.A concluded a very interesting and rich gender audit exercise in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Affairs. This initiative came some time after CRTD.A had provided training on gender and leadership to most of the Ministry’s staff holding various positions within the institution.

The Gender Audit was designed as a research and knowledge activity with direct policy implications and consisted of a comprehensive and unprecedented in-depth organisational review of a public institution using the gender audit methodology.

The Ministry of Social Affairs (MOSA) was selected in view of a prior history of collaboration and also given MOSA’s specific mandate and programmes and its direct link to women’s economic empowerment as well as other aspects of women’s empowerment which was relevant to the scope and objectives of CRTD.A’s work.

The MOSA Gender Audit aimed at:

• Understanding obstacles and entry points to gender mainstreaming
• Assessing internal knowledge and capacity for gender mainstreaming
• Identifying policy implications and potential strategies

On the longer-term, the exercise sought to raise awareness and understanding as well as recognition of women’s multiple roles, women’s care work and strategies for fostering women’s economic empowerment.

Multiple methods were used namely:

• Review of internal documents including MOSA’s legal framework, organigramme, key programme documents, etc…);

• Self assessment questionnaires seeking to identify how MOSA staff assess their own gender knowledge and awareness;

• Semi-structured interviews targeting MOSA staff in senior planning and decision making positions and seeking to investigate informants knowledge and perception of gender and of the role of MOSA in realizing gender equality

• Focus group discussions targeting MOSA’s community workers, beneficiaries and implementation partners.

The gender audit exercise resulted in a number of key findings which have been clustered thematically as follows:

On organisational commitment to gender equality:

• Gender equality as an objective is mentioned briefly in recent documents but not in the fundamental organizational documents

• There is no explicit mention of mechanisms of implementation or lines of responsibility and accountability for mainstreaming gender.

• There is also no explicit mention of what the mandate of MOSA is in relation to realizing gender equality and how does this mandate relates to fundamental texts such as CEDAW

On staff commitment and understanding of gender equality:

• We noted a surprisingly high response rate (circa 750) amongst informants who were asked to complete a rather long self assessment questionnaire

• There was overall an uneven knowledge of gender equality and an uneven understanding of the organisational role and commitment to gender equality

• Women staff showed better familiarity with and knowledge of key gender concepts and were more

• Women scored better when responding to questions about specific areas of knowledge and were more conversant about the priorities, needs, situation and position of women in the community

On vision regarding organisational mandate:

• Overall, informants believe that women will automatically benefit from MOSA’s programmes

• There was no consensus regarding MOSA’s mandate to realise gender equality

• There was an uneven knowledge of and value given to guiding instruments such as CEDAW

• There was more hands-on understanding of key gender issues at the level of staff with field interface

The process that followed the gender audit exercise was extremely interesting in view of its consultative and participatory nature. As a first step, the results and findings were shared and validated with all the informants of the gender audit. The latter were asked to validate the findings and contribute to drafting recommendations. The Ministry then endorsed the gender audit in a public event and announced that as a result, it will go ahead with a capacity building programme targeting its staff as well as draft the first gender strategy for the Ministry.

This case study represents a case in point in best practice in engaging with state actors for effectively mainstreaming gender in practices, programmes and policies. It shows specifically that state actors are not uniform or homogeneous in their positions and dispositions vis-à-vis gender mainstreaming. This is an important consideration for gender and women’s rights activists as it is imperative that such entry points be found and used in a constructive and positive way. This example is also an interesting illustration of how complex the process of policy dialogue is and the various inter-related elements that it carries and the protracted time needed to establish trust and collaborative engagement.

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