Empowering women seen as a catalyst and multiplier for all other development goals

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Advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment is central to the mandate of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and its development approach to deliver on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In Ukraine, in line with its gender equality strategy, UNDP is working to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls through its democratic governance initiatives, its inclusive and gender-responsive sustainable development programmes and through its support to recovery and peacebuilding in conflict-affected areas.

In all these areas and more, the support of development partners  has been of paramount importance, one that only when coupled with strong national ownership and strategic technical assistance from UNDP can lead to concrete and tangible results in the sphere of gender equality in Ukraine.

Since 2007, UNDP has supported national governments, private sector companies and civil society organizations around the world through the Gender Equality Seal for Public and Private Enterprises certification programme to promote high standards in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. To date, more than 500 companies in 29 countries are engaged with programme.

In 2011, UNDP applied this successful model to its own operations through the Gender Equality Seal programme for UNDP entities. By engaging with the Seal, UNDP Country Offices are better positioned to support government partners and accelerate progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While being a stand-alone goal (SDG 5), gender equality cuts across all 17 SDGs and is reflected in 45 targets and 54 indicators for the SDGs.

It is the journey that leads to reaching the Gender Equality Seal that matters the most.

Achieving the Gender Equality Seal for UNDP in Ukraine

UNDP’s office in Ukraine has joined the Gender Equality Seal certification programme and developed a detailed roadmap to take an agency-wide approach to promoting gender equity and equality. The plan is to move the organization forward to be the best we can be in this critical area of supporting Ukraine’s development. Joining the Gender Equality Seal is a critical step in developing a holistic and interconnected system to ensure that UNDP pursues gender equality in all aspects of our work, leaving no one behind.

As a result, such issues as women’s leadership, gender-based violence, and unpaid care work are now better integrated into UNDP’s broader programmes. UNDP strategically sends a clear message: we take gender equality seriously and it is important for us to address the concerns faced by women and men from diverse groups, especially the most vulnerable, in everything we do in Ukraine. The same applies for our internal procedures and work principles.

Throughout 2021-2022, our office will be evaluated against a list of Gender Equality Seal benchmarks and compete for one of the three levels of certification: Gold, Silver, or Bronze. For UNDP in Ukraine, it’s the first time participating in this process.

To receive the Gender Equality Seal, standards must be met in the following seven areas: 1) management system, 2) in-house capacities, 3) enabling environment, 4) communication and knowledge management, 5) programmes, 6) partnerships, and 7) gender equality impact.

The following highlights the benchmarks we have already achieved in each of these areas.

1.      Management system

Our priority is to promote a new culture of integrating and elevating gender equality into all aspects of our work. In response, we developed a 4-year gender equality strategy with annual action plans, guided by the corporate Gender Equality Strategy 2018-2021 to ensure our initiatives contribute to UNDP’s global gender equality goals.

While every employee is involved in implementing the strategy, the primary responsibility for gender mainstreaming is with the Gender Focal Team (GFT), which works to ensure gender equality is fully integrated into all UNDP Ukraine portfolios and departments. Each GFT member focuses on gender issues within their own role and UNDP’s broader strategic plan.

2.      In-house capacity

UNDP senior management in Ukraine is working closely with the Human Resources Department to ensure recruitment procedures are geared towards ensuring all newly hired personnel have the understanding, skills, and experience on promoting gender equality. All Terms of References for every staff position, consultancy, and internship now include role-specific gender-related competencies and detail specific duties to enable all colleagues to conduct their responsibilities well.

In addition, UNDP has institutionalized constant capacity building to promote a better understanding of gender equality through in-house learning. All new hires are trained in UNDP’s gender equality mandate and goals as part of the induction process, through the corporate online courses, and all-staff learning sessions, which are held on a regular basis to increase gender competencies among employees.

3.      Enabling environment

The GFT also promotes a culture of equality, dignity, and respect, with zero tolerance for any kind of discriminatory and abusive behaviour, including sexual misconduct.

To acknowledge the personnel who have taken actions for changing gender norms in their lives, UNDP launched the #EqualPartners campaign in June/July 2020. The campaign used social media posts with photos and quotes sharing experiences on the equal distribution of unpaid care and household work.

Also, UNDP organizes the Women Leaders bilateral impactful conversations with leaders within the organization to support and empower women in their career and personal development as part of the UNDP Ukraine people strategy (2020-2021).

Furthermore, UNDP is committed to achieving gender parity at all levels to make the most of our potential. We set a target of at least 40 percent of staff at all levels to be women – a figure we surpassed: as of today, 49 percent women and 51 percent men work at UNDP in Ukraine

4.      Communication and knowledge management

As language plays an important role in creating social change, all UNDP communications is seen through a gender lens. Hence, UNDP uses gender-responsive and non-discriminatory language that doesn’t reinforce stereotypes. The UNDP website showcases gender equality goals and results, featuring photos, stories, and knowledge products that emphasize the change towards gender equality.

UNDP also regularly conducts campaigns in Ukraine to advocate for gender equality. For example, the UN System’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign.

5.      Programmes

UNDP in Ukraine works to ensure that gender equality concerns are integrated at each stage of programme development and implementation.

When developing a new project, for example, UNDP conducts gender analysis to address gender inequalities through various activities with concrete indicators to monitor results, and codes the project with a gender marker rating to track financial contributions to achieving gender equality.

In three years, UNDP’s programme budget on gender equality has increased ten-fold – from 7 percent in 2018 to 69 percent in 2020.

6.      Partnerships

UNDP in Ukraine recognizes that effective partnerships are necessary to achieve full gender equality and equity. As such, we collaborate with government counterparts, with civil society actors, with the media, and with other UN agencies, funds, and programmes.

For example, with the EU Delegation’s and UNDP’s support, Parliament is setting a good example for the country through the development and use of a gender-oriented human resource management tool, by introducing annual gender assessments, establishing a network of gender focal points within the Secretariat, and developing an online course on gender equality for the staff of Parliament’s Secretariat.

Also, since 2019, UNDP has partnered with the Ukrainian Women’s Congress, a public platform that annually forms the gender equality policy agenda for the parliament, government, private sector, civil society and media, to discuss the challenges and opportunities for accelerating gender equality and women’s empowerment in Ukraine.

7.      Gender equality impact and results

UNDP along with other partners has advocated for gender quotas in Ukrainian elections that eventually led to the adoption of a new election code with a 40 percent gender quota requirement. With the support of the Government of Norway, we also provide for training of newly elected women councillors and advocate for full, equal, free and democratic participation of women in political and public life.

The Government of Switzerland recently partnered with UNDP in producing the second volume of a study looking at women and men in leadership positions in Ukraine. The results of the research show the overall share of women in leadership positions in Ukraine increased to 40.5 percent over the three years prior.  While far from parity, this figure is much higher than the global average of 29 percent, and higher than the average in the European Union, where the percentage of companies with women in leadership positions sits at 35 percent. 

UNDP was one of the first agencies in Ukraine to respond to the COVID-19 crisis by supporting the Government of Ukraine in establishing Crisis Coordination and Management Units under the leadership of the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs. These units focus on improving the coordination between ministries, government institutions, and oblast and local authorities. Thanks to the work of these units, a Multi-Sectoral COVID-19 Response Strategy and three sectoral strategies covering humanitarian, socio-economic, and health spheres were developed, taking into account gender equality aspects.

In Ukraine, like in many other countries, the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered increased domestic violence, with the number of reported cases jumping by more than 50 percent as compared to the previous year. With the support of the Government of Denmark, UNDP confronted this issue by partnering with the human rights defenders on an information campaign and by commissioning a study by JurFem, women lawyers’ association, to identify specific issues women face during the pandemic. The results of the research show women face an increased workload, salary cuts, and domestic violence during the pandemic, which will be addressed in 2021 through supporting civil society response to the identified challenges.

As part of a joint UN Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme (UN RPP), UNDP and UNFPA set up shelters and day centres for survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) in the conflict-affected areas of Ukraine. We also provide training on GBV prevention for judges, police officers, patrol police officers, state emergency service staff, local authorities in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, and support the creation of ‘green rooms’ for ensuring child-friendly justice. In addition, UNDP has developed a mobile app 'Your Right' (available for iPhone and Android devices) to provide information to conflict-affected people, including IDPs and GBV survivors.

Furthermore, as part of the UN RPP, UNDP and UN Women supported the creation of 130 self-help groups and 48 Community Security platforms, predominantly led by women activists in conditions of the lingering armed conflict and disruptions caused by the COVID-19 crisis. These groups work in the conflict-affected communities, ensuring participatory decision-making, gender-responsive budgeting of public resources, and the improvement of community safety for the most vulnerable in the face of armed conflict and the pandemic.

Moving in the right direction

The Ukrainian country office of UNDP is delighted to pursue the gold level certification Gender Equality Seal for its work in promoting the development of a prosperous and peaceful country where no one is left behind. As we know that to hold back half a country’s population is to prevent the entire country from reaching its full potential, we at UNDP will continue to place priority emphasis on gender equality and women’s empowerment as a critical area of development until these goals are fully reached. This can only be the right thing to do.

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