Supporting UNDP Rwanda’s Gender Seal Certificate
By Sydney Reis
Disclaimer: The views are those of the author's alone and do not represent the views of UNA-Canada.
When you picture gender equality, what comes to mind? Maybe you think of the existence of equal opportunities amongst all genders, the absence of gender-based discrimination and violence, or the political will to support populations that have been historically excluded from societal gains. Perhaps, when you think of which countries in the world get gender equality ‘right’, you would be surprised to know that it’s not always countries from the Global North.
Examples of UNDP Rwanda's Gender Equality Programming
When I found out that I would be assisting UNDP Rwanda renew its Gender Seal Certification as a Junior Professional Consultant in Gender, I was elated. Rwanda is a country that strives to achieve tangible gender equality, and I knew I would have a lot to learn from the folks at the UNDP country office. In fact, Rwanda is a world leader in closing the equality gap. The Global Gender Gap Report 2021 ranked Rwanda 7th in the world for gender equality, second only to Namibia on the African continent.
A class I took during my master’s degree, ‘Gender and International Affairs’, was one of the most useful courses in my academic career. It sparked my interest in Gender Based Analysis and taught me how to use various tools to assess to what degree gender is mainstreamed in policies and programs. I learned that the United Nations is a global leader in the practice of gender mainstreaming, and that the United Nations Development Program in particular is a trailblazer in monitoring to what extent gender is mainstreamed into the programs, culture, and policies of each country office.
As a Junior Professional Consultant at UNDP Rwanda, my job is to support the country office in developing and realizing its Gender Seal Strategy. Every few years, UNDP country offices can elect to be evaluated by the Gender Seal Certificate Program. This allows country offices to determine their performance in advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment across all areas of their work. In 2016, the Rwanda country office scored a 92.5% on their evaluation, earning the coveted and rare Gender Gold certification. With the next round of Gender Seal Evaluations quickly approaching, the Rwanda office is keen to maintain its gold status.
Part of this work involves evaluating the level of gender mainstreaming that has gone into UNDP Rwanda’s various projects. I analyze project documents to determine whether projects have considered the gendered nexus of the development issue at hand, and allocated resources to support specific and unique needs across the gender spectrum. Another key consideration is whether women’s groups have been consulted in the development of the project, and whether they will be key stakeholders in project administration and evaluation.
I am also working closely with the UNDP Rwanda Gender Seal Committee to develop learning sessions for the country office on pertinent gender topics. The Gender Seal Committee is comprised of passionate colleagues from all office departments who want to ensure that gender is at the forefront of the work that they do. Collaborating with the Gender Seal Committee, I will have the opportunity to help organize and create these country office learning sessions.
Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender Equality
This is only some of the work that goes into preparing for the rigorous Gender Seal Evaluation. Country offices must also ensure that their communication products, hiring practices, and office culture reflect principles of gender equality. To that end, I have also had the opportunity to assist in the development of various communication products highlighting the gender elements of UNDP Rwanda’s reports and programs.
While I cannot contribute to promoting a gender friendly environment within the Rwanda office while in Canada, the Rwanda office has already got it more than covered. During the previous Gender Equality Seal review, UNDP Rwanda was praised for going above and beyond to create a healthy and supportive work environment for all genders. Employees of UNDP Rwanda were celebrated for bringing a personal passion to the topic of gender equality. Meanwhile, tangible examples of the office coming together to support one another was frequently cited. For instance, when the country office drivers (one of them women) spoke out about the dilapidated state of their rest room, the country office came together to deal with the issues of a malfunctioning toilet and air conditioner in less than a week. According to the UNDP Rwanda Country Director “It was tough to find the money, but it was an issue of human dignity – that’s more important than the budget.”
I feel incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to work with an office that is so dedicated to advancing women’s rights and gender equality. When it comes to gender equality, UNDP Rwanda talks the talk and walks the walk.