Dr Shirley Randell (www.shirleyrandell.com.au) has in 2006 taken up a new position in Rwanda as Senior Advisor, Responsibility and Accountability in Local Government - RALG/Gender for nine countries in East and South Africa. Her previous two years were spent as UNDP Project Implementation Specialist for the Capacity Building for Gender Mainstreaming (CBGM) Project being implemented by the Government of Bangladesh’ Ministry of Women and Children Affairs. Dr Randell retired from work in Australia in 1996 and since then has been involved in development assistance in several countries in the Pacific, Asia and Africa. She had intended to retire again last year at the age of 65 but took up a new opportunity with SNV, which recently gained its independence from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The philosophy of SNV, whose core task is to play a constructive role wherever possible in improving the lives of the poorest people in the poorest countries on earth, fits with my recent learning to move away from project work and choose the path of enhanced professionalism in a strictly advisory practice, mainly focusing on civil society.
As UNDP Project Implementation Specialist for the Capacity Building for Gender Mainstreaming (CBGM) Project position in Bangladesh, Dr Randell worked with eight national professional gender training consultants and trainers in the four peak public service institutions to develop a gender training manual for civil servants. This interview focuses on that manual from a perspective of how to make others aware of evaluating their workplaces and communities in relation to gender equity and development.
Dr Randell writes: Bangladesh has female heads of both Government and Opposition and they are both there as a result of family dynasties. Nevertheless, when they have been in the Prime Ministerial position they have both shown a strong commitment to education for girls. Education is now free for all girls at primary and secondary levels with favourable treatment being given to girls in technical and tertiary education and female teachers as well. Bangladesh has one of the highest primary school net enrolment rates (82.7%) among developing countries. Reducing dropout rates and raising the quality of the universal education now being offered to both boys and girls is a necessary systemic change. This is only one of many challenges, made all the more complicated by the logistics of educational provision in a very poor country - imagine for instance high schools with over 500 young women in each shift managing with only one toilet.One of the reasons for the CBGM Project was the recognition within Government that no progress was being made in increasing the numbers of women in the public service. Women still make up only 9.7 percent of civil servants overall despite a 25 year target of 10 percent. At the most senior level of Ministries (Secretary) there is currently no woman; two women are working as Additional Secretaries, ten as Joint Secretaries: 12 women in almost 500 positions at these powerful decision making levels. These statistics reflect the huge disparities between developing and developed countries and the worthwhile contribution that Australian educators can make if the opportunity for overseas service presents itself." Letter to Australian College of Educators of which Shirley was a former President.
Interview with Dr Shirley Randell
How long did it take to put together the Gender and Development Training Manual for the Capacity Building for Gender Mainstreaming (CBGM) Project in the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs in Bangladesh and what processes were employed to compile it? Were other organizations and sources of information drawn upon to assist with the formulation of the principles and tools in the Manual?
One of the reasons for the CBGM Project was the recognition within Government in 1997 that no progress was being made in increasing the numbers of women in the public service. Women still make up only 9.7 percent overall despite a 25 year target of 10 percent. At the most senior level of Ministries (Secretary) there is currently no woman; two women are working as Additional Secretaries, ten as Joint Secretaries: 12 women in almost 500 positions at these powerful decision making levels.
Implementing the Project was such a challenge to the public service that little progress had been made until I commenced work as Project Implementation Specialist in February 2004. Almost my first task was to recruit four Bangladeshi Gender Training Consultants and four Gender Training Officers with whom I worked to put together the Manual. It took us 18 months from designing the outline and then working with trainers in the four peak public service training institutions in Bangladesh to write the lesson plans and teaching materials, consult with gender experts working with development partners and non-government agencies in Bangladesh, trial the manual with public servants, and then train core trainers to use it.
We made a lot of use of materials already developed and published by other organisations, such as the Oxfam Gender Training Manual, and from the Internet, such as the UNDP gender network. However we considered it essential that our manual be written and compiled by Bangladeshis so that it was relevant to the culture and local experience. I had the task of leading the team and editing the manual. Given the culture and the bureaucratic nature of government decision making processes this was a long and fairly arduous task, and a government committee finally had to approve the contents of the manual. It is now being translated into Bangla, the national language, and properly designed for publication in both English and Bangla.
How did aspects of your personal and professional background empower you when working on the Manual?
My work in developing countries began as a young woman when I lived, studied and worked in Papua New Guinea from 1966-1974. My formal academic studies in PNG eventually leading to a PhD in public policy implementation gave me the research discipline behind my Australian public service national, state and local government career over the next 20 years. I was fortunate to be a participant in public sector reform at all of these levels as well as in institutional reform. Coping with busy jobs and part time studies while raising a family of four children also taught me something about priorities, persistence and patience.
I retired from work in Australia in 1996 and since then have been involved in development assistance in several countries in the Pacific, Asia and Africa . I have found that to be effective in developing countries it is extremely important to listen and learn from the people first. Respecting the culture, learning the language, identifying with customs and dress I consider to be absolutely essential to gaining respect and cooperation from colleagues and governments. I was able to use this background well in Bangladesh working with gender in a predominantly Muslim country where changing the mindset of public servants is critical to improving opportunities for women and their empowerment.
I learned in the Public Service Commission in Canberra in the mid=1980s that women cannot be as effective working with gender issues on their own as they can be when they work on these issues with men. In Bangladesh it was the same. As men still have most of the power it was necessary to have them writing chapters of the manual, owning its contents and being totally committed to teaching it.
How do you envisage the implementation of the Manual in Bangladesh and the level of its success for Gender Mainstreaming? Do you see the Gender Analysis Framework tool being used outside Government sectors for planning and assessing projects or designing development interventions?
The manual will be used by private sector enterprises as well as non-government organisations in Bangladesh in addition to the public sector. The Gender Analysis Framework is already being widely used. In relation to the issue of gender mainstreaming.
Gender mainstreaming through a program based approach to development is an additional huge task as a new field of endeavour across the world. There has been success in a sector-based approach to development in certain areas like health and education in several countries. But gender is a cross-cutting issue and mainstreaming gender across over 40 ministries in Bangladesh is a huge challenge. So the program-based approach to gender mainstreaming is a separate component of the CBGM Project that is still being developed. UNDP is working with all the development partners in Bangladesh to try to establish a program that allows the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs to set its own priorities and move away from the project-based approach that has frequently led to duplication of resources and thus waste of valuable capacity. A high level of commitment and support from partners is imperative to ensure that there is good support for gender mainstreaming activities. Partner involvement is a challenge because “gender” is still a concept that is misunderstood by many to relate only to “women’s issues” as opposed to those affecting everyone and having a significant effect on development outcomes and effectiveness. Information exchange between partners encourages rapport and helps to identify gaps in initiatives, as well as to detect overlaps with the work of other agencies.
As Bangladesh’s total population is 141.3 million (est., July 2004), of whom 68.85 million are women and 72.49 million are men; the sex ratio being 105 men per 100 women and among them about 85 percent are Muslims, 13.6 percent are Hindus and 1.4 percent are Buddhists, Christians, indigenous religions and others, do you think that there needs to be systemic changes in the country for Gender development initiatives to be successful in the wider community, for example in raising gender consciousness in girls and boys through education?
Yes indeed there does need to be systematic change. Bangladesh has female heads of both Government and Opposition and they are both there as a result of family dynasties. Nevertheless, when they have been in the Prime Ministerial position they have both shown a strong commitment to education for girls. Education is now free for all girls at primary and secondary levels with favourable treatment being given to girls in technical and tertiary education as well. Bangladesh has one of the highest primary school net enrolment rates (82.7%) among developing countries. Reducing dropout rates and raising the quality of the universal education now being offered to both boys and girls is a necessary systemic change. This is only one of many challenges, made all the more complicated by the logistics of educational provision in a very poor country - imagine for instance high schools with over 500 young women managing with only one toilet.
One of the training institutions we worked with to develop the gender manual was the National Academy for Education Management. Many principals and district education officers attended our workshops. They showed a clear commitment to curriculum development that is gender inclusive. Provision of quality texts and teachers is needed to make this effective.
A frightening development in Bangladesh has been the rise of the right wing fundamentalist Islamic party that is currently in coalition with the Government and has a huge influence in moving the country away from its secular Constitution, gained in 1971 in the liberation struggle with Pakistan at the cost of so many lives. Currently lawyers and judges are being terrorized and murdered as this minority group tries to bring back Shariah law, a misinterpretation of the teachings of Islam.
In the United Nations 2004 Human Development Index (HDI), Bangladesh was ranked 139 among 175 countries, and 112 among 144 countries according to the Gender Development Index (GDI). (UNDP 2004).
These Indices show the clear link between gender disparity and poverty. The position of Bangladesh on these indices emphasizes the huge progress that has to be made at all levels. Addressing the gender dimension of poverty is essential for human development, effective poverty alleviation and the survival of current and future generations. And Bangladesh is also right at the very top of the Transparency International Corruption Index as the most corrupt country in the world. Corruption has a huge limiting impact on development and leads to further poverty. The Millennium Development Goals are aimed at reducing poverty. Promoting gender equality is one of the key MDGs. The focus is on promoting women’s education and literacy, employment and democratic representation. When the incomes and resources of women are increased within poor households they are demonstrably more likely than men to use that income for the benefit of the whole household. If women are given education and training, they are more likely to pass that information on to their children, contributing to the opportunities available to future generations.
Measurement of MDGs shows that progress is being made in Bangladesh . For example the population living below the poverty line has declined by one percent a year (from 58.8 percent in 1991/92 to 50 percent in 2000). The rate of stunting for children in the age group of 6-71 months was 69 percent in 1985/86and had dropped to 49 per cent in 2000. The Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) has been cut -in half over the last two decades and reduced from over 149 per 1000 live births in 1960 to 59 in 1999 and 55 in 2005. Under-5 MR also reduced remarkably: from 248 in 1960 to 81 in 2005. All these figures are still appalling contrasts to statistics in Western countries.
The Gender Analysis Framework tool (GAF) lists six different areas (Table 8.1.1) in which attention to gender equality is important, and identifies a number of questions under each. The six areas are:
· Problem Identification and Project Design
· Benefit and Advancement
· Human Rights and Security
· Resource Allocation
How can this Framework be applied by individuals who find themselves in organizations where gender equality can be improved but are unfamiliar with the theory and practice of gender analysis and gender mainstreaming?
It has been our experience through trialing the manual that giving opportunity to participants to apply the theory of gender inequality to their actual situation as individuals in families, communities and organisations makes the concepts real to them. This inspires them to make changes in practice that should lead eventually to transformation.
Undertaking a needs assessment at the outset of the capacity-building exercise is important both to help identify the theme of the training, as well as the needs of the participants. The training is out-put oriented to obtain the best results. The identification of at least five key follow up action points by every participant is useful in mainstreaming gender into their ministries/departments and respective areas of work, tracking progress on their action points and sustaining the level of activities.
The identification of strong and influential “gender champions” at decision-making levels within ministries and departments is essential. In most cases these decision-makers are men and getting their support is necessary. The involvement and approval of high-ranking bureaucratic officials is critical for eliciting commitment and full-time participation of other government counterparts. Selecting an appropriate trainer/facilitator who understands the theory and practice of gender mainstreaming and fits the participants’ context is important, since gender is both political and personal. Government officials are in fact experts in their own field of work and as such, their contributions as trainers can be invaluable. All levels of staff should be trained so that there is a common and clear vision of gender in the organisation’s work.
What is the essential premise that the Gender and Development Training Manual is based on and are there any comparable efforts to work on similar issues in developed and underdeveloped countries?
The essential premise on which the gender training manual is based is that gender equality and the empowerment of women are absolutely essential to sustainable development and the reduction of poverty. In countries across the world, the strongest correlation between economic growth and social indicators exists with the participation of women in decision making with men at all levels – in designing, participating and implementing projects and programs. That is why all governments and all development agencies around the world are paying attention to these issues. Developed countries have made more progress in relation to the participation and empowerment of women and have benefited from this but they still have a long way to go. One of the Millennium Development Goals is a global partnership in development.
What are your views regarding gender parity and gender equality in relation to which strategy is more preferable in contexts where there is a low representation of women and the prevalence of significant barriers to women desiring greater participation in mainstreamed roles?
I consider that mainstreaming gender is essential and having both men and women committed to gender parity is indispensable to overcoming barriers of inequality and discrimination. Women’s rights are human rights. Much of the work on women’s empowerment involves increasing the numbers of women or strengthening their capacity to assume positions of greater power and responsibility in government. Less has been done on ways to ensure that government institutions themselves respond to women and men who are disadvantaged by discrimination due to gender, race, or other factors, and that they have the capacity to do so. This is an important area where gender and human rights intersect and where further work is needed. Women lose men as allies when we don’t recognize their roles in promoting women’s empowerment as well as the different impacts of development, culture, and traditions on them as well.
In Chapter 2 of the Manual the following distinction is made between the concepts of ‘condition’ and ‘position.’
People want to develop their existing condition and they also want one other important thing, which is dignity in their family and society. Expression of opinion, choice, power, rights, making decisions, control over circumstances, etc. are needed to establish one’s dignity/status in the family and society. These qualities indicate the position of a person.
The Chapter goes on to list (see Handouts 126.96.36.199) the indicators of development of the individual, family, society, organization with the view that these types of discrimination between women and men are one of the main obstructions/constraints to the development of the individual, family, society, organisation and the state. I found the differentiation between condition and position to be quite simple yet so powerful and essential in enabling one to identify the status of individuals. How will raising the consciousness of the trainers and the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs to understanding the barriers of discrimination that exist in Bangladesh bring about real change? Is there any provision for this to be recorded and evaluated in the short and long term?
The manual begins with statistical evidence about the clear disparity between men and women in several social, economic and political indicators, both internationally and within Bangladesh . Experience showed us that this was necessary because many men in our first trial runs of the manual strongly held the view that there was no discrimination in Bangladesh . Many privileged public servants are in families where women too have been privileged with educational and life choices. So in tackling gender awareness by intuitively beginning with the concepts of sex, gender, condition and position etc we came up against a brick wall. Now we first present the clear available statistics about inequality and we ask participants in gender training programs to collect and record evidence of disparity.
Evaluation is a great challenge. Every one of our workshops and courses begins with a questionnaire to discover what is already known about gender concepts, values and attitudes and at the end of each course another questionnaire determines any change in these. But as usual the proof of progress will be in changes in behaviour. This will be facilitated by accompanying systemic change and legislative change as elsewhere in the world.
The Ministry of Women and Children Affairs should make it a habit to ask the question “What are the different impacts of work in this area on women and men” before starting any piece of work at all – and then seek answers from colleagues, discussion networks, gender experts, etc; ensuring that gender equality and women’s empowerment are factored into consultant terms of reference; and conducting regular gender audits of program processes and outcomes.
What has motivated you to take on a new position in Rwanda in 2006?
I have had both long and short term positions in several countries in Asia and the Pacific but only short term positions in African countries. When I was approached about this position with SNV, which recently gained its independence from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I saw this opportunity as one to fill in this professional career gap as well as giving me the chance to work with wonderfully strong African women. For example Rwanda is at the top of the world in representation of women in national Parliament with 48 percent female politicians. Women have participated in the colonial and racist struggles of Africa and are finding their place in the struggles they still face through gender discrimination. This advisory position brings together my experience in both governance and gender and my SNV portfolio covers nine countries in both East and South Africa so I am extremely fortunate to be in another learning experience and hopefully will soon be able to contribute as well.
In addition the philosophy of SNV, whose core task is to play a constructive role wherever possible in improving the lives of the poorest people in the poorest countries on earth, fits with my recent learning to move away from project work and choose the path of enhanced professionalism in a strictly advisory practice, mainly focusing on civil society.
At the age of 65 it may appear a bit ridiculous to still be talking about a career, but my mother is now 93 and still has a strong mind, so I see 20-30 good years ahead of me. While I can contribute something from my very privileged life experience to these countries and peoples that, while culturally rich are in so much need, I hope to go on for many years.
Extracts from the Gender and Development Training Manual
Table 8.1.1: Gender Analysis Frameworks
1 Development Planning Unit Framework
Integrating gender perspectives into development practice
2 Moser Framework
Gender roles, access to and control of resources, gender needs
3 Harvard framework
Issues around access and control over resources and project cycle analysis
4 Longwe women’s empowerment framework
Women’s special needs to address gender gaps
5InstituteofDevelopment Studiessocial relations framework
Social relations, institutions, dimension of social relationships, intervention and needs
Source: PLAGE Project, MWCA 2002.
Training Materials 188.8.131.52
Stages and Indicators of Development
- Education, knowledge/Information
- Lack of inhibition
- Expres-sion of opinion
- Access to decision making and ability to make decisions
- Positive attitude
- Mobility in safety
- Ability to secure meaning-ful, properly recompensed employ-ment
- Reproductive rights
- Personal well-being
- Food intake
- Access to pure water
- Participation in social and cultural activities
- Equal treatment for all family members
- Participation in cultural activities
- Family acceptance
- Family planning
- Participation of boys and girls in education
- Social justice
- No superstition
- Reduced rate of terrorism
- Participation of women in social and cultural activities
- Marriage without dowry
- Reduced early marriage, polygamy and divorce
- Women’s participation in social activities
- Developed infrastructure
- Active social institutions
- Initiatives of cultural activities and practice
- Organisational policy and practice
- Proper management
- Action plans
- Working environment
- Organisational values and norms
- Efficient human resource management
- Team spirit
- Increased rate of education
- Increased per capita income
- Increased productivity
- Increased average life expectancy
- Reduced rate of infant and maternal mortality
- Decrease in oppression of women
- Proper application of law
- Labour force
- Free flow of Information
- Reduced rate of violence against women
- Political stability
- Good governance
- Good relations with other countries
- Social services
- Access to justice system