The Gender Seal Initiative: Inspiring Excellence in UNDP RwandaSep 6, 2016
Promoting Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in programmes and projects is a priority for UNDP in Rwanda. Equally important, UNDP Rwanda strives to ensure gender parity, empowerment, and equal opportunities for all its staff, women and men. This applies to all areas of our office, from the way we do recruitments and procurements, to the way we structure internal committees and the benefits and entitlements we provide to staff. The Gender Seal Initiative serves as an excellent mechanism for us to monitor our performance on gender mainstreaming and hold ourselves accountable to our objectives.
Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment as a Programming and Operations Principle
In Rwanda, UNDP supports the empowerment of women and girls through all its programmes/projects. Gender is mainstreamed in the Office’s annual integrated work plan and in the country programme document that guides our support to Rwanda. UNDP also undertakes rigorous social and environmental screening of all projects. This process includes screening for gender parameters to ensure the full integration of gender sensitive approaches and results at every phase of programming. The objective is to guarantee that women as well as men in Rwanda benefit in equitable, concrete and tangible ways from the programmes UNDP supports.
The gender screening of programmes is complemented by a gender budgeting process. UNDP uses its Gender Marker to monitor the amount of financial resources allocated for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in the programmes/projects it supports. UNDP also encourages and provides technical assistance to our National Implementing Partners to adopt Gender Responsive Budgeting.
“UNDP Rwanda has adopted the Gender Seal Initiative as a practical approach to ensure that promotion of Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women stays within the heart of our work and ensure that we have organizational consistency in terms of promotion of this very important objective.” - Lamin M Manneh, Resident Representative, UNDP Rwanda.
Creating an Enabling Environment
“We are not doing this because we want Bronze, Silver or Gold; we are doing this because we know the difference it can make, in terms of the way we do business here and in terms of the quality of life for our staff. The Gender Seal is a process of changing the way we operate so the staff feel this office is a great place to come to work, whether male or female” - Stephen Rodriques, Country Director and Chair of Gender Seal Committee.
The country office (CO) explicitly prioritizes gender inclusiveness to achieve gender parity at all levels. Efforts are also made to engage and empower staff, encourage openness and trust and create a positive and enabling work environment for all its staff – both men and women. To that end, the CO has recently conducted a three day comprehensive workshop on Gender Responsive Planning with the support of the UNDP Regional Service Centre for Africa based in Addis Ababa. In addition, the Gender Seal Focal Team facilitates the CO in conducting regular learning sessions, staff meetings and other sensitization activities on gender equality, work-life balance, workplace and/or sexual harassment, free and open discussion with senior management among others.
“Working in Rwanda, where more than 60% of the parliament is made up of women, and Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment is a key component of the national development strategy, we have to always be cognizant of this as we work in UNDP”, Roselyn Sinemani, Deputy Country Director – Operations. Sharing some specific measures taken in the operations of the CO, Roselyn said “in operations we strive to be gender sensitive by screening for gender competence in recruitment processes, ensuring parity when choosing candidates, ensuring representation of women when selecting vendors, office committees and other service providers, allocating budget to cover for maternity and paternity leave, allocating 10% of learning budget for capacity building on gender, among other things.”
The Voice of UNDP Rwanda
Inclusiveness and equality have empowered employees at all levels to fully realize their potential and grow within the organization.
Valentine Niwemukobwa, Head of Finance, who joined the organization as an associate 7 years ago says she has seen this organization grow and always strive to improve itself and its employees. She said that the adoption of the Gender Seal initiative in 2013 has “made the working environment more conducive for men and women”. She adds, “We are made aware of good habits and gender sensitive language with which we can be ambassadors of gender equality in our communities.”
“My experience of working in UNDP Rwanda is that this country office is an enabling organization, an organization which always promotes gender equality with a main focus to empower women; it is an organization mainstreaming gender in all its programmes/projects. I like the moto of this organization to advocate for inclusiveness in whatever we are doing,” - Bernardin Uzayisaba, Programme Analyst.
“I have always felt that ‘everyone counts’ and everyone’s opinion and feedback is important – be it male or female, junior or senior” - Lucie Masudi, Programme Associate. Expressing her gratitude for the continuous learning opportunities and mentorship from her superiors, including training opportunities outside Rwanda, she adds, “As a young mother having flexible work hours and time off for breast-feeding, enabled me to maintain a happy personal life, while growing professionally.”
“Being part of the UNDP country office gave me exposure in high level meetings and retreats with Senior UN officials from the different agencies in Rwanda and the region as well as the Government. Before joining here I was studying Insurance, now I cannot imagine doing anything else going forward” - Eric Nkinzingabo.
“I never believed I could be in a leadership role in an international organization such as the UN. However, seeing women in leadership positions in UNDP Rwanda – the Deputy Country Director/Operations and 4 out of 6 of the Head of Units are female, I feel confident about pursuing a career with the UN” - Donata Kabarisa, intern at the Finance department.
The promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women is central to the mandate of UNDP and intrinsic to its development approach. It is acknowledged in the agenda for the Sustainable Development Goals as a fundamental right, and as a driver of progress across all development goals. In Rwanda, it is a priority for the government and a fundamental principle guiding the country’s constitution. The adoption of the Gender Equality Seal facilitates the implementation of this agenda in UNDP Rwanda and supports the delivery of transformational gender equality results.