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By Sheila Mwanundu

My participation in the gender side event at the 5th Assembly of the GEF left me with the compelling message that gender equality cannot continue to be an afterthought in projects, programmes and policies. Presentations were by GEFSEC, GEF Evaluation Office, FAO, EBRD, IFAD, UNEP, WB, UNDP and AfDB.

It was apparent that all agencies have a gender strategy and these have helped catalyse policy change and the necessary transformation impact on livelihoods and ecosystems. However, the job remains unfinished.

I highlighted some experiences based on the completed (2004–2012) IFAD/GEF-supported Mount Kenya East Pilot Project and drew attention to: (i) successful use of participatory mapping to engage women and men in planning and managing  their natural resources; (ii) community empowerment initiatives which give women and youth greater access and voice in decision-making; (iii) introduction of time and energy saving technologies to reduce womens' workload burden; and (iv) alternative income-generating activities which have helped reduce pressure on fragile natural resources.

The discussion centred on closing the gap between men and women with some specific recommendations: (i) cautious approach to socio-cultural aspects which hold back men and women; (ii) alternative measures to capture womens’ leadership; and (iii)  evidence-based learning for effective replication and up-scaling of innovative approaches. In addition, greater emphasis on youth empowerment is critical in ensuring that gains in education translate into economic opportunities.

From an institutional point of view, the side event demonstrated strong collaboration between the GEF agencies in pushing forward the gender equality agenda of the Global Environment Facility.

This event served as a platform to launch the new GEF publication: Roadmap for Gender Equality, which links to IFAD’s recent publication The Gender Advantage