Three Steps to Help Women Have More Say in Local Government
At the beginning of the program, women’s participation in planning processes of local bodies was very low to almost non-existent. The gender and social inclusion targets made a real difference in getting women’s voices heard, as a chorus, in the allocation of the 35% of local development funds to meet their specific priorities.
Social mobilizers, 49% of whom were women, were responsible for mobilizing women, sensitizing women and men, and setting up gender inclusive bodies. In line with the gender equality and social inclusion plan, the formation of ward citizen forums was initiated in almost all districts resulting in 44% female membership, a total of 346,489 women, amounting in all to an increase of almost 100% female participation.
As indicated by an executive secretary of a program municipality – the presence of the women on the committee, even if their contribution was passive, was a salutary reminder to the male members that allocations had to be made for women’s prioritized projects. This point was also reiterated by some male members of the ward citizen forum. A male municipal committee member also said that “The presence of women in these decision-making groups obligated other members to take account of women’s views on funding priorities.”
In another village development committee, the women said that they sat quietly at meetings and did not volunteer their views, “but this did not mean that we did not comprehend what was going on at the meetings.” Their presence generated a discussion on the 35% targeted spending for women, children and disadvantaged groups.
Another important achievement of the program was the formation and adoption of the gender and social inclusion policy by the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development and subsidiary bodies. It placed gender and social inclusion issues firmly on the local governance agenda, even if it was not entirely accepted across all the local governance structures. Most local government staff members are now aware of the requirement for women and disadvantaged groups representatives in all planning committees and their required inputs on project funding decisions. Over 70% of local staff members in all 75 project districts participated in gender and social inclusion awareness raising so that the gender and social inclusion policy and its integration into local government processes was widely disseminated. Overall, how race, ethnicity, gender and socio-economic class intersect, converge and conflict are now better understood.
The views expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Asian Development Bank, its management, its Board of Directors, or its members.