Gender and Citizenship
There are those for whom citizenship is a site of achievement, of power and validation of their place in the world - a way of achieving positive change and gaining a better standard of living for all groups. For others it can be a malign concept - exclusive, alienating or threatening - serving only to marginalise and exclude by allowing some in and expelling those who do not fit on the basis of gender, class or race. Some may say citizenship has “no relevance” to their lives, lives that are already too full with the pressures of daily life to consider participating in broader decision-making or struggles over rights. Yet many development workers have argued that using the language and the arguments of citizenship is a powerful way of working in development programmes that seek to bring about gender equality through focusing on people and how they interact with institutions. This Cutting Edge Pack looks at practical ways to use citizenship for these ends. It consists of: an Overview Report outlining the main arguments and approaches in regard to citizenship, gender and development; a Supporting Resources Collection providing summaries of case studies, tools, manuals and contacts; a Gender and Development In Brief newsletter made up of three short articles on the theme.
This Overview Report looks at how feminists and women's rights activists have sought to reframe citizenship from a gender perspective. It also looks at how struggles for women's rights must be seen as citizenship struggles that affect everyone in society rather than “minority interests”. This idea of citizenship has been used to tackle exclusion on the basis of gender, for example with political quotas and affirmative action. It has also been used to challenge the prevalent definition of the public/private divide which results in lesser attention to the needs of those considered to be in the 'private' realm, usually women. Within this report many engaging examples are given of collective action to claim rights, participate and gain influence, and an exploration is made of how these can lead to more meaningful forms of citizenship for those who have hitherto been excluded.
Recommendations from the Overview Report
- Issues that are 'left out' of citizenship rights – such as the safety of women in their own homes, childcare and sexuality − need to be addressed and given public, and/or institutional solutions.
- In order for women’s citizenship to be acknowledged, institutions including the state, civil society and families, need to incorporate their perspective into all areas of activity. This can be achieved through gender mainstreaming in all policy areas, even those that are supposedly “gender neutral”.
- Affirmative action needs to be initiated to increase numbers of women in formal political structures and other decision-making bodies as an effective way to kick-start processes of change towards gender equality.
- Needs assessments are crucial to enable development initiatives to be based on the experiences of real people. Participatory assessments and consultations have the potential to put gender differentiated needs on the policy agenda.
- Good quality gender analysis is also essential. Policy-makers must be trained in the technical skills of gender analysis and planning.
- Policy-makers and project implementers should support social movements, including human rights and gender equality NGOs, through resources, capacity-building and provision of training in advocacy and lobbying skills.
- Spaces must be created and utilised for dialogue between civil society organisations and government.
- The creation of networks amongst those working on similar issues must be supported in order to foster dialogue, gain information and develop effective strategies.
Specific recommendations for women’s civil society organisations
- Civil society groups need to create a role for themselves as providers of valuable information to policy-makers on women’s needs, gender discrimination and potential strategies.
- Groups need to be aware of entry points into decision-making and policy dialogues – such as processes of law reform, new governments and administrations, or important local, national and international events.
- Groups need to invest time and resources in skills training, particularly in advocacy and lobbying.
Citizenship is an abstract concept and therefore great care must be taken in explaining what it means in practice and what can effectively be done in the context of development interventions and policy. Development projects which enhance the ability of marginalised groups to access and influence decision-making bodies are implicitly if not explicitly working with concepts of citizenship. Citizenship is about concrete institutions, policy and structures and the ways in which people can shape them using ideas of rights and participation. This Supporting Resources Collection aims to point development policy-makers and practitioners towards key resources to help promote gender equality through rights and participation. The resources show how development projects can understand and acknowledge the roles of men and women - their gendered citizenship - and work for processes of positive change of, and within, these roles. The collection is made up of summaries of key texts, case studies, tools and guidelines and other materials.
In Brief is a six page newsletter that aims to stimulate thinking on a priority gender theme. This edition focuses on gender and citizenship, starting with an overview and recommendations followed by two distinctive case studies highlighting practical responses to key issues. The first is an article on Naripokkho in Bangladesh, which looks at re-framing citizenship rights and responsibilities to include the needs of women and to ensure their access to policy and institutions. People's understandings of citizenship differ according to context, and change through time. The second piece highlights cross-border anti-violence work in the US and Mexico, looking at how concepts of membership and belonging are re-negotiated as new alliances are formed in the light of shared interests.