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Gender: Equality between men and women

Bureau for Gender Equality
The role of the Bureau for Gender Equality, part of the Geneva-based Secretariat of the ILO, is to advocate for gender equality throughout the organization.

ILO Vision on Gender Equality

The primary goal of the ILO is to promote opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity. Thus, ILO considers gender equality as a key element in its vision of Decent Work for All Women and Men for social and institutional change to bring about equity and growth. The main focus or thematic areas of the ILO on gender equality coincide with the organization's four strategic goals, which are to: promote fundamental principles and rights at work; create greater employment and income opportunities for women and men; enhance the coverage and effectiveness of social protection; and strengthen social dialogue and tripartism.

Mandate on Gender Equality

The ILO's mandate on gender equality is to promote equality between all women and men in the world of work. This mandate is grounded in International Labour Conventions of particular relevance to gender equality - especially the four key equality Conventions. These are the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111), Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100), Workers with Family Responsibilities Convention, 1981 (No. 156) and the Maternity Protection Convention, 2000 (No. 183). The mandate is also informed by Resolutions of the International Labour Conference - the highest level policy-making organ of the ILO - in 1975, 1985, 1991 and the June 2004 Resolution on Gender Equality, Pay Equity and Maternity Protection.

Policy on Gender Equality and Mainstreaming

The Policy on Gender Equality and Mainstreaming in the ILO, announced by the Director-General in 1999, states that mutually-reinforcing action to promote gender equality should take place in staffing, substance and structure. The policy says its implementation through the strategy of gender mainstreaming is the responsibility of all ILO staff at all levels - while accountability rest with senior managers, regional directors and programme managers.

The ILO has a two-pronged approach toward promoting gender equality. First, all policies, programmes and activities aim to systematically and formally address the specific and often different concerns of both women and men, including women's practical and strategic gender needs. Second, targeted interventions - based on analysis that takes into account these concerns and needs - aim to enable women and men to participate in, and benefit equally from, development efforts.

Action Plan on Gender Mainstreaming

The policy was made operational through an ILO Action Plan on Gender Mainstreaming for Gender Equality, endorsed by the ILO Senior Management Team in November 1999. The five main elements of the action plan to operationalize gender mainstreaming are: strengthen institutional arrangements; introduce accountability and monitoring mechanisms; allocate adequate resources for gender mainstreaming; improve and increase staff's competence on gender; and improve the balance between women and men among staff at all levels. In addition to the ILO-wide policy and action plan, all five ILO regional offices have developed policy statements and strategies.

Implementation and Measuring Progress

Approaches for ensuring implementation of gender mainstreaming include institutionalising gender into programming processes. The Shared Operational Objective on Gender Equality - adopted with five others in the ILO Programme and Budget for 2004-2005 - contains three indicators to measure progress of ILO Constituents in taking positive action to increase gender equality in the world of work. The first indicator focuses on ratification by member States, and application of, the four key ILO equality Conventions. The second measures Constituents' introduction of positive changes in their policies, legislation, programmes or institutions aimed at bringing about significant improvements in equality between women and men in the world of work. The third indicator measures women's participation in ILO events and governing institutions.

Another strategy to promote implementation of gender mainstreaming is the ILO Participatory Gender Audits - the first such ever to be introduced in the United Nations system. The audits - which facilitate self-assessment and learning, as well as establishing a baseline on areas to improve - were begun in 2001 for volunteering work units at ILO headquarters as well as offices in the field. In 2004, gender audits were also launched for ILO Constituents in Sri Lanka, and for UN system agencies in Zimbabwe.

The role of the Bureau for Gender Equality, part of the Geneva-based Secretariat of the ILO, is to advocate for gender equality throughout the organization. The Bureau, which reports to the Director-General of the ILO, acts as a catalyst and adviser for ILO Constituents and staff to be more effective in increasing gender equality in the world of work. It also serves as the liaison with the ILO Governing Body concerning gender issues within the organization.

The Bureau coordinates and manages the ILO action plan, which includes the gender audits. It also facilitates establishment of institutional mechanisms for incorporating a gender perspective by the Secretariat Office's sectors, departments, programmes and field offices and they plan, implement, monitor and evaluate their work.

The Bureau coordinates the ILO Gender Network, a global team of Senior Gender Specialists, as well as Sector Coordinators and gender focal points. On average, one or two Senior Gender Specialists are based in each region. Four Sector Coordinators represent each of the four sectors at headquarters, and some 100 gender focal points act as catalysts - rather than "doers" - to assist the process of gender mainstreaming in their respective unit or office.

A project concerning technical cooperation coordinated by the Bureau is entitled Managing and Sharing Knowledge on Gender Equality in the World of Work, which promotes mainstreaming of gender into the implementation of 13 different projects under the ILO/Netherlands Partnership Programme for 2004-2005. The projects are operational throughout Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe and the Arab States; five are gender-specific and the remaining eight have separate budget lines for gender mainstreaming activities. Another example of technical cooperation coordinated by the Bureau was an inter-regional project in China, Nepal, Tanzania and Uganda on Enhancing the Gender Mainstreaming Capacity of ILO Constituents.

Examples of related activities include in-house screening for gender mainstreaming of technical cooperation projects funded by an external donor, and collaboration in the first-ever intergovernmental process to address the role of men and boys in promoting gender equality.

Information about gender issues in the world of work is disseminated by the Bureau to ILO staff, constituents, and the international community. This includes through an electronic newsletter entitled Gender Equality in the World of Work and this website, which is managed by the Bureau.