We live in a world where there are a hell of a lot of new inputs that need to be factored in to your business. It used to be just about your employees and your customers. Now there are all the issues about global warming, about sustainability, about ethics and now about gender and the distribution of wealth (Stuart Rose, n.d.).
This newness as proclaimed by Rose needs to be factored into the development planning of countries globally. It is not just a business world issue; it is a governance and leadership issue. According to the Meath County development plan 2013-2019, a development plan is a written document with accompanying maps that delineate the overall strategies of a particular government for proper planning and the sustainable development of a country or area. It normally states the broad plans of the government for specific areas, for example, infrastructure, housing, transport, and community development which are reinforced by more detailed objectives and policies. Development planning is important because it gives a vivid description of which sectors needs to be targeted for specific forms of development. Albert Waterston (1969) posited that a country’s development planning is influenced by the level of technical administrative and managerial competence, skilled manpower and the availability of natural resources. It is important to note that development planning is not homogeneous; it is different across countries and also different at different times within the same country. In addition, gender, according to Rhoda Reddock, refers to the socially constructed attitudes and behaviors that a society deems appropriate for either sex. Gender also refers to the power relations between men and women and who has access to which resources in society. Gender issues are important to be incorporated in development planning for a number of reasons. The main reasons gender issues are important to development planning are the international treaties the country may be a signatory to, to eliminate gender blindness in the planning, the allocation of resources, to eliminate stigma and discrimination, and to ensure that gender needs are being met effectively.
Important to the incorporation of gender issues in development planning is the fact that the country may be a signatory to international treaties. When countries are a signatory to these treaties it becomes a bond to which the government of the said country must report on the matters of the treaty. In Jamaica, for example, the country has been signatories to the United Nations human rights treaties, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Beijing Declaration and Platform for action and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). These two latter treaties focus on the empowerment of women and girls within society. The Beijing Platform for action posited that equality between men and women is a condition for social justice, a foundational prerequisite for gender equality, peace and development and also a matter of human rights (United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UNWOMEN), n.d.). Based on the statement of the UNWOMEN it is clear that countries signatory should seek to promote gender equality in development planning. Furthermore, goal five of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) speak to gender equality and goal 10 speaks to reduced inequalities. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the UN’s global development network, is committed to working with Jamaica’s government to ensure that women and girls are included in policy making etc. The SDGs is expected to guide the work and funding of UNDP. If the treaties are breached then it may affect the diplomacy of the country as well as its ease of trade. Gender equality is a human right issue; therefore, the inclusion of gender in development planning is considering basic human rights.
The exclusion of the view of human rights from development planning can lead to these plans being gender blind. Gender blindness is the “failure to recognize that the roles and responsibilities of women or girls and men or boys are ascribed to, or imposed upon, them in specific social, cultural, economic and political contexts”(European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), n.d.). Gender-blind planning does not take into consideration power relations and the unequal structures of gender relation. This leads to plans favoring one particular group above the others. Furthermore, when speaking about gender issues one must also consider vulnerable groups such as the transgressive sexuality groups, persons living below the poverty line, persons living with disabilities and persons in rural areas. Taking these groups into consideration when planning will give the country a head start towards development that facilitates all the resources, skills and talents of their country putting them in a better place for economic strength. To eliminate gender blindness the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action proposes that gender mainstreaming should be used. Gender mainstreaming was adopted also by the government of Jamaica as can be seen outlined in Jamaica’s National Policy for Gender Equality (NPGE). The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) (as cited in the United Nations Office of Special Adviser on Gender Issues, 2002) defines Gender mainstreaming as:
“…the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any
planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in all areas
and at all levels. It is a strategy for making women’s as well as men’s concerns
and experiences an integral dimension of the design, implementation,
monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic
and societal spheres so that women and men benefit equally and inequality
is not perpetuated. The ultimate goal is to achieve gender equality.” (ECOSOC, 1997).
Gender mainstreaming takes into account the experiences, knowledge, perceptions and interested of men and women of all spheres into the development process. Using gender mainstreaming is a necessity to ensure that development programmes and plans are not gender blind or gender neutral. It promotes equality in its deepest sense and can facilitate the elimination of elite capture. Elite capture occurs when local elites use their power or access to power to capture resources leading to inequitable conditions. A case study of Indonesia and elite capture reveals that “… elites who operate within the formal system are more likely to capture programs, while those who gain their power and influence through informal institutions are less likely to…”(Alatas, et al, 2013). When gender mainstreaming is employed then the government can see which sectors have the greater access to resources and which set of experience, knowledge, skills and whose interests are being considered in development planning. Since, gender issues also surround location, age, race, class, education, able-bodied etc. gender, mainstreaming assists in targeting each group based on their crosscutting needs. Waterston (1969) posited that at different stages there will need to be different development plans, for example, placing priority on the agricultural industry or roads to give access to different communities, etc. Based on Waterston’s writings it is clear that without a consideration for gender issues development planning stands to fail at achieving sustainability. Development planning should not be without the humans who the plan is for.
Another reason to include gender issues in development planning is the allocation of resources. Resource allocation is the epitome of development planning. It is of utmost important the policymakers of any country use the limited resources and the available budget so efficiently that the common man’s or woman’s life is better and that they reach the areas that are less developed in their country. This can only be done through them providing the basic necessities of the persons in their country. Resource allocation refers to the “…process of dividing up and distributing available, limited resources to competing, alternative uses that satisfy unlimited wants and needs…”(Shuqair &Abdel-Aziz, 2015). It is important to note that not every need and want of the people can be satisfied, therefore the need for effective resource allocation. Eliminating gender needs from development planning seriously affect how resources are divided and allocated. For example, if the budget keeps allocating money to the education sector and the education sector only focuses on the middle-class person who has access to education then what happens to the rest of human capital that does not have access to education?. While this is an example, too often this may happen to development planners who use the one size fits all approach and using gender-neutral language that speaks to all men as equals. Shuqair & Abdel-Aziz (2015) posited also that when resource allocation is not equitably distributed it means that the government is inefficient. Inefficiency in the distribution of resources leads to corruption, price distortion, social segregation, economic monopoly, and people trying to find other means of survival, instability and widens the gap between the people and their government; as people lose their trust in the government’s ability to assist with the provision of a better standard of living. A country cannot declare development until all sectors and persons are experiencing equity. Equity is not equality; equity means giving and trying to understand what each person needs to live a full and healthy life. When equity is considered in the allocation of resources as stated above, then there will be an understanding of how gender role socialization, agency, and access affects different people in different areas at different times. Equity in the allocation of resources from a gendered perspective can boost the country’s economic status by employing the skills of the persons that are needed for a particular place. This means that men and women would be able to exercise their innate skills for the jobs required for sustainable development. Because the Caribbean society is historically based on patriarchal and Christian beliefs, there lingers a belief in biological essentialism which means “the belief that women and men are different due to their biology and genetics. The difference in females and males make them naturally qualified to fill certain gender roles regardless of their intellectual skills, their experience, and abilities” (Lindsay, 2010). These beliefs can be exercised in this context to capitalize on these abilities and experiences for sustainable development.
Eliminating stigma and discrimination in development planning is important as a human right factor for any country. Salters-Pedneault (as cited in Healthy Place for your Mental Health, n.d.) posited that “…stigma is a perceived negative attribute that causes someone to devalue or think less of the whole person…” and discrimination according to the Emergency Operations Center (n.d.) is “…treating a person unfairly because of who they are or because they possess certain characteristics.” These two words together seem to walk hand in hand. This presents a reason for gender issues to be considered in development planning. When considering differences and hierarchies then one must factor in stigma and discrimination. Sociologists John Turner and Henri Tajfel in their work explained the concepts of the in-group and the out-groups which are the simplest way to explain stigma and discrimination in terms of development planning. Both groups are social groups to which individuals belong to and feel loyal to, and feel the need to hold contempt, compete or a sense of opposition towards the other. In-groups and out-groups can be formed on the basis of colour, class, hair type, location, ability, age, marital status, education, race, appearance, health status, and even religion. People are stigmatized and discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation, and even their HIV/AIDS status. This is evident in societies that are against same-sex marriages and relationships; that hold fast to certain religious beliefs. Normally, the laws of the country are written in the language of the religion. This tends to be a problem because policies are then not written to guide the assistance of these persons. They are often written out of development planning and finds themselves ostracized from access to resources provided by the government. This is not to say all persons who are sexually transgressive in a society do not get access. To clarify, there are many different groups of persons that persons consider transgressive. There are those who society considers in the category of sexual variants and then there are those that are under the category of sexual paraphilia. Both of these are considered by society to be unusual sexualities; however, sexual variants are more accepted while paraphilia are seen as taboo (eNotes, n.d.). A common example of a sexual variant is oral sex and an example of a paraphilia is homosexuality. The latter group, paraphilic, are the ones that seem to be ignored in the development process. Many people believe that sexuality is not important to discuss and therefore left out of development planning. When evaluating the power structure between men and women, and understanding which sex is able to negotiate for sex or condom use then sexuality is important to consider. Furthermore, sexuality has everything to do with reproductive health, abortion, mortality rate, infant mortality etc. which are all consider on the Human Development Index (HDI). Also, sexuality is directly tied up in the HIV epidemic and therefore policies cannot ignore sexuality. In addition, a few researchers believe that persons living with HIV/AIDS experience stigma and discrimination from the health sectors in the Caribbean because of homophobia. Homophobia is the hatred and fear of homosexuality. It is the belief of these authors that because health care workers have the statistic that the high risk group for HIV/AIDS is the homosexual community. A few persons have complained that they fear attending clinics because of the stigma and discrimination that persist because of their sexuality. In development planning considering these gender issues, policymakers are able to not plan from a heteronormative belief but from a realistic eye view.
Finally, it is important to consider gender issues because then the government can effectively address the gender needs of their country. There are two categories of gender needs that need to be considered by policymakers. These are the strategic gender needs (SGN) and the practical gender needs (PGN). The International Labour Organization (ILO) defines PGNs as:
…the needs women identify in their socially accepted roles in society. PGNs do not challenge, although they arise out of, gender divisions of labour and women’s subordinate position in society. PGNs are a response to immediate perceived necessity, identified within a specific context. They are practical in nature and often inadequacies in living conditions such as water provision, health care and employment… (ILO, n.d.).
The ILO went on to define SGNs as
… needs women identify because of their subordinate position in society. They vary according to particular contexts, related to gender divisions of labor, power, and control, and may include such issues as legal rights, domestic violence, equal wages, and women’s control over their bodies. Meeting SGNs assists women to achieve greater equality and change existing roles, thereby challenging women’s subordinate position.
Based on both the above definitions the development planning process taking into consideration the needs of both men and women can effectively address these. Though the ILO defines these gender needs as women needs, it would be wise to also declare that the needs of men should be considered when thinking about gender needs. Not all women are subordinate and not all men have access to power. Hence, a detailed calculation as to age, location, access, agency, and sexuality can be a good way to calculate what is necessary for each gender in each stage of the development planning. The PGN speaks to the socially constructed roles, which goes back to the essentialist theory mentioned above. The government can utilize these areas of strength in the development plan. Since sustainable development cannot be done without employing all the resources and human capital available then it is fair to assume that considering gender needs is an effective and important thing to consider in the planning process. Also, the belief that a woman’s place is in the home can be used as an arsenal in the development process. This means that when one considers the rigorous training of females and skills they are taught in the socialization process can be employed to develop the different areas starting even at the community level. Furthermore, if the policymakers need information about the communities they want to develop, they can employ the community members in the process. Natkaniec, Holdar & Zakharchenko (2002) posited that “when citizens engage in the research process they themselves become aware of their reality, they are able to reshape their identity, understand their history and transform their lives”. This transformation can dampen migration from the communities when community member begins to understand their own need and begin to take action to reshape their lives.
In concluding, the main reason to include gender issues in development as stated above will eliminate elite capture, promote development within communities which will then benefit the country, eradicate stigma and discrimination in the development processes which will, in turn, make room for those stigmatize. This will allow them to gain access as citizens and as humans. Development planning should not be done on a marginal basis; it should take into consideration everything and everyone in the area of the plan at the time of the plan. Gender issues allow the prioritizing of the allocation of resources while ensuring that the basic needs of the population are being met. Considering gender issues in development planning takes into consideration the gender division of labor, as said before more efficient use of resources, tapping into the local knowledge, and promotes better planning. Development planning that does not consider gender sensitivity is inefficient, ineffective and is not sustainable. Planning should be on the basis of human right and in accordance with the international treaties.
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