Formulation of goals a big challenge for GMGA agencies
Gender and gender equality are knowledge domains. Thus, extensive analysis is required in order to describe what gender inequality looks like in different activity areas. Only then can goals be formulated for gender equality work at different levels. In a survey of the participants in the Swedish programme titled Gender Mainstreaming in Government Agencies (GMGA), many agencies respond that this is a big challenge.
In late March, the Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research presented a progress report for the programme to the national government. The report summarises the work completed in the GMGA programme in 2015. The purpose of the programme is to strengthen the gender mainstreaming work in Swedish government agencies and in so doing contribute to the achievement of the Swedish national gender equality objectives. The Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research has been given the responsibility to support the government agencies in their work.
The report points to big differences in the agencies’ gender mainstreaming work. Their assignments and instructions vary greatly, and so do their interactions with citizens and society. They differ in size and focus, as well as in knowledge and length of experience with gender mainstreaming. All of this requires extensive work by the involved agencies to formulate what gender mainstreaming means in the context of each respective agency, what the problems are and what goals and methods are appropriate.
‘The agencies in the GMGA programme represent many different activity areas. When reading and analysing the action plans, it becomes clear that gender mainstreaming means different things depending on an agency’s specific assignment. The agencies are wrestling with the issue of what gender mainstreaming means to them. This challenge can for example be seen in the fact that it is fairly common that gender mainstreaming is described as a goal instead of as a method to achieve gender-equal operations and services,’ says Klara Regnö, analyst at the Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research and author of the report.
Many agencies working with gender mainstreaming
It is a challenge for the GMGA support to meet the needs of all of the now 60 enrolled government agencies.
‘One part of the development of methods is to find new forms for strategic classifications of agencies in order to make it easier for them to learn from and support each other in the work. We have also developed the support in response to the need for further help with situation analyses and problem formulations that has been identified in the evaluation of the agencies’ work. It’s an exciting process of mutual learning,’ says Klara Regnö.
Most government agencies have begun their gender mainstreaming work. In 2015, they focused mainly on developing action plans, assessing and analysing the current gender equality status and carrying out information and dissemination measures. Many of the agencies who received their gender equality assignment in 2013, and therefore are well into the programme, indicate that they are currently in the operational development phase. Only 21 per cent of those that received the assignment in 2015 say they are in this phase, as most agencies in this group have just started and are not quite there yet.
‘It’s encouraging that about 60 per cent of the initial GMGA agencies are engaging in operational development since the mainstreaming assignment so clearly targets the agencies’ core operations. At the same time, this points to the importance of the Secretariat helping the remaining 40 per cent to get started with their operational development.’
Difficulties applying the national gender equality objectives
All Swedish government agencies are required to work towards the nationally declared gender equality objectives, but the great range of differences among the agencies imply great variation in the conditions for this work. Some agencies present thoroughly developed problem descriptions, but then it turns out that their core assignments offer limited opportunities to deal with the problems described in the plan. Some agencies find it difficult to address the problems connected to the national gender equality objectives, which makes it hard to base the gender mainstreaming efforts on these objectives. Nevertheless, most GMGA agencies relate to the gender equality objectives in some way, but many of them have problems defining how to apply them in their respective operations.
‘The survey shows that many agencies find it challenging to link their operations to the national gender equality objectives and to see how gender equality is relevant to their work. Breaking down the national gender objectives into sub goals would probably help the agencies prioritise what measures to take. The evaluations also show that the agencies have found it very valuable to be able to meet and discuss problems and priorities together with their Officers responsible for government agencies. Better feedback and follow-up by the ministries is explicitly requested by the agencies,’ says Klara Regnö.