By Andrew Ochu-Baiye On Monday, January 22, 2024

Almost on a daily basis, the heartbreaking details of one gender-based violence or the other is captured in the news, with some resulting in the death of the victims. This signals a disturbing trend that can be counteracted with a concept called gender mainstreaming.  

Gender mainstreaming is a strategy to address the root causes of gender-based violence (GBV), which are the unequal power relations and gender norms in society. By applying a gender perspective to all policies, programmes and services, gender mainstreaming aims to transform the structures and norms that enable and sustain violence based on gender. It also seeks to ensure that the needs and rights of all people, regardless of their gender identity, are met and respected. The need for gender mainstreaming and inclusive programming was highlighted during a Gender Justice CoP learning workshop which took place in Abuja on 19-20 June 2023.  One aim of the workshop was to examine the ways in which the community members and stakeholders could integrate gender perspectives into all aspects of policy, organization, among PWD and in practice to adequately address GBV in our country with a particular focus on sexual gender-based violence (SGBV). 

While gender mainstreaming is a great strategy, deployed alone is not enough to effectively prevent and respond to GBV of which sexual gender-based violence (SGBV) is a subset. It needs to be complemented by an intersectional approach, which recognizes that people have multiple and overlapping identities that shape their experiences of violence and discrimination. Intersectionality helps to understand how factors such as race, ethnicity, class, age, disability, sexual orientation and religion interact with gender to create different forms and impacts of SGBV for different groups of people. It also helps to design more inclusive and responsive policies and programmes that address the specific needs and priorities of each person affected by SGBV.

A central theme that emerged during the workshop was Gender Analysis which typically involves gathering and analysing data disaggregated by gender, examining gender roles and responsibilities, assessing access to resources and decision-making power, and identifying the different impacts and outcomes experienced by women, men, and gender-diverse individuals. It also considers intersecting factors such as age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability, and other social identities to understand how they intersect with gender to shape people's experiences.

Individuals with intersecting identities may face multiple barriers that hinder them from accessing support which can include discrimination, stigma, lack of awareness and understanding of their needs, lack of culturally appropriate services, language barriers, and more. Helen Akinyemi of Oxfam Nigeria in her keynote, stressed that evidence-based approaches were the basic requirement for gender mainstreaming. She noted that gender mainstreaming and inclusion programming was about diving deep into understanding gender-based issues and finding resolutions, involving the participation of leaders and organizations in promoting gender equality and making it visible in terms of outcomes rather than comparisons between males and females. 

Identifying these barriers requires that comprehensive gender analysis be carried out i.e adopting an approach that takes into account the unique experiences and needs of each individual. Consequently, recognizing and dismantling these barriers is crucial to ensure that support services are inclusive, accessible, and sensitive to the diverse needs of survivors. This can involve conducting research and consultations with affected communities, developing culturally appropriate services and programs, and providing training and education to service providers, among others.

With this evidence at hand, prevention efforts are properly informed because specific vulnerabilities have been highlighted. By considering intersecting identities, prevention strategies can be tailored to address the unique needs and experiences of individuals affected by SGBV. This approach enables the development of inclusive and effective prevention initiatives that challenge harmful gender norms and promote respectful relationships.

In conclusion, gender mainstreaming provides a framework to address the root causes of SGBV, develop gender-sensitive policies, and provide responsive support services. Intersectionality enhances these efforts by recognizing the diverse experiences of individuals with intersecting identities, addressing barriers to accessing support, and informing comprehensive prevention strategies. By adopting this intersectional approach, society can work towards creating a more inclusive, equitable, and violence-free future.

Keywords: Intersectionality SGBV Gender-based violence Inclusive interventions Gender equality Social justice Legal frameworks Advocacy Sexual violence

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