Visit the South African National Department of Health’s online resource and news portal for more information regarding COVID-19: www.sacoronavirus.co.za

How gender mainstreaming improves communities

The world has been battling gender inequality for many years. It is a structural and social driver that underpins the state of power relations. It is a key determinant of how laws are developed, how policies are created, how society is organised and functions. It has proven to impact the level of economic growth in different countries. For example, the world bank cites the lack of opportunities for women entails a high economic cost for them, their households and their respective countries. 

In South Africa, the structure of provision and gender roles have evolved from how they were previously set up, where men were the sole providers and considered the heads of their households. Today, primary breadwinners are women, which means gender inequality places them at a huge disadvantage. This article explains that in South Africa, nearly 38 percent of households are headed by women. “That amounts to nearly 6.1 million homes in which women are the primary breadwinners.” This means women are financially responsible for the management of their households. 

The inequality is a bottleneck that blocks them from access to opportunities that will benefit their families and communities and ultimately help their countries achieve development potential necessary to expand the inclusive economy.

To tackle this, the government, in collaboration with public and private stakeholders, needs to create an environment conducive to the development of gender equality. That’s where gender mainstreaming comes into play. 

What is gender mainstreaming?

Gender mainstreaming refers to an approach to ensuring that the policies in place factor in the interests, concerns and challenges women face in all socio-economic settings. It speaks to the inclusion of women in all laws, policies and strategies from women’s perspective. It shapes the trajectory required to balance the scales of equal opportunities for both men and women in all levels of performances. 

The role of government in driving equality

The role of democracy is to ensure that all citizens have equal rights and access to opportunities targeted at improving their lives. Gender equality laws in South Africa have changed over the years to accommodate the needs of women. Enshrined in the Constitution is Act 39 of 1996 established by Commission on Gender Equality to “promote gender equality and to advise and to make recommendations to Parliament or any other legislature with regard to any laws or proposed legislation which affects gender equality and the status of women.” It’s a gender mainstreaming policy in South Africa that helps to advance the integration of gender considerations to ensure gender equality is realised.

Furthermore, The National Gender Policy Framework in South Africa, a central part of the Ministry of Women in The Presidency, was designed to meet the national goals, proposed central objectives, and identified expectations of the provisions of basic needs for women. It’s designed to prioritise women empowerment and gender equality to ensure that government approaches these challenges in an integrated manner and avoids irregular impact.

DBSA’s role in gender mainstreaming

The DBSA has recognised the important role of women empowerment, not only for individual development and success but also for economic development and growth. As a result, we have established a Gender Mainstreaming Programme aimed at infrastructure projects for women-led businesses. It is a programme established to procure funds, funnelling these funds towards large scale, women-led infrastructure projects in the energy, information and communications technology (ICT), transport and water and sanitation sectors. It aligns with our mandate and goal to stimulate inclusive worth and build prosperity for Africa.

Final thoughts

Gender mainstreaming is crucial in addressing gender inequality to ensure women empowerment. It ensures that women have equal access to opportunities that benefit their development and growth. It also ensures that women are active participants in the economy to stimulate inclusive expansion.

For gender mainstreaming to run its full course, various stakeholders in different areas must buy-in and commit to furthering the cause. In this article, we'll focus on the South African government and its responsibility in ensuring gender mainstreaming.