Use available expertise
Experience with working toward gender equality has been gained in thousands of development cooperation projects. The lessons learned have been recorded at international conferences and workshops (for example, Nike-NCDO seminars in Casablanca and Amsterdam, 2006) and in research (Van Kampen, Gender, sport en ontwikkelingssamenwerking, University of Utrecht 2001; many studies by ministries, the World Bank and the United Nations, such as 'Successful strategies for addressing gender equality issues in programs and projects: what works?' Development Bulletin no. 64, 2004).
Gender is a fully-fledged discipline. Scientific institutes and specialised consulting agencies work in the field. In this publication we have broadly outlined the steps that can be taken in aiming to achieve gender equality. It is recommended to utilise the experience of organisations that have already achieved an important degree of gender equality as well as the knowledge and expertise of specialists.
Develop a shared vision of gender equality
Developing a shared vision of gender equality is an important success factor. Concretely, this means holding a dialogue with local partners about the importance of equality and the relationship of this theme to the planned activities. This dialogue needs to be held at a policy level, in designing programmes and projects, and during their implementation.
In order to develop a shared vision of objectives and principles, it is essential to understand the partner organisation and the social, cultural and economic context. This is subject to the following conditions:
Take a look at yourself
If the approach is to be effective, organisations must first determine their own internal position on the gender issue. How is gender equality being achieved in their own structures and activities? (Live up to your own words.) The local partner must also implement gender mainstreaming. Many organisations have in fact already taken these steps. Women's organisations have expertise in this field. It is worthwhile to learn from the experience of others. See the example of 23 Brazilian women's organisations that have formed a network and offer their services to support others to achieve gender equality.
Involve the community and the target group
Stakeholders, representatives of local NGOs and community leaders should also be involved in developing the vision. To achieve equality, not only the girls need to be emancipated, but the men must change as well. Keep in touch with key persons and ask their opinion. What do they think, for example, of the fact that women and girls take part in sports activities and wear sports clothing? What is acceptable and what is not? Also, work together with local women's networks. These networks are often well informed about the position of women in that culture and they have a big (women's) network themselves. For instance, a women's organisation can be asked if they have any particular wishes in the area of sport, or their expertise or network can be put to use for activities.
Long-term involvement is a prerequisite in creating gender equality. It involves complex processes of cultural change that take much time and energy. Doing a project for two years and then pulling up stakes can have negative rather than positive effects: the change process will then have been initiated but will not yet have crystallised. A relapse is likely. In that case, the women, having tasted 'freedom', will be less accepting of their former roles and may fulfil them more unwillingly, causing conflicts and even breaking up households.