Focus on gender: clear impact for donors

Key Finding:  International actors, including donors, have had significant positive impacts on supporting civil society and state actors to improve the sensitivity of TJ measures to gender, but this dimension needs to be incorporated early.

Practical Steps

Ensuring that TJ is sensitive to gender is a critical issue for victims and survivors. TJ initiatives—which are intended to promote an idea and practice of citizenship—should not reproduce and reinforce gender-based marginalization. It is particularly important that gender-sensitive aspects of TJ initiatives are built into programming at the early stages, because this helps to build comprehensive programs. Initiatives that are “tacked on” to TJ measures risk being poorly funded and dislocated from broader efforts, negatively affecting their impact.

"Women's organizations did not represent women victims…The women's movement was not knowledgeable about how women were integral to TJ… They did not have a gender lens on TJ."

Civil society actor Morocco

The role of gender in TJ processes is complex; it relates not just to recognition of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), but also to broader patterns of gender-based marginalization. Lamentably, some national TJ processes have not included SGBV in the mandates for their investigations. When SGBV is included, it is important to acknowledge that both women and men may be victims—especially as there have been instances of TJ when SGBV has been defined in terms of violence only against women. Further, women and men may experience human rights violations differently, or suffer different consequences when they happen. For example, when a male head of household is disappeared or imprisoned, women must bear responsibility for feeding the family, sometimes falling into deep poverty. Finally, in many countries, women as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) communities are deeply marginalized and not engaged in public processes.

One positive example of TJ efforts modeling an inclusive approach to citizenship took place in Uganda, where a partnership between a women’s network comprised of Lord’s Republican Army (LRA) abductees and national and international CSOs led to a petition in parliament requesting reparations for women victims of sexual violence from Acholiland, which was unanimously adopted in 2014. Significantly, representatives of the women’s network, rather than the national CSOs, personally presented the petition to Uganda’s parliament—a step that signals recognition of the women (and their network) as legitimate political actors, and that suggests acknowledgment of these women as citizens whose rights had been violated.

Gender sensitivity for TJ has gained traction in recent years—in places like Tunisia and Kenya—usually through a combination of local leadership (often, but not always, a woman leader) and international technical and financial support. Yet there are many challenges. Perhaps the most significant is the “invisibility” and silence around SGBV in many cultures, and the fact that victims of SGBV may be severely stigmatized in their own communities. Another factor is a lack of technical expertise in knowing how TJ can and should deal with integrating gender. Even local women’s organizations may not be well equipped to bring a “gender lens” to TJ.

In this sense, international expertise can be helpful, including cross-national, peer-to-peer learning. International experience has stressed the importance of linking TJ to actions that can be transformative for women; they stress that guarantees of nonrecurrence should consider incuding:

  • Reforms of justice processes that make it easier for women to file criminal complaints, serve as witnesses, and claim compensation for SGBV from compensation funds (among other things)
  • Reforms of family and inheritance laws – and especially ensuring that reparations programs do not reproduce the unfairness of local systems
  • Enactment and enforcement of laws against SGBV, where they are weak or nonexistent
  • Constitutional reforms to guarantee women’s right to participate, including steps to reduce gender gaps in the political system
  • Official apologies to women victims and public acknowledgement of the contributions and specific needs of women

Practical Steps – Focus on gender

Use the RFP strategically.

Donors can make a significant impact simply by signaling their commitment to gender sensitivity in their calls for proposals—integrating it fully into programs, rather than leaving it as an afterthought. Consider including gender as a crosscutting theme in every call for proposals (or general funding strategy) on TJ.

Support initiatives with a strong understanding of SGBV.

In funding gender-sensitive civil society actions, it is not enough to fund women’s organizations—these may not always bring a “gender lens” to TJ. Rather, grantees should demonstrate a clear grasp of the issues, which might be addressed through two tests: 1) being able to articulate the harms experienced by women who are indirect victims of political violence and 2) articulating a truly gender-based approach that recognizes both male and female victims of sexual violence.

Incorporate capacity building and networking.

Since organizations dealing with sexual violence may be new in many countries (where sexual violence may be a taboo subject), it is important to ensure that capacity building and networking activities are built into grants.

Think holistically.

A combination of direct services, empowerment, and structural change may be necessary to change women’s lives; on a smaller scale, keep in mind that to ensure women’s participation, there may be a need for special provisions for child care and travel away from the family