4 March 2020 | GOA, India – UCLG ASPAC, in close collaboration with the All India Institute of Local Self Government (AIILSG), continues its commitment to promote gender equality in local governance through the 2nd Women Leadership Workshop 2020 (WLW2020), with the theme “Mainstreaming Gender Perspective in Local Governance.” The one-day event held in Cida de de Goa (India) on 4 March 2020 was attended by more than 200 participants representing local and central governments, local government associations, universities, non-governmental organisations, women’s and special interest groups. This event was organised as part of the South Asian Cities Summit 2020 that took place on 5-6 March 2020.

The WLW2020 was designed to address gender inequalities in decision-and policy-making, as well as delivery of public services and space, at the local level. The workshop also introduced various approaches and strategies for gender mainstreaming in local government decision-making processes through the presentation of good practices, programmes, structures and mechanisms. The workshop also contributed to strengthening the capacity and participation of women leaders in governance.

The workshop was opened by Mr. Ranjit S Chavan, President, AIILSG and Co-President of UCLG ASPAC, who emphasised the increasing awareness amongst women of South Asian countries regarding their social and economic backwardness. This Workshop was divided into four segments: understanding linkages between SDGs and local planning; South Asian perspectives and opportunities of gender equality; methodologies and strategies to promote gender mainstreaming; and gender budgeting.

Chief Guest of the Workshop, Mrs. Rekha Sharma, Chairperson, India’s National Commission for Women said that by promoting women’s equality, we do not only progress on SDG 5 but a holistic growth is ensured. “Gender equality is not only a basic human right but a necessary foundation for a peaceful and sustainable world,” Sharma said. She highlighted the gravity of women’s issues across the globe via her presentation, which pointed out the disparity in pay, participation in governance, education, amongst other important issues. Promoting women entrepreneurship, increasing women’s financial independence through financial service, working with vulnerable sects, developing skills, and promoting equal education opportunities are some of the ways that could help in mitigating the challenges faced by women at present.

Ms. Yagya Kumari, Deputy Mayor from Chaubise Municipality, Nepal in her address, shared to the audience that Nepal has ensured over 40 per cent women representation in local government and 33 per cent in political parties. She added that Nepalese government is targeting more participation of women in entrepreneurship and education with their new initiatives.

The Economist and Member of the 15th Finance Commission, Government of India, Dr. Lahiri, presented the gender budgeting statement of the Union Government. “In recent times, the gender budgeting has increased 10-folds, but the question still arises: Has it caused any change?”, the economist contemplated. He urged everyone not to only look at the numbers, but also check how the money has been spent. He also called for the development of 100 per cent women specific budget allocation for the future to actually see the targeted benefit and grow from the investment.

Speakers representing the academia, social entrepreneurs, local politicians, mayors, city officials such as from New Taipei, and Ms. Lakshmi Puri, Former Assistant Secretary General, United Nations, shared their experiences in empowering women and promoting gender equality. Representing Penang was Ms. Haziqah Nasirah, Head of Department of Gender Inclusiveness, Penang Women Development Corporation (PWDC), who shared the experience of Penang in incorporating gender equality principle in city budgeting. UCLG ASPAC has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with PWDC and UN Habitat in relation to capacity building and gender inclusiveness in 2019 during the 7th Asia-Pacific Urban Forum. Bringing PWDC to WLW2020 is part of UCLG ASPAC’s commitment to gender mainstreaming in local governance.

Driving the points home, Dr. Bernadia Irawati Tjandradewi, Secretary General of UCLG ASPAC, facilitated an interactive live survey with participants on their personal experience in gender inequality. Some of the questions are on the participants’ current experiences of gender inequality, challenges in incorporating gender perspectives in decision making, and how participants can change and fix the situation in the position they are currently in.  When asked about their confidence to change, most participants responded “Yes, we are.”

Based on the live survey, participants felt that gender inequality is still present, especially in issues related to job opportunities, political participation, income and renumeration, education and scholarship and public services and spaces. They have also seen challenges in promoting gender equality, including lack of community participation, lack of political will, gender stereotyping, and culture differences.

Participants of the workshop indicated the following solutions to achieve gender equality: gender budgeting, affirmative action (through quota system), behaviour change, and extensive educational reform.

When asked what would be the enabling environment required to empower women and promote gender equality, participants answered that change in men’s attitude, support from government, policy intervention, and financial support, were most needed.

Participants were also asked what they could contribute to reduce the gender gap  and responded with the following: conducting training and capacity building, supporting women economics’ empowerment, changing attitude toward women, and driving policy change.

The WLW2020 concluded with a Declare-your-Action document that stated the collective commitments expressed by the organisers, speakers, and participants of the workshop throughout the one-day event.

CLICK HERE to access Declare-your-Action document