Message delivered by Ms. Anna Falk, UN Women Ethiopia Country Programme Manager, on behalf of UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet during the presentation of the United Nations Public Service Awards in Dar es Salaam, 23 June 2011.
UN Women welcomes this year’s United Nations Public Service Day and its importance for recognizing and rewarding good governance and effective service delivery in countries and communities around the world. Although I am unable to be with you and congratulate the winners in person, I am delighted to address such an august gathering through this message.
This year is special — not only is it the first year that the Public Service Day is being hosted in Africa; it also marks the presentation of an award for an inaugural category gender-responsive service delivery. This is a critical component of inclusive governance and key to achieving the MDGs. Efforts to achieve commitments on gender equality are impeded when women do not have access to services. Women are often constrained by geographic distances or their socio-economic status and, in too many sectors, fail to be considered as part of the beneficiary category, as in the case of farmers.
In order to increase the accessibility and quality of public service delivery for women, UN Women would like to highlight the following lessons learned from our experience:
First, we must increase the number of women in decision-making positions in public administration. When women are increasingly involved in decision-making, public services become more gender-responsive, are more inclusive and are managed more sustainably. In countries throughout Latin America, for example, the greater presence of women in national legislatures in the 1990s coincided with unprecedented attention to such issues as domestic violence, reproduction and family law. Women from different political parties united to put women’s rights issues on the policy agenda and to persuade their male colleagues to support changes in the law.
Second, we must increase the number of women at the frontline of service delivery. When women deliver services, be it as policewomen, judges, teachers or agricultural agents, access to services for women beneficiaries improves. Women’s needs and constraints in accessing services are better recognized and addressed. Data shows us, for instance, that agricultural extension is more accessible to women when there are women agricultural extension workers, that enrolment of girls increases in many countries when there are more female teachers, and that both men and women report crimes at higher rates when there are female police personnel.
Third, we must build the capacity of civil society to demand gender-responsive service delivery and communicate their priorities and needs to the government and decision makers. In order for public service design to improve, women must be able to clearly articulate their interests. We have seen women’s groups using gender scorecards to assess the gender responsiveness of public services and women’s groups working with local councils to conduct safety audits of neighbourhoods, followed by lobbying to install concrete changes that increase urban safety. These are all relatively low-cost and effective methods.
Fourth, we must promote accountability mechanisms and governance reforms that address women’s needs in service delivery. Public service delivery will be improved by increasing women’s access to local planning and budgeting processes and promoting access to freedom of information legislation. Accountability mechanisms need to be in place through which public authorities answer to citizens for their performance on designing public services that uphold national commitments on gender equality and women’s rights.
On behalf of UN Women, and the entire UN system, I congratulate all winners of the 2011 UN Public Service Awards. We are very pleased that there are award winners in the gender-responsive service delivery category and welcome steps to take these innovations forward in countries around the world.