Origin of Gender Mainstreaming
Gender mainstreaming is a global strategy advocated by the United Nations for the promotion of women's advancement and gender equality. It was established in the Beijing Platform for Action adopted at the United Nations' Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995. Many countries have since adopted gender mainstreaming in their policy-making processes.
Gender mainstreaming is the integration of gender perspectives and needs in legislation, policies or programmes, in any area and at all levels, in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation processes. Through such gender sensitive decision-making processes, gender mainstreaming seeks to ensure that women and men have equitable access to, and benefit from, society's resources and opportunities.
There are differences in the lives, needs and experience of women and men. Because of such differences, policies and measures which apparently accord same treatment to people of different genders might have different impact on them on actual implementation. Therefore, we need to make gender an independent consideration factor in order to prevent unfairness between women and men.
Gender mainstreaming aims to ensure that important social indicators on different conditions of women and men are considered when conducting day-to-day work and making policies. It also helps decision-makers balance the needs of both women and men. It leads to better government through better-informed decision-making with inputs from relevant groups. The process enhances public acceptance of new and revised policies, laws and programmes and facilitates their implementation with greater effectiveness and efficiency. Gender mainstreaming is considered a good and modern policy management practice by many countries all over the world.
Gender mainstreaming promotes the interests of both women and men. It helps identify the different needs, concerns, constraints, interests and values of women and men in different situations, e.g. in the workplace, in school, at home, in the community and in society at large. With the consideration of gender perspectives in the decision-making process at all levels, organisations concerned can improve their efficiency and effectiveness by identifying and addressing needs of their clients more effectively.
Some policies, legislation or measures may have no apparent bearing or implication on either gender and accord the same treatment to women and men. However, because of the respective roles and responsibilities given to women and men in various social, cultural contexts and backgrounds, a policy or measure giving women and men identical treatment may actually affect them differently. For instance, the effect created by the choice of flooring or fencing materials in a shopping arcade seemingly makes no difference between male and female shoppers, but in fact a reflective floor or a transparent overhead fencing may be a cause of embarrassment for women in dresses.
Therefore, we should adopt a gender-sensitive approach. We need to be conscious of the characteristics and circumstances of genders and accord appropriate treatment to achieve genuine fairness.
Gender mainstreaming sees the perspectives and needs of both women and men as an important consideration. Hence, in no way would gender mainstreaming overlook the needs of men. Rather, it stresses the gender-specific needs of women as well as men.
Gender mainstreaming seeks to set gender-specific perspectives and experiences as one of the mainstream considerations. It does not intend to set them as the sole or overriding consideration by excluding other factors. Decision-makers who are responsible for developing policies or measures should make the most appropriate decision by balancing various factors and considerations.
An aim of gender mainstreaming is achieving gender equality. Gender equality refers to the equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities of different genders. Equality does not mean that women and men will become the same but that women’s and men’s rights, responsibilities and opportunities will not depend on whether they are born male or female. Gender equality implies that the interests, needs and priorities of both women and men are taken into consideration, recognising the diversity of different groups of women and men. Gender equality is not a women’s issue but should concern and fully engage men as well as women. Equality between women and men is seen both as a human rights issue and as a precondition for, and indicator of, sustainable people-centered development.