Online Toolkit

Part 4 - Key Concepts, Models, and Tools

Gender Mainstreaming

It is important to analyse a conflict in order to create peace. However, there are not only different actors in conflict mapping, these actors also have different genders!

Gender often comes up when talking about conflict and peace. It has become an internationally recognised term, that practitioners in the fields of development and peace-building use widely. Nonetheless, it is a term that confuses people. Just like the concepts of peace and conflict, there are different interpretations of gender. We will not go into detail here, but hand you a generally accepted idea about what gender actually is, and how it can be a tool in this Peace Bag.

To be clear from the start: gender is not the same as sex, and it is not only about women. Gender in general refers to the socially constructed roles appropriate for men and women in any society at any given time, governed by power relations. These constructed roles lead to differences in behaviour, activities, needs, opportunities and available resources. These differences result out of whether you are born male or female, or whether you present yourself as male or female. Gender roles are established through socialisation processes, which mean they are not static and fixed, but changeable over time and different contexts. Gender is not a term in isolation, and it should be seen and treated as a cross cutting socio-cultural variable, intersecting with other variables such as age, class, and ethnic group.

GENDER are socially constructed roles for men and women. SEX refers to the biological attributes of men and women.

Increasingly, the idea has grown that a developed and peaceful society cannot exist without true gender equality. Gender equality does not mean that women and men have to become the same, but that there should be no differences in the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of individuals. Gender equality implies that all individuals enjoy the same rights, regardless of whether they are male, female or from another gender identity. A tool used in the promotion and realisation of gender equality is "gender mainstreaming."

Because gender is a cross cutting socio-cultural variable, it is intrinsically linked to the topics discussed in this toolkit: peace (building), conflict and youth. The term gender itself does not look like it fits in there but gender equality is embedded in all descriptions of peace. In fact, gender is even more pressing since women are, and have been, seriously neglected in all areas of peace-building.

Unfortunately, gender is all too visible in violent conflict as well. And it is here where its most horrible face comes to the surface. In conflict, gender transforms into a symbolic battleground, next to the actual reality of conflict that people find themselves in.

We can reflect on our role in gender mainstreaming by asking the following:

- Who are the target groups of our activities?

- Do our activities allow for equal participation of men and women? Are there any factors to be taken into account?

- Do we tend to automatically assign tasks according to traditional gender roles?

- Do we use inclusive language like "he or she" when we do not know the gender of a person, instead of generalising "he"?

- Are both men and women actively involved in the decision making of the organisation?

- Do these decisions affect them differently?

- How do we represent images of gender roles? Do we follow certain stereotypes?
Gender mainstreaming is a political and administrative technique to identify the impacts of existing structures and relations on gender, to predict and evaluate outcomes of certain actions, and to correct those perpetuating injustice.

It enables peace organisations to address gender injustice in all spheres of political, social and economic work. This technique helps to consider differences in needs of women and men, girls and boys most efficiently, as the gender perspective is included into all stages of project development.

Gender mainstreaming is often perceived as work that should be done by official state administrations or large international organisations. It is also often seen as a set of requirements imposed by donors, which does not really make a difference in a small youth organisation.

Despite this belief, gender mainstreaming tools are easy to apply to small youth peace organisations and may significantly improve your peace-building work.

Gender analysis frameworks in youth work

When young people work, organise, socialise and learn together, gendered dimensions of youth work are present and must be taken seriously. [102]

Several frameworks have been developed in order to "gender mainstream" development projects. This may sound vague and not fitting for a small scale youth (led) project, but it entails no more than going through your whole project cycle (from the initiation to the follow-up phase) with a gender lens. It means that you have to think of the impact every step will have on men, women, boys, and girls, and if/how gender equality is taken into account. One very powerful and widely used tool in project management is to do a gender analysis. It is about analysing the different gender roles, needs, accessible opportunities, resources and activities of women and men, boys and girls. It brings you gender specific data and information about them, ensuring your project will not sustain inequality or let only one specific group benefit.

In a project cycle this means that you will have to analyse your process in relation to these gender roles, needs, accessible opportunities and resources. The result will help you make a good assessment of the outcome your project will have on both men and women, boys and girls, ensuring they all benefit. In addition, you can avoid stereotyping or making incorrect assumptions before starting your project. A thorough gender analysis will minimise the risk of perpetuating inequality and injustice, and help you achieve the positive social change you want with your project!

Importance of mainstreaming gender into youth work?

Gender mainstreaming does not mean simply counting how many men and women you have in your group to ensure equal numbers, nor is it about having special activities for these groups, although these can be part of it.

As youth organisations, we aim to increase the meaningful participation of young people in society. Gender mainstreaming is important to ensure that different gender perspectives are being represented in youth activities, projects and training. It reflects on the nature of the opportunities we provide, and is a critical part of our transformative approach.

In Part 5, you will find some practical tools that support how you can reach gender mainstreaming, balance and equality within your activities.

For more information on gender mainstreaming, consult the following resources: