Within the framework of the Joint Programme on Culture and Development (the Programme), the gender equality dimension was mainstreamed in the Ministry of Culture. While relevant development strategies existed, they were gender blind, as were the institutions charged with implementation. A turn-around has been achieved through an innovative strategy, based on strategic partnerships, policy formulation and analysis, needs assessment and capacity-building at all levels. Enhanced cultural capabilities are now contributing to attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) while focusing on women’s empowerment in related cultural fields.
The incorporation of Palestinian women’s perspectives and contributions into Palestinian culture in the form of policies and activities had remained stagnant. Although women are contributing to Palestinian culture in the context of production, i.e. literature, crafts, agricultural production, cinema, arts and more, these contributions are limited in scope due to the social oppression generated by a patriarchal society, occupation restrictions, as well as the absence of family or community support. To enhance and sustain Palestinian women’s contributions to a coherent and creative culture, their perspectives, contributions and needs must be acknowledged and supported at different levels.
Prior to the Joint Programme on Culture and Development, Palestinian cultural heritage was not assessed from a gender perspective and women’s contributions and roles in the culture were not institutionalized with national polices and capacity development strategies.
The Palestinian Reform and Development Plan (PRDP 2011-2013) stressed the importance of the strategy for culture as a pioneering platform for development, yet there was a need to analyse it from a gender perspective, to assess gender gaps in the institutionalization and capacity development plans related to women’s roles within Palestinian Ministries or as culture producers in general. Finally, observations by the Programme gender experts indicated limited resources provided for addressing gender inequality in culture national plans and policies.
- UN Agencies: UNESCO (lead), UN Women, UNDP, FAO
- Ministries: Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Women Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities
- Local Authorities and NGOs
The Programme adopted an innovative and interdisciplinary strategy seeking to reach an integrated and holistic approach for the promotion of cultural diversity as a venue for development. This strategy was built along a circular feeding back process system structured along the following interlinked components: capacity building, policy-making and partnerships establishment.
The implementation of this strategy followed a bottom up approach by: (i) including all actors involved in the protection and promotion of Palestinian cultural diversity (local communities, private sector, civil society at large and government officials both at central and local level); (ii) piloting on site activities (on-the-job training) and using the lessons learned at the grassroots level to feed the national policy development and vice versa.
Building Partnerships and Raising Awareness
Activities were conducted to consolidate partnership within the framework of the Programme. A number of meetings were held with representatives of the different administrative levels of the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Women Affairs. Also, personal and collective meetings were organized and workshops were carried out with gender-related supporters and academic institutions. Based on that, several activities (steering meetings, meetings with high level staff from the Ministries, UNDP and UNESCO) were held to develop and prepare the implementation of the participatory approach.
Support in Policy Formulation
In March 2011, the Ministry of Culture approved the first gender-responsive Palestinian Culture Sector Strategy. This achievement was preceded by different phases.
Phase 1: Capacity-building
A workshop was organized on gender mainstreaming in the National Plan for Palestinian Culture (NPPC) addressed to a focus group of 40 experts in cultural and gender issues. The Minister of Culture and the Minister of Women’s Affairs participated. The following were the objectives of the workshop:
- Develop the ability to read and analyse developmental projects and design activities promoting social equality and fairness based on gender.
- Provide training on analysing projects from a gender perspective.
- Discuss some of the practices and cultural elements of the Palestinian society with the use of the gender concept (i.e. the relation between culture and gender).
- Review the cultural strategy including analysing the realities/cases, strategies and interventions from a gender point of view.
- Modify the NPPC from a gender point of view, including the analysis of realities/cases and objectives while focusing on policies and interventions.
Phase 2: Identifying gaps in the NPPC from the gender perspective
The main gaps from a gender perspective were identified inside the NPPC by evaluating the phases through which plans were formulated, as follows:
- Preparatory phase: A gender gap was identified in that the representatives of the active parties were mostly men. Also, despite the representation of the Ministry of Women Affairs, the other participating institutions lacked the professional and/or academic experience in the field of gender equality. Additionally, none of the experts in gender issues had participated in any of the phases of the plan formulation.
- Second phase: Lack of knowledge and expertise in gender. The research topics and subjects were not viewed through a gender lens. They did not rely on the case/reality analysis of women and men from a gender perspective within the Palestinian context.
- Methodology: It did not show any sensitivity to the special needs of both women and men. Gender dimensions were not highlighted in the preliminary information as a background for intervention. Moreover, the justification did not have any analysis related to gender equality. Nor did the strategic goals and interventions reflect the different needs of women and men. Furthermore, the interventions were specifically targeted to men and did not include any corrective measures that could promote gender equality.
Phase 3: Assessing the needs of the Ministry of Culture’s functional staff
In 2011, a study was conducted to assess the needs of the Ministry of Culture’s functional staff through a consultative process including representatives from the Ministry of Women Affairs and Ministry of Culture.
This unveiled three levels of needs related to knowledge and skills: the first level related to the staff’s knowledge capabilities which were directly related to the identified gender gaps. The second level, indirectly related to gender mainstreaming, focused on issues not only related to gender but including wider cultural and legal issues pertaining to human rights, children’s rights and other issues that deepen the comprehensive understanding of culture. As for the third level of needs, it focused on the technical skills required to develop the functional capacity of staff in general—and the gender unit in particular—in order to advance towards the attainment of the overall vision and goals of the cultural sector.
Gender Mainstreaming in the NPPC Action Plan
Gender was mainstreamed in the Action Plan in a manner similar to the process through which gender mainstreaming was done in the NPPC, including the results and activities. This was done by relying on a participatory approach and collective efforts on the basis of full partnership between two main Ministries interested in developing the strategy, the MOWA (Ministry of Women’s Affairs) and Ministry of Culture. As a central partner, the MOWA contributed to the process on two main levels by managing the planning process and the Gender Unit. As for the Ministry of Culture—as a leader of the PA institutions working in the Cultural Sector (from a technical perspective)—all its employees from the various higher and middle-level administrative levels were involved directly in the process. Also, there was a review of the Action Plan for Culture, including the results and mechanisms, by carrying out personal interviews, collective workdays and focus groups.
Creation and Training of Pivotal Team to Carry Out Duties from a Gender Perspective
A training plan has been designed by the National Expert on Gender aiming to enhance and strengthen the skills of a pivotal team. This team is composed by 25-30 (male and female) employees from the various administrative levels of the Ministry of Culture who serve as focal points on gender mainstreaming at the Ministry and its offices in the governorates.
Within this framework, three training workshops have been conducted addressing the following subjects: 1) concept of gender mainstreaming and its relation to culture and related issues; 2) gender mainstreaming dimensions in action plans, follow-up indicators, evaluations and policies; 3) analysis of developmental projects from a social justice perspective; and finally 4) “On-the-job Learning.”
The creation of a pivotal team comprised of various general administrations from the Ministry of Culture and various Palestinian governorates and formulating a tightly knit training plan covering gender and culture strengthened the effectiveness and continuity of developmental programs. This will be reflected in the process of change in relation to knowledge, skills and the delegation of authority among the functional staff, hence attaining social justice.
- Building strong partnership relations between the stakeholders from international bodies, official institutions, NGOs, national and academic institutions on the basis of dialogue for the sake of attaining gender quality and equality is considered the primary key for success. Key success factors also included the development of a common vision to reach agreements and consensus to support the gender equality-related goals within a country’s strategy or developmental activity.
- The presence of the Minister of Culture and Minister of Women’s Affairs was crucial for the purpose of showing commitment, support and advocacy and to give legitimacy to the issues related to the development of gender-sensitive policies in the cultural sector.
- Addressing gender inequality issues at the Ministry of Culture through research, international analysis and needs assessment based on gender is considered one of the elements of success.
- The mobilization emanating from the gender needs assessment of the Ministry of Culture’s functional staff is an integral step for the planning process based on the gender perspective.
- The involvement of all Ministry of Culture employees directly in the process of creating the Action Plan was crucial since the success of any mission largely relies on the functional staff’s understanding of the duties expected from them. Gender equality cannot be achieved by a small group of individuals working separately and single-handedly. It can only be attained when there is strong leadership with commitment to promoting gender equality and clear responsibilities laid out for functional staff from the various administrative and executive levels.
In order to guarantee the sustainability of the achievements, the various activities have been framed within the capacity-building methodology. Additionally, some practical methodologies have been adopted, such as the “Learning by Implementing” method which was the main method applied in executing all gender-related activities. Some recommendations on how to guarantee sustainability at different levels follow.
- Establish a Memorandum of Understanding between the highest Ministry levels and UN Women in order to continue to develop women’s contributions in the Cultural Sector.
- Work on institutionalizing a thorough partnership between the Ministry of Culture and the various official ministries whose work intersects/cross-cuts that of the Ministry such as: the Ministry of Education, MOWA, Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and the Ministry of Local Governance, is in order to support the Ministry of Culture in adopting the nationally-proposed cultural vision which is gender sensitive.
Cultural change in the Ministry of Culture
- Generalize the concept of gender equality among the Ministry of Culture’s functional staff in a prioritized manner, through the use of tools and methods that suit the thought patterns of employees.
- Target decision-makers inside the Ministry of Culture and intensify the training on Gender Mainstreaming concepts on the premise that if decision-makers have a comprehensive vision concerning working in the cultural field with a gender perspective, it will have positive effects that guarantee the transfer of that same vision to the overall functional staff. It would also ensure that gender-sensitive implementation mechanisms are applied in all programmes and activities related to culture.
- Accelerate formulation of a pivotal team inside the Ministry of Culture made up of various cultural directorates in the governorates, which would need specific procedures and conditions to organize the work between the team and the various administrations inside the Ministry of Culture. It would also govern the relations between the Ministry of Culture and various partners.
- Review the follow-up and assessment system from a gender perspective in order to develop follow-up mechanisms that would be designed in a way that monitors progress and affects men, women and other societal segments.
- Come up with assessment indicators that are sensitized to gender in the Cultural Sector in order to measure the degree of progress in attaining the goals of policies, programmes and projects aimed at men and women. Through these indicators it is also possible to ensure that the same policies, programmes and projects do not support any gender disparities through the conducted interventions, but that they actually achieve progress in reaching gender equality.
The importance of the Gender Unit
- Empower the Gender Unit based on concepts related to gender as well as the international charters and agreements related to women.
- The adoption of a comprehensive Strategic Plan for the Unit relying on the National Strategic Plan for the Cultural Sector.
- Support the Unit as much as possible by funding projects that could be introduced based on the strategic National Plan for Palestinian Culture (NPPC).
The main methodical steps have been formulated by the Programme for gender mainstreaming as a means to achieve gender equality in the cultural sector. However, it is important to guarantee continuity by exerting efforts and overcoming impediments and challenges which were previously indicated for the purpose of achieving the gender mainstreaming process in a comprehensive and clear manner.
Under the same Programme, similar efforts are currently being exerted at the Ministry of Agriculture. This methodology could actually be multiplied and easily used by other ministries. The gender capacity-building activities are within the framework of a comprehensive practical means, most notably establishing the existence of a National Expert in Gender and Cultural issues as an original part of the Ministry of Culture. Also, there is the utilization of the participatory work method and the trial to work on institutionalizing partnerships with stakeholders from United Nations institutions, ministries and civil society organizations. Another strategy would be to build a communication bridge between Gender Units inside of the ministries to disseminate lessons learned and work on deepening experiences and knowledge in gender mainstreaming.