‘Going local’ Opens Great Opportunities to Advance Gender Equality in Africa
  • February 23, 2012

Governments and development partners need to increasing resources, or advocate for the allocation of increasing resources, towards gender-responsive local investments in order to effectively improve women’s empowerment. 

This was one of the recommendations in the Call for Action plan drawn up at the end of the Gender Equitable Local Development (GELD) Partners’ Regional Forum held in Johannesburg from 15 to 17 February.

In 2009 UNCDF, together with UN Women and Belgium, launched the Gender Equitable Local Development programme (GELD). GELD advocates for gender-responsive planning, programming and budgeting at the local level, and helps ensure that development policy and public expenditures are gender-equitable.

Currently being piloted in six African countries (originally initiated in Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Tanzania, in 2010 GELD was scaled it up to Ethiopia thanks to a generous contribution by Austria), the initiative allocates capital investment grants to local authorities to guarantee that development occurs in a gender-responsive manner.

By promoting broad-based, transparent and gender-sensitive participation in decision-making, GELD aims to motivate ordinary men and women at the community level to engage on development issues – while supporting the authorities and institutions who serve them to improve service delivery for all.

The central question of the first Partners’ Regional Forum was if – and how – local governments and decentralization policies can support and facilitate gender-equitable development; and, in particular, if GELD approach is sound and is delivering the expected results.

This question brought together over 100 participants from 6 countries for two days of discussion and debate in Johannesburg, South Africa.

“The GELD approach is sound,” said Mr. David Morrison, UNCDF Executive Secretary. “LDCs, although at very different paces, are engaged in decentralization and deconcentration of responsibilities and resources. This means that more and more decisions are taken locally and that sub-national authorities assume increasing responsibilities for service delivery. In this context, the local level is key to advance gender equality.”

The case studies presented by the five participating countries demonstrated there is evidence that the GELD approach is working.

First, in all 5 countries GELD has strongly contributed to improved participatory planning and budgeting processes in a way that can benefit women. Second, positive changes at the local level are starting to influence the National level. Last, but not least, there is evidence that GELD is contributing to a change of mentalities and mind-sets towards gender issues in all five pilot countries.

Delegates also agreed that there was a need to strengthen the skills, competencies and abilities of local government leaders in gender-responsive planning, budgeting, procurement, monitoring and evaluation, and reporting. In addition, the enhancement of local communities’ participation, men and women, in partner local governments’ own decision-making processes, in ways that are consistent with the pursuit of gender equality.