Gender mainstreaming is a strategy used in equal-opportunities policy. It encourages questioning of all of an organization’s decisions and activities in relation to their effects on women and men and whether they contribute to the establishment of gender justice.

On 19 December 2000, the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women, and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, BMFSFJ) incorporated the concept of gender mainstreaming into the promotion guidelines of the Federal Child and Youth Plan (Kinder- und Jugendplan, KJP) in order to enhance equality between boys and girls. This means that organizations funded by the KJP are obliged to implement gender mainstreaming. In the spring of 2002, this DJI project group was commissioned by the BMFSJ to monitoring and enforcing the implementation of gender mainstreaming in KJP-supported organizations, in order to make a contribution to operationalizing this gender-policy principle in the field of child and youth welfare services.

The aims of the research project are, on the one hand, to evaluate the extent to which gender mainstreaming has been implemented in the organizations concerned and to identify structural conditions that promote or inhibit implementation. On the other hand, the scientific monitoring process is also intended to make a contribution to the practical implementation of gender mainstreaming in associations and youth-welfare institutions, both at the level of organizational development and staff development and also at the level of educational practice, through the provision of information and specialist expertise.

The methods of investigation used include analysis of documents, full quantitative data collection using questionnaires, discussions with experts, interviews, and focus groups. These are intended to provide information, feedback of research results and documentation to encourage the initiation of gender mainstreaming processes, and handout materials for ongoing implementation procedures.

The results show – after evaluation of 25 focus groups conducted at workshops and meetings, 20 expert interviews, 362 report statements on gender mainstreaming, and 140 questionnaires completed by various organizations – that gender mainstreaming has by and large been accepted as a requirement by the bodies that receive sponsorship under the Child and Youth Plan and that apparently only a few organizations are still avoiding it. Gender mainstreaming appears to have been accepted as a professional challenge.

Gender mainstreaming is currently a topic of debate not only in political institutions, but increasingly in organizations involved in social services as well. In the field of child and youth welfare services in Germany, gender mainstreaming has also become part of the specialist discourse and is being discussed as a concrete strategy to be used in implementing Paragraph 9 of the Child and Youth Services Act, as well as in the context of efforts to achieve forms of youth welfare service that reflect gender roles.

The anchoring of gender mainstreaming in the KJP promotion guidelines reinforces the obligation to observe equal rights. The general principles of the KJP guidelines (I.1 paragraph 2c and I.2 paragraph 2) specify that: ‘The Child and Youth Plan shall work towards promoting the equality of girls and boys as a general guiding principle (gender mainstreaming)’ and ‘Taking the specific needs of girls and boys and of young women and young men into account in order to improve their living conditions and remove gender-specific disadvantages must be given special attention in all measures taken.’

Reports currently available on experience with concrete implementation steps in the field of gender mainstreaming indicate that the targets need to be operationalized in an area-specific way in relation to each organization, its needs and its specialist tasks: ‘Gender mainstreaming is an approach to optimizing social and institutional organization processes … it is thus a highly context-dependent, environment-intensive approach that has to concern itself in detail with the conditions and causes of the exclusion of women in institutions and organizational units, while also taking into account the institutions’ and organizations’ own interpretations and needs. At the same time, the strategies used in gender mainstreaming always need to be adaptable to general and organization-related developments and must incorporate these into their targets’ (Roloff 2001: 59). Accordingly, the way in which the approach is implemented has to take account of each specific organizational and specialist context with regard to target development, planning, implementation and checking.

References:

Roloff, C. (2001): ‘Gender Mainstreaming im Kontext der Hochschulreform: Geschlechtergerechtigkeit als Reformstrategie an der Universität Dortmund.’ Zeitschrift für Frauenforschung und Geschlechterstudien, vol. 19, issue 3, pp. 58–71.

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