In time for the UN HLPF 2023, the CPDE Feminist Group held a side-event titled Transformative Financing for Gender Equality in Accelerating Agenda 2030 Implementation.
Co-organised by the Network for Women’s Rights in Ghana (NETRIGHT), the Forum of Women NGOs of Kyrgyzstan (FWNGO) and the Beyond Beijing Committee (BBC), Nepal, the activity covered these topics: assessing ODA for women’s empowerment and gender equality work – how are governments meeting gender budgeting commitments?; accelerating SDGs Implementation through gender transformative financing; and localising support through co-creation of innovative ideas to accelerate achievement of the SDGs gender targets.
A dire need for appropriate funding and reporting mechanisms to realise SDG5
Patricia Akakpo, CPDE FG Global Coordinator and NETRIGHT Ghana Executive Director, opened the event with introductory remarks reminding that “women’s empowerment and gender equality are key to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), not only as goals in and of themselves, but also as a means to achieve sustainable societies for all.”
Presently, UN Women’s visualisation data on countries’ efforts to achieve gender equality by 2030 shows that only 13% have either met or almost met the target. In the current aid landscape where ODA is depleting, she says, realising SDG5 (realising gender equality, empowering women and girls) requires dedicated and sufficient funding, transparent and mandatory reporting mechanisms, and true political will.
Through the session, the FG “sought to interrogate ODA from a feminist lens, explore how governments can accelerate SDGs implementation through gender transformative reforms and highlight interventions promoting women’s rights and gender equality as part of efforts in transforming the system as intended by the SDGs.”
Nurgul Djanaeva, CPDE Co-Chair and Executive Director of FWNGOs Kyrgyzstan, delivering the opening remarks, recalled that “gender equality remains the greatest human rights challenge,” that “structural inequality persists in many countries, preventing the full achievement of SDG5.” She spoke on the CPDE Feminist Group’s continuous efforts to raise attention to the means of implementation of SDG5, such as lack of adequate funding or lack of accountability mechanisms, and participation of CSOs and women’s organisations. The CPDE FG has focused on SDG5 C1 which refers to the “proportion of countries with systems to track and make public allocations for gender equality and women’s empowerment.”
The FG analysis of VNR processes revealed that while countries report on many indicators for SDG5, only few countries report on SDG5.C1. Overall, countries fail to present tracking systems that should have been put in place to enhance transparency and accountability in SDG5 funding. The FG then reiterates the need to address the issue of underinvestment by integrating gender responsive budgeting in the countries’ financial management systems, to allocate funds, reform fiscal processes, capacitate staff, and report to the public annually, advocating to make it mandatory for countries to report on SDG5 C1. All these demands were articulated in the CPDE Feminist Group HLM3 Key Asks.
ODA for gender equality financing among OECD DAC members
Cibele Cesca, Policy Analyst at the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Team of the OECD Development Co-operation Directorate, then presented on ODA for financing gender equality among the 32 OECD DAC countries.
Countries report annually on their ODA using the DAC gender equality policy maker, which determines how much gender equality (GE) is targeted as an objective (if main, or one of many, or not at all). The share of projects with a GE component, according to her presentation, has been growing continuously since 2010, reaching a record of 44.5% of project having primary or secondary GE objectives during the period 2018-19. This has decreased to 44% in the period 2020-21 – a small but still conspicuous drop that marks a stop in the growth. While it might be too soon to call this a trend, it might already warrant action.
ODA for gender equality over time
She then presented GE share of ODA broken down per member of the OECD DAC in 2020-21, showing which countries place a strong policy focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment. Canada has 90% of its ODA that includes at least a significant GE objective. Netherlands scores 82%, with the highest component of projects for which GE is the main objective. Ireland and Iceland score 81%. In terms of volumes, the top development partners in 2020-21 were Germany, the EU Institutions, Japan, the United States and France.
She mentioned that several DAC members have set quantitative targets for a share of their ODA to have gender equality objectives, and that they find that this helps to ensure that more resources are directed towards GE, creates internal awareness on the matter, and enables constructive discussions across teams and with other actors. This, she explains, is an example of accountability mechanism that could be replicated in the future.
ODA for gender equality per member of the OECD/DAC
Finally, she noted that the OECD also tracks ODA dedicated to directly fund women’s rights organisations (WROs) and movements. In 2020-21, only USD 574 million of ODA supported WROs – an amount that was less than 1% of total ODA. The Netherlands is the main provider (accounting for almost a third of the figure), and they use several financing mechanisms to offer support. Canada was cited as an example to follow. She also pointed to the OECD GenderNet, and a portal on integrating GE from design to program implementation, monitoring, and evaluation.
An example of transformative financing for gender equality: WVL Project in Ghana
For her part, Patricia Isabella Essel from Women’s Voice and Leadership (WVL Ghana) Project Lead by Plan International Ghana highlighted the need to address the root causes of gender inequality and poverty by investing directly in community-based women-led organisations. She currently works with over 81 WROs in Ghana to advance GE.
The WVL program falls under the Feminist International Assistance Policy,which responds to financial gap in addressing the SDGs and particularly Gender Equality. It also serves as a model for localisation and shift of power and decision-making to the local actors.
It uses three key approaches: institutional strengthening (capacity building on leadership and management skills to build the next generation of female leaders), grant funding (flexible, investing in strengthening core organizational functions and responsive to needs), collective action (advocacy is more effective when conducted as a coalition and connected voice).
Key lessons they have learned include: Engagement of the networks and WROs in the design and implementation of the project, as well as having them as co-creators of knowledge and collaborators in results measurement; upholding feminist principles of co-creation, participation and approach by keeping the networks as the key drivers of the process; and keeping room for flexibility.
She also stressed the following points: gender equality and sustainable development are inseparable; many of the barriers to effective sustainability policies are found in outdated discriminatory social norms and legal systems; investing in girls and women requires intentional approach including gender budgeting and continuous funding to help break systemic barriers of power and privilege that continue to leave millions behind.
The open forum then featured exchanges on ensuring policy coherence around mainstreaming gender equality and implementing projects that specifically target gender equality. Questions were raised regarding the distribution of funds among regions and coordinating with donors to ensure that needs are met globally. It was also argued that self-reported ODA allocation by OECD DAC members can be inflated and that the current data on funding do not distinguish projects that address structural inequalities (social protection, employment) from those focused on charity work.
The event closed with Cynthia Sunu, Senior Programme Officer, NETRIGHT Ghana reading the CPDE FG position paper, “Accelerating progress on implementation of gender equality commitments to meet Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”