Originally published on Union CSW
Lisa Kelly, Women’s Director
I attended two excellent workshops at the UN Commission on the Status of Women. It would have been amazing if the workshops could have been held together.
The first workshop was on engaging boys and men to address and prevent violence against women and girls, challenge harmful gender norms and eliminate unequal power dynamics. It was opened by the Canadian Status of Women Minister Maryam Monsef and featured a panel discussion with government and civil society representatives.
Icelandic Minister Daðason and Canadian Member of Parliament Duguid shared legislative incentives to supporting men’s involvement in caregiving and domestic work. Civil society representatives presented ideas to address toxic masculinity and build positive gender relations. Very helpful ideas were exchanged and the Canadian government representatives in attendance took note. In the end, it was very oriented towards men’s personal relationships with
The second workshop was on gender mainstreaming in infrastructure. What an amazingly strong framework for the necessity of designing in a gender inclusive way. Nick O’Regan, Director of Infrastructure at UNOPS, said that using a gender blind approach empowers men and reinforces narrow roles for women. And because infrastructure is built to last, you are building in discrimination for years to come. You must be gender aware.
Other speakers outlined examples of where gender was taken into account in infrastructure and disastrous examples of planning and outcomes where it wasn’t. UNWomen launched a new tool to help screen projects called #IKnowGender.
Imagine if these two sets of workshop presenters engaged with one another. Imagine engaging men on gender equality when those men are decision makers on infrastructure. If we could use the tools that shifted awareness of gender and eliminated unconscious bias, different decisions would be made about where and how to invest in infrastructure.
A study by McKinsey Global Institute revealed that $12 trillion would be added to the global GDP by 2025 by closing the gender gap. Infrastructure is a key to this. Men continue be the decision makers in politics and public policy. Engaging in the exercises that were offered in the first workshop to shift personal attitudes could lead to a shift in infrastructure investment and that would truly build a foundation to women’s equality.