What could be more important than something that affects every woman and every man?

Some of East and South Africa’s sharpest equality experts got together over the course of a cold winter’s week in Sweden. The objective was to work with ICLD on finetuning the structure of the international training programme during which they will act as mentors over the coming 18 months.
This is the seventh round of “Gender Mainstreaming Local Democracy”, but the course design has been changed from the previous six rounds in order to ensure its impact. Another new element is the shifting of focus from Asia, via eastern Europe, to Africa. 30 or so participants have been selected from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda Zambia and are now preparing for the start-up in Uganda at the end of March.

Creating institutionalisation and ensuring democratic development at local level is, first and foremost, about establishing processes. This is why ICLD places great emphasis on designing the training programmes in such a way that all of the components are in place for supporting the participants so that the specific result of their own development process, and that of their teams, is institutionalisation.

Experts in gender equality

One of these components – and there are many such – is the presence of experienced mentors who possess different strengths in the fields of equality and change management and who are, of course, fully familiar with the specific conditions in the countries in question.

Read on to find out more about the mentors representing the four countries eligible to apply for the course:

Aggripina Mosha from Tanzania works as an independent consultant, having spent over 25 years – ever since the UN’s fourth global conference on the status of women in Beijing in 1995 – working to promote women’s place in development issues, capacity development and equality development. Aggripina has extensive experience of providing training on equality issues for politicians.

Susan Asio, a gender consultant and specialist who worked for several women’s rights and gender focused advocacy organizations. She is also a gender trainer and has done a lot of advocacy work and policy influence for equality development.

Jimmy Chulu, from Zambia, is a development philosopher, and has spent over 20 years studying local democratic development and gender equality budgeting, and has written a number of books on the subject.

Joan Kariuki is a lawyer with several years’ experience of policy issues who has dedicated much of her efforts to promoting women’s and girls’ access to justice through various civil society organisations in Kenya and to promoting the inclusiveness rights of women and young people.

New approach strengthens mentors
ICLD’s training programmes have always used mentors, but the structure has been slightly different. The regional mentors in the new Gender programme, are experts in the participant contexts in which the participants operate. The new programme will also afford the mentors greater scope for personal familiarisation with both the programme and the Swedish context before the programme begins.
“We’ve brought the mentors together in Sweden so they can get to know the lecturers taking part in the programme, and to paint them a picture of the Swedish context and of what the participants will experience, on site, when they visit Sweden. We want them to get to know one another and to develop into a team,” says Kristin Ekström, who has been responsible for the previous Gender programmes, and Anna Hedlund, who will take over responsibility when this new programme begins in March.

“For me, the knowledge sharing is one of the keys to success, building on the participants’ own experiences. A spark from a dedicated lecturer who is passionate about a particular perspective, who is maybe responsible for a current research project, or who can share a relevant tool, can inspire everyone to keep reflecting on the issue and to work towards capacity development,” says Anna.

The change management process is the key
All of the mentors have extensive experience of supporting processes and individuals in order to achieve institutionalisation. When they reflect on their role as mentors, and the changes they hope to see in the participating municipalities, it’s clear how the opportunities for institutionalisation are what is important.
What is your most important role as one of the programme’s mentors?
“The learning process is critical in the programme, so I hope that it leads to institutional establishment on the participant’s home ground. Our most important role as mentors is to facilitate, support and motivate the participants,” says Jimmy Chulu, who brings his experience as a mentor on other ICLD programmes to the table.
“I want to support them in the change process and, not least, support them in becoming enthusiastic about spreading their new insights and tools for gender mainstreaming outwards from their own county to other local areas in Kenya,” says Joan Kariuki.

What changes would you like to see the programme bring about?

“I’d like to see the analytic skills of these agents for change developed. I want to see practical tools for equality integration at the local level. There are laws at national level in Tanzania, but the local level needs tools for implementation if anything is going to happen,” says Aggripina Mosha.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing a more in-depth understanding of the importance of equality amongst the participants. And as a result of the team learning from each other and pooling their experiences, I’m seeing concrete plans and tools for development at a local level in Uganda,” says Susan Asio.

At a Gender Conference in Karlstad  Forum Equality
The mentors met briefly with former mentor in the
same programme, Torbjörn Messing, and shared experiences.

When theory and practice meet
The first days in Sweden gave the mentors the chance to meet equality experts at SKL and ICLD and to be introduced both to the programme and to equality integration as a method in Sweden.
Then it was on to Forum Jämställdhet Forum Equality in Karlstad, where they met with Swedish colleagues and familiarised themselves with the Swedish perspective on the position of equality with regard to a number of different issues. Aggripina, Jimmy, Joan and Susan then moved on to Lund.

After travelling to Lund, they were met by Ana Maria Vargas Falla, Anna Hedlund, ICLD Programme Officer responsible for the programme, and Annika Björkdahl, Professor of Political Science at the University of Lund and a member of the ICLD Advisory Group.

Joan Kariuki, Ana Maria Vargas Falla, Jimmy 
Chulu, Aggripina Mosha and Susan Asio in Lund.

Annika, who is researching the ways in which SDG goal #5 on Gender Equality is implemented at local government level, will be holding a workshop in May. As part of her ongoing research on this theme in Bosnia-Hercegovina, she has seen the positive impact of the sustainability goal, but has also seen a marginalisation, where the answer is often that the municipalities have bigger problems and challenges to tackle.
“What could be a bigger challenge than gender equality? How can something that affects not 50%, but 100% of the citizens not be important?” says Annika Björkdahl.
It’s at the local level that many of the gender equality goal indicators can make a difference and help bring about global sustainability: the local governments can act as role models in terms of equal pay for equal work, they can create secure environments for women, and they can help break gender norms in arenas where people are engaged on a local level, to mention but a few examples.
Generally speaking, both researchers and practitioners agree that both global and national laws and goals have not, as yet trickled down and taken root in municipalities and regions, according to Annika and Ana Maria, and the mentors all agree.

The processes lead to democratic development
“This is where everyone involved can help secure the processes as part of the change that will lead to us achieving the global goals. We can ask questions about the core areas for local democratic development – equality, participation, transparency, and accountability,” says Ana Maria Vargas Falla.
She cites, as an example, how elected representatives and administrative personnel need to constantly ask themselves, when developing their service, “Who will be excluded if we do this?”, “Who isn’t here and taking part?”, “How will this affect girls and women, boys and men?”, etc., in order to ensure the establishment of a sustainable, inclusive society. 

The room is tangibly filled with a mixture of passion, commitment and frustration. These people, who have worked to promote equality for over 30 years, are such a manifest resource for the training programme and the participants alike.
Annika Björkdahl shares the research she is carrying out in partnership with Lejla Somun in Bosnia-Hercegovina, and the strengths and weaknesses they have discovered. She discusses with the mentors the sort of issues she might raise when the participants arrive in Sweden in May for a two-week training session.

“That’s exactly how it is in Tanzania,!” exclaims Aggripina, and the other mentors concur when it comes to the need to increase the capacity for fact-based analyses that reveal existing gaps and possible benefits to society of increased gender equality. “We could use a gender audit in the municipalities – that’s something that could help us compare statistics.”

The need for measurements and tools
Everyone gets involved in a discussion of how the research source data in Annika’s ongoing study could be simplified and constitute an integrated study as part of the training course, whereby all of the participants and their colleagues in the respective municipalities are asked to answer a number of questions in order to provide a metric for the development of gender equality – a baseline that is so vital in measuring the results of the development partnership.
“Yes, because how else could we measure and monitor development as part of the programme or in the participants’ home municipalities,” says Susan, who often stresses the importance of tracking and measuring gender equality through gender-based statistics.

It’s easy to see the satisfaction of the Research Director, Ana Maria, and Programme Director, Anna Hedlund, who work constantly to ensure that all aspects of ICLD’s operations are interwoven and benefit from each other and thereby create a greater impact. As is the case here, when theory and practice meet to finetune a structure that will benefit many women and men involved in day-to-day democratic development work. And to ensure that they, in turn, work to promote equality, justice, and inclusive realities.

What are the biggest challenges in your country when it comes to integrating gender equality?
“The low capacity for gender analysis and the lack of passion for change that is a consequence of the lack of capacity. There is a shortfall when it comes to knowledge, capacity and self-confidence in terms of gender equality integration and what we need is for people to take responsibility and take the lead in a programme of change management in Tanzania. I’m glad that the programme has focused on this gap,” says Aggripina Mosha.

“At the end of the day, it’s about changing the way people think. We need a critical mass of desire for a real change if we are to achieve institutionalisation in Zambia. At the moment, we’re stuck at national level with the laws adopted. The local level must take responsibility for a big picture approach, for integrating every process with a gender perspective,” says Jimmy Chulu.

“The education system is one of the biggest barriers in Uganda – there’s a systematic restriction on women receiving proper education, and ultimately, this prevents them from becoming Members of Parliament, due to the system’s rules. But there are, of course, also cultural aspects that prevent women’s participation,” says Susan Asio and emphasises that there also is low understanding of gender equality as a mean to sustainable development and this is mainly hindered by the strong patriarchal norms that are infringed within the key development institutions and processes.

“We’re facing a backlash right now that will pose a real challenge. We have to get to grips with opinions that say we’re neglecting boys and men in our battle for equality. There really is an enormous backlash in Kenya and it’s killing debate. We need facts now, more than ever, if we’re not to lose ground,” says Joan Kariuki.