Mainstreaming gender through cooperation, not competition

Published: 7 March 2015 16:37 CET

By Hossein Sharifara, Afghan Red Crescent Society

The Afghan Red Crescent Society has shown its dedication to ensuring gender issues are at the heart of its development plans by organizing a special conference on the subject. The National Society, in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) organized the event in February and invited external organizations, as well as staff and volunteers, to discuss gender in February.  “It is through knowing one another that we can act with complementarity to mainstream gender in our aid and service action plans effectively,” said Fatima Gailani, president of the Afghan Red Crescent Society.

Since the very beginnings, the society’s Gender Section has worked to foster good relationships with NGOs, government ministries and the corporate sector and has established a strong, evidence-based and principled plan to provide aid and support in the humanitarian field.

Based on the findings of the technical support of the IFRC gender project, the section Kabul Gender section of the society developed the idea of using conversation to find the right approach in tackling gender issues in the country.

Sara Afzali, head of the society’s  gender section, said that they had made great strides so far, but that there was still lots of work to be done. “So far we have had some success in mainstreaming gender in all our departments and sections. In training activities, education, health and job opportunities as well as participation in the society’s development plan and programmes,” she said. “Now that some targets have been met, we intend to create a cooperation mechanism with our partners to promote similar activities in a participatory approach. We believe that such a conference can help us share our findings and identify challenges, but also find more practical solutions.”

Nazila Jamshidi, Kabul IFRC gender manager, said: “Emergency interventions and lifesaving strategies have a greater impact when there is understanding of our different needs, interests, vulnerabilities, capacities and coping strategies.” She said it was vital to pay attention to gender equality in humanitarian work. “We must respect the equal rights of men and women and support their roles in provision of aid assistance. We need to pay attention to the fact that the rights and opportunities for both men and women should be enhanced.”

When time came for the working groups, participants focused on finding new solutions to improving the representation of women within the Afghan Red Crescent Society, and within society in general.

Areas identified as being key to improving this included better access to training and education, awareness of the specific needs of women, and the need for the formal identification of gender officers within the society. Groups also identified a lack of proper understanding of the significance of gender issues and proposed increasing cooperation among women to ensure better representation when defining and delivering operations or humanitarian action.