Lessons about gender-inclusive governance

The way in which community decisions are made has a huge impact on the lives of the women, men, children and families in that community. Through three projects funded by the Australian Government in Papua New Guinea (including through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program), CARE has been working to improve gender equality in governance structures at community level.

An evaluation of CARE’s inclusive governance work has shown that effecting change in governance structures is slow work; but that it is a worthwhile process. There is evidence among project beneficiaries of subtle and incremental changes in the social contract between women and within households and communities. CARE’s engagement with authorities has strengthened the relationships between communities and government, bridging the distance between these to improve mutual accountability. By acting as a positive disruptor of practices which negatively affect both community members and government officials, CARE has helped to build systems which are promoting gender equality and effectively addressing the needs of all members of a community.

CARE has identified a number of inclusive governance approaches that contribute to sustainable development. These include investing in relationships with communities, building on existing local processes, building trust between communities and institutions and increasing gender equality.

One lesson from these projects is that working with a ‘neutral’ party like an NGO can help elected representatives work in ways that break from traditional norms and expectations of what a ‘good leader’ must be (that is, they should be partisan, preferentially benefiting kin and their supporter base). Such support can increase citizens’ desire and ability to work collectively to seek equitable and inclusive governance from government.

The evaluation also found that there remain significant challenges in governance programming. These include factors such as: tracking and improving the reliability of both development and function grants reaching Districts and lower levels of government; and a continually and unpredictably changing legislative and policy environment.

The projects have produced processes, tools and materials for training, reflection and implementation for more inclusive governance. These materials, which may be of interest to Pacific Women partners, can be used by government to help systems of governance and collective community action go forward even in the absence of intensive NGO-led facilitation.

A summary of the evaluation report outlining CARE’s wok in promoting inclusive governance and gender equality can be found here: https://www.careevaluations.org/evaluation/promoting-inclusive-governance-and-gender-equality-in-papua-new-guinea/

The full report on Inclusive governance practice in CARE International’s Papua New Guinea programming can be found here: https://pacificwomen.org/resources/inclusive-governance-practice-in-care-internationals-papua-new-guinea-programming/

A number of Pacific Women projects are working to improve women’s inclusion in governance structures at a range of levels.

Read the evaluation of UN Women’s work on gender inclusiveness in the political governance sphere:

Learn how women vendors are becoming more involved in market-place governance with the support of UN Women in Vanuatu:

Find out about the World Bank’s work to build the skills of women to lead and manage community development projects in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville: