Strengthening Responses to Gender integration in programming

Yvonne Masarakufa is a human rights officer and team leader working with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in the Gulu field office. She took part in a training on gender integration for OHCHR staff that has helped shape her career as a human rights officer.

“Human Rights Officers too really need to fully understand the connection between human rights and gender issues,” Yvonne admits, adding that the training had made her understand that gender rights do not refer to women's rights only. Issues should be viewed on how they affect both men and women. The training provided a deeper understanding of how “ ….as a human rights officer, I must view my work using a gender lens, and how to integrate and mainstream gender in the planning,  implementation and reporting of activities in the field”.  

The training held on 29 May to 1 June 2016 at Metropole Hotel, in Kampala was an outcome of a UN Evaluation of the OHCHR Performance in Gender Integration that was conducted in 2010. Most OHCHR staff who had attended gender training workshops or worked with a trainer previously, or took gender as a module at graduate level, expressed keen interest in getting more training and acquiring in-depth knowledge of gender [mainstreaming] — and how to integrate it into their day-to-day human rights work.

The outcomes of the evaluation recommended among other measures, that the Office strengthens its internal capacity through the development of Guidance on Human Rights and Gender Equality issues and to develop a Training Programme on Gender for all staff members of OHCHR.

However with the duties of a gender trainer focused primarily on human rights officers at their work place, the trainers had not been able to work with all the staffs as much as they would have liked or as much as could humanly be possible to have all staff in one single training session. And the solution? It remains the duty and responsibility of both the gender focal point and the individual team leaders and the trained staff to ensure that the knowledge acquired infuses in a work environment that is gender sensitive.

The United Nations Human Rights Office Regional Branch in Addis Ababa provided support for what became the most significant ‘game changer’ in OHCHR programming and the staffs from the Country Office in Kampala and the field offices are eager to make the change happen. The discussions gave staff a chance to talk about how gender impacts and affects the lives of people around them, and how to mainstream gender and human rights work into their daily human rights work.

Yusuf is a human rights officer in the Moroto OHCHR Office. He says the training helped change his perspective of gender and human rights and how to mainstream gender in his daily human rights work. “It did change my work and perceptions significantly. ‘The gender training strengthened my ability to do thorough gender mainstreaming, and also helped me to learn more about gender concepts, and that, was always one of my grey areas.’ I am optimistic that my planning and monitoring work on gender related concerns will not be tasking anymore because I now know and understand the concept of gender and this will improve on my performance on gender mainstreaming and programming.

‘It’s really, really what we need as human rights officers. We tend to dwell on women – one of the gender, forgetting the other gender too affects the other.’ And understanding that as UN Staff we are not accountable only with regards to our work and programs, but in the private sphere we are mandated to ensure we show gender sensitivity and action can be taken against us in cases of clear violations, was a key highlight of the training.