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  Women are often an overlooked resource and an underutilized asset when it comes to economic development. In Canada, women-led firms are creating jobs at four times the average rate. Also, women own or operate nearly one-third of all firms in the country. Furthermore, women continue to play a key role in organizations and structures dedicated to renewal and growth in our rural and urban communities. Coupled with this reality is the fact that women's achievements are made despite a number of barriers in the home and in the marketplace.
Some of these barriers make it harder for women to enter formal employment or to access loans. An important role for CED practitioners and organizations is to work with women to eliminate those barriers at the micro- and macro-level. By not acknowledging the impact of gender, some development initiatives have actually made the situation for women worse through improper planning (MATCH, 1991: 60). If women haven't participated in CED initiatives despite being encouraged to do so, there has often been insignificant research and a lack or resources for understanding the reasons why.


What to Ask?

  • Who is the target of the proposed intervention or program? Who will benefit? Can anybody end up a "loser"?
  • Have women been consulted about the problems the intervention or the activity is intended to solve? How have they been involved in the development of solutions?
  • What results do women participants hope for?
  • Does the intervention or activity challenge the existing division of labour, responsibilities and roles between women and men (or between young people and elders, or between different ethnic groups etc.)?
  • What barriers (social, cultural, economic) might prevent women (or youth or ethnic minorities) from participating?
  • What supports (training, access to credit, access to child care etc.) need to be in place to enable women and men to take advantage of new opportunities that will be created as a result of the proposed initiative or enterprise? Are there specific modifications to the initiative that will encourage and enable women to participate in the initiative?
  • Does your own organization have the skills and know-how to deliver the program to a more diverse group than it may have in the past? Does your personnel reflect the diversity of individuals you hope to reach?
  • How have other organizations adapted to effectively deliver programs to women?

What to Do?

  • Gain an understanding of gender relations and the division of labour, wealth and income between women and men. Who has access to, and control over, resources in the familiy and in the community?
  • Understand the environment. If you are doing a skills inventory or listing of human resources, include community and volunteer work, as well as unpaid work in the family, at home or on the farm.
  • Consult with women – individuals, women’s organizations and gender experts.
  • Identify barriers to women’s participation and productivity. These could be social, economic, legal or political.
  • Gain an understanding of women’s practical needs and strategic interests, and identify opportunities to support both.
  • Consider the different impact of the initiative on men and women, and identify actions that can address these consequences.
  • Collect baseline data on both men and women (that is, ensure data is disaggregated for gender).
  • Set measurable targets, define indicators and define expected results for both groups. If one group has a greater distance to go to reach targets, the initiative should address the special needs and programs required for that group.
  • Identify risks, including backlash, and develop strategies to minimize these risks.

Reference: CIDA’s Policy on Women in Development and Gender Equity, 1995


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