Q&A: Guide on gender-responsive procurement for Employment-Intensive Investment Programmes (EIIPs)

The Guide offers gender-responsive public procurement practical measures to enable women- owned and/or women-led enterprises to participate in procurement as well as strengthening the ecosystem for women’s entrepreneurial development.

Q: What is the main focus of this new publication, and what motivated the ILO to produce it?

The EIIP supports the design and implementation of responsible and sustainable procurement systems that enable the participation of small-scale, local private-sector contractors in infrastructure works programmes. The main focus of the Guide on gender-responsive procurement is to promote and mainstream a gender-responsive approach, striving to achieve equitable outcomes for women and men through measures that promote women’s participation and empowerment in and through its projects and programmes.

By identifying institutional, entrepreneurial and normative barriers, the Guide offers gender-responsive public procurement practical measures to enable women- owned and/or women-led enterprises to participate in procurement as well as strengthening the ecosystem for women’s entrepreneurial development, all of them illustrated with 12 country cases.
The final section provides summary guidance on how gender equality and women’s empowerment can be promoted at different stages of the procurement process.

Q. What are a few of the main findings?

Among the main findings are that:
  • Procurement can provide invaluable business opportunities to women entrepreneurs, access to work for women as well as advance gender equality and inclusion in the workplace when conducted in a gender-responsive manner.
  • Procurement provides market opportunities to contractors and decent work for infrastructure workers serving as a means of promoting inclusive and sustainable development more broadly.
  • Ensuring gender-responsiveness in procurement is a moral and normative imperative, as it involves the respect of human rights.
  • Ensuring that the gender dimension is explicitly addressed in all phases of the procurement process services or goods procured are likely to be responsive to women’s and men’s needs.
  • A company owned or managed by women does not automatically imply that this company respects human rights, complies with international labour standards and is gender-responsive. Therefore, ensuring gender-responsiveness is key for working with any enterprise, whether owned by a woman or a man.
  • There is solid and growing evidence that safe and healthy workplaces with good working conditions are more likely to have higher levels of productivity than workplaces with decent-work deficits.

Q. What are some of the concrete recommendations offered in the publication that help promote gender-responsive procurement in practices?

Among the recommendations are that:
  • The gender dimension be explicit and verifiable through all phases of the project cycle - design, operation, monitoring and evaluation – as well as in the procurement process – pre-award , during and post-award.
  • Contracting firms, regardless of ownership, respect human rights and observe core labour standards that contribute to gender equality and women’s empowerment.
  • Legal and regulatory frameworks incorporate the gender dimension and provisions to include women in the implementation of the procedures and processes needed to acquire goods, works and services of public-sector organizations (Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa).
  • Practical measures be developed that enable women-led enterprises to participate in procurement processes and succeed in their role as contractors, for example, adopting e-procurement; package work projects into multiple contracts; and, optimize payments (Chile, South Africa, Timor Leste).
  • The ecosystem for women’s entrepreneurial development be strengthened to ensure optimal conditions for women entrepreneurs to participate in procurement. These include training packages to equip women entrepreneurs with business management skills, financial literacy training and the facilitation of access to financial services.
  • Promoting equality in the workforce through public procurement relates to contracted firms, whether owned/managed by men or women, respect gender equality principles, the observance of ILO labour standards and ensuring fair working conditions that may be included as obligations in contracts, including:
    • equality and non-discrimination in access to and terms of employment
    • equal pay for work of equal value  (Uganda)
    • promoting work–life balance, (Nepal), and community contracting
    • addressing sexual and gender-based violence  in the world of work (Nepal  and Lebanon) 
    • Gender-responsive occupational safety and health
  • Using public procurement to promote equality and social inclusion beyond the workforce, infrastructure works create opportunities for professionals of different sectors, particularly for women engineers and external consultants (Tunisia, Nepal).

Q: For whom is this publication intended? And, how might it be used?

This Guide is intended primarily for global EIIP technical experts, field practitioners and entities that collaborate with the EIIP in their everyday business relating to public procurement. It seeks to raise awareness and to provide technical background and support. It could also be useful to partners interested in promoting a gender dimension in public procurement. Policy makers and officials of procuring institutions within the public sector may also find it useful in their work.