Gender and Governance

Put simply, governance refers to decision-making by a range of interested people (or 'stakeholders') including those in formal positions of power and 'ordinary' citizens. These decisions have a huge impact on the ways in which women and men lead their lives, on the rules they are expected to abide by, and on the structures that determine where and how they work and live. They also shape how public resources are allocated and whether services take account of both women's and men's needs and interests.

Yet women are often excluded from decision-making, from the household to the highest levels of government and beyond to the global level. Governance processes - emphasising accountability, transparency, responsiveness and inclusiveness - should be a means to social transformation. But they are failing to deliver. This Cutting Edge Pack hopes to inspire thinking on gender and governance, including how we can ensure that the principles of inclusive, accountable governance go beyond rhetoric. It includes an Overview Report outlining key challenges and opportunities for change, a Supporting Resources Collection providing summaries of key texts, tools, case studies and contacts of organisations, and a Gender and Development In Brief Bulletin with three short articles on the theme.

Gender and Governance: Overview Report

With their focus on democracy, transparency, accountability, inclusive citizenship and participatory processes there is huge potential in the ideas and practices of governance to catalyse real change in terms of gender equality. However, this potential remains largely untapped. This Overview Report points to the failure to challenge the entrenched unequal, gendered power relations and other forms of exclusion that have been built into governing processes and institutions for centuries. It argues that gender equality in these decision-making fora is vital, both for enabling far-reaching social change and for empowering people excluded from decision-making on the grounds of their gender. This report considers how we can ensure that the principles of inclusive, accountable governance go beyond rhetoric. Through an examination of innovative work on gender and governance, the report highlights where opportunities lie for achieving gender-sensitive governance processes and institutions.

Recommendations from the Overview Report

The key recommendation headings are outlined below, for full details on this please see pages 63-68 of the Overview Report.

Identifying solutions

  • Enabling greater inclusiveness in governance institutions and processes
  • Increasing gendered responsiveness of governance institutions
  • Improving accountability and transparency of governance institutions
  • Improving processes for those holding governance institutions to account
  • Ensuring institutional standards of equity and adherence to the rule of law
  • Improving citizens rights, particularly those of women

Cross-cutting strategies

  • Gender mainstreaming
  • Developing effective gender and governance indicators
  • Using a rights-based approach to governance
  • Creating new institutions and mechanisms
  • Shifting mind-sets
Gender and Governance Cutting Edge Pack - Supporting Resources Collection

This Supporting Resources Collection showcases existing work on gender and governance. It provides summaries of a mix of conceptual and research papers, policy briefings, advocacy documents, case study material, and practical tools from diverse regions and disciplines. Focusing on different aspects of governance, the resources are organised into those dealing with: gender and governance broadly; government; global governance; civil society; and the community and household. They help to address a wide range of questions including: how can we reframe understandings, goals and practices of governance to put gender equality and the realisation of rights at its centre?; how can we analyse governance institutions and processes from a gender perspective to expose gender-blind policy and discriminatory practices?; and how can governments - as central and essential instruments of governance - work with and be influenced by other locations of governance such as household, community, national, or global institutions? Finally, this collection contains a 'networking and contacts section which gives details of the organisations featured in the Cutting Edge Pack. Details of how to obtain copies or download the full texts of all featured resources are provided with each summary.

Gender and Development In Brief ‘Gender and Governance’ – edition 21

In Brief is a six page newsletter that aims to stimulate thinking on a priority gender theme. This edition focuses on gender and governance, starting with an overview and recommendations followed by two distinctive case studies highlighting practical responses to key issues.

This In Brief maps out persistent obstacles to gender equality in governance, such as the gender imbalance in positions of authority. It also offers possible ways forward - including making rights central to governance, and building political will for change. The case studies from the Philippines and Egypt show how the combined efforts of governance bodies and civil society can play a key role in ensuring that gender-transformative legislation is initiated and implemented. It forms part of the BRIDGE Cutting Edge Pack on Gender and Governance.