Global Resources

Gender Accountability: Services Fail Poor Women

Author: A. Evertzen
Publisher: Gender Diversiteit Annette Evertzen
Publication Date: Jan 2008
What role can donors play in ensuring that women and girls are able to claim their right to equal access to basic services? How can donors help ensure these services are gender-sensitive? This paper considers what is needed in order to make public services - mainly health and education - work for poor women. It argues that services often fail poor women and girls in three key respects:

?Women often have poor access to services because they do not have time to travel to reach them due to the 'double burden' of paid work and care work, because of cultural restrictions on female mobility, or because they cannot afford to pay for services (women generally have lower incomes than men)
?Public reporting systems often have no information on the number of women and girls making use of public services, or on the specific problems women encounter
?Service providers often lack knowledge about women's specific needs and rights, and women often experience discrimination when they interact with service providers. One example is the high level of sexual harassment in schools.

The paper argues that successful service delivery to poor people requires that clients have voice and influence in the process of service design and delivery. It presents methods - such as participatory planning and gender budgeting - to strengthen the voice of poor women, and help ensure that both women's and men's concerns and priorities are taken into account. But it also recognises that tools and training are not enough; if women's perspectives on poverty reduction priorities disappear once the consultative stage is over, or if the results of a gender budgeting process are ignored, then nothing will change. Women's organisations, other civil society organisations and donors therefore have an important role to play in holding governments and providers accountable with respect to women's empowerment and gender equality. Guidelines are presented to support donors in strengthening accountability with respect to public services. These include: provide and demand sex-disaggregated data in all documents to make gender biases visible, promote gender auditing systems and gender budgeting initiatives, and carry out assessments and evaluations to measure outcomes and impact of service delivery with regard to gender equality.