For many years, limited recognition of the synergies between gender equality, economic growth and poverty reduction has led to development policies and planning and budgeting frameworks that fail to take into consideration the differentiated needs of women and men. However, women are the backbone of rural economies throughout least developed countries and there is ample evidence that gender equality is central to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Actively supporting women’s full participation in economic, social and political life is a key factor in reducing poverty, enhancing economic growth and democratic governance, and increasing the well-being of women, girls and their families.
Even though the demand for incorporating gender perspectives into national development frameworks is increasing in all regions of the world, procedures, tools and methodologies to promote and monitor progress towards gender equality at the local level are still insufficient. To respond to this gap, in 2009 UNCDF and UN Women, in partnership with the Governments of Belgium and Austria, launched the Gender Equitable Local Development (GELD) Programme, an initiative that seeks to align policy planning, budgeting and public expenditure with women's priorities at the local level. GELD is currently rolled out in six pilot countries, including Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Ethiopia.
At the special session on the GELD programme at ‘Africities’, the most important forum for dialogue on decentralization, local governance and development in Africa, the high-level panel including Mrs. Aminata Mbengue Ndiaye, Minister of Livestock in Senegal and Mayor of Louga; H.E. Ambassador Johan Verkammen of Belgium; Mr. Marc Bichler, UNCDF Executive Secretary; senior government representatives of Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Senegal and moderated by Mrs. Christine Roth, UNCDF Deputy Executive Secretary, presented and discussed GELD’s achievements after 3 years of implementation in advocating for gender-responsive planning, programming and budgeting through funding mechanisms, policy debates and institutional reforms.
The evidence presented from Rwanda, Senegal and Sierra Leone reflected that local governments under GELD’s lead have inscribed gender equality into their local policies, identifying gender-sensitive investments through systematic planning processes. Participatory and inclusive planning, involving the local communities in the setup of annual plans, have led to gender sensitive resource allocation. The programme, through gender responsive capital investments, is helping to deliver basic services. The delegates from the three countries reported that through transparent and accountable processes an enabling environment has been created, fostering dialogue and trust, conducive to efficient service delivery. The provision of infrastructure for safe drinking water, health care, education and women’s economic empowerment all of which have accelerated the achievement and local ownership of the MDGs.
Most importantly, the GELD Programme is influencing national level policies.This change in mindset at the local authority level and within the community is producing landmark results and dividends which include tangible equitable benefits for women and men.
During the special session, Belgium congratulated on GELD’s successful approach on addressing people’s needs at the local level. Results from GELD programme presented during the vibrant debate provided crucial evidence that “Going Local” produces faster and better results. Participants unanimously agreed GELD’s approach should scale up and replicate within pilot countries as well as bring the lessons to a wider global platform.