Gender as a key consideration in development work is not new.
It is just being given greater consideration across different sectors and by more actors.
There is also a shift in the primary, if not singular focus on the challenges and inequities faced by women and girls to include issues, impacts, and challenges faced by men and boys.
In fact, gender and development has been a topic in academic circles since the 1950s. It gained greater popularity and saw more forward action in the 1970s.
So, is it new to the Caribbean?
Absolutely not, as in the global community there is a greater focus and increased consideration by more actors in development. One need not go further than The Message (1976), by Neville Martin which included political praise for Jamaica’s Employment (Equal Pay for Men and Women) Act of 1975.
The lines “He gave I a message to all those people who nuh love progress, say to jook them with land lease, say to jook with land lease, jook them with the pioneer corps, jook them with the pioneer corps, jook them with JAMAL, then you jook them with free education, jook them with free education, equal pay for women, equal pay for women”; jook them with the minimum wage”. Speaks to gender consideration in development in Jamaica for at least four decades.
In 1998, I joined the USAID funded ACES Project of the Construction Resource and Development Centre (CRDC), a Jamaican not-for-profit and Environmental NGO, that was established in 1983 to deliver and support work for improving shelter standards in Jamaica and the Caribbean.
Gender was a key component in the development of all training materials, social marketing, design and development of solutions, as well as in the management arrangement for solutions to be administered by community groups― where applicable.
The Women’s Construction Collective (WCC), a successful project of the CRDC, also established in 1983, with the purpose being― to provide employment, as well as to increase and improve the status and participation of women in Jamaica’s construction sector is another example of gender consideration. The first cohort comprised of women from the inner-city community of Tivoli Gardens in Jamaica.
WCC shared compound with CRDC and part of my responsibility was to manage the information center that was served by both entities. In fact, though I was on a contract to the ACES Project (Advancing Cooperation for Water, Sanitation, Health and Environment), I quickly came to learn that once with CRDC you were expected to support and promote all its projects, current, and independent. With that came the opportunity to support the WCC and WHAL (The Women’s Housing Advice Line), and the Sanitation Support Unit (SSU).
Given, the connection between water, sanitation, health, hygiene, environment, women, shelter, and disaster mitigation (all areas of priority focus for CRDC)― it made sense that the projects were designed to support each other; and that together they provided a wholistic approach to problem solving under the CRDC banner, as well as through their individual operations.
The Sanitation Support Unit (based in Montego Bay), was an Urban Environmental Sanitation Program. SSU was also funded by USAID, and as with the ACES Project, the Environment Health Project (EHP) was the Washington DC, based USAID implementing partner.
SSU worked with communities across Jamaica and was a key co-implementation partner to the ACES Project, though its core catchment communities were Rose Heights and Norwood in Montego Bay.
The focus of SSU was the provision of:
- safe and affordable sanitation solution that suit the protected the environment (hence the introduction of the VIP latrines, and upgraded models developed under the ACES Project).
- hygiene and behavior change training, solutions, and improved sanitation infrastructure for improved health;
- training in related areas, and the delivery of solutions related to safe-rooves and retrofitting of on its own as well as in collaboration with ACES;
- the disposal of solid waste, food safety, black and grey water were addressed by both projects, and in all instances and for every intervention gender consideration, and gender responsive solutions were a big consideration.
Gender in development is therefore not new, and certainly not new in the Caribbean. My experience at CRDC is also not the only one, but it was among the earliest.
Planners and programme designers have been including gender in development interventions for decades. However, with the growth of the evaluation movement, greater focus on equity and inclusion by donors, and gender mainstreaming as public policy in many jurisdictions has resulted in increased interest and advanced application of gender in development.
Courses such as “Equity-focused and Gender-responsive evaluation”, delivered by EvalPartners, in collaboration with UNICEF, and the International Organization for Cooperation in Evaluation (IOCE), has also served to increase the consciousness of evaluators and planners, alike when it comes to including gender in development interventions.
Increased focus on development interventions in the sphere of Market Systems Development is also driving the popularity and integration of gender in development in the developing world.
So, why did I even think it necessary to write this post?
I have found that many individuals in human resources, and contractors are very excited by the concept and for some it seems so new that they are in doubt that there are significant pools of individuals with experience in applying gender in development in the developing as well as the developed world.
I have also found that some professionals new to development work or performance management and measurement seem to believe this is a new concept and practice.
While it might be a big deal, it is certainly not new.
Thank you for sharing your early journey into the sphere of gender and development.
We look forward to hearing stories from Canada, the Caribbean, and the developing world in particular.
By Meegan Scott
Who nuh love progress – who do not like or act to support progress
Jook – jab, poke, or slap (used figuratively in post and song)
Land Lease – A programme aimed a redistribution of land and income in rural Jamaica