Dorcas’ commitment to promoting gender equality has been deeply embedded in our way of working for many years. We want to contribute to increased gender equality by ending discrimination against women and girls, eliminating forms of violence and harmful practices, restoring self-esteem and creating equal access to services and opportunities for economic participation. All this begins with empowering people to advocate for their rights.
Why it matters
Throughout history in all cultures, men and women have not been granted the same opportunities. Therefore, men and women should both be involved in the process towards achieving gender equality. For Dorcas, gender equality means that all human beings, both male and female, are free to develop their personal abilities and make choices without the limitations set by stereotypes, rigid gender roles and prejudices. In our work, we want to align with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) of the UN, more specifically goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
Our vision on gender
As a basis for gender equality, we believe that mankind is created in the image of God, men and women alike. The principal is about taking into account and attributing equal value to the behaviours, aspirations and needs of both genders. We believe that committing ourselves to social transformation so that both can flourish will contribute to gender equality at the individual, community and societal level. We dedicate ourselves to making the concerns and experiences of women an integral part of the Dorcas project cycle – across all development and humanitarian projects. In this way, women and men benefit equally, inequality is decreased, harmful practices are addressed and outcomes of projects remain efficient.
Dorcas interventions in promoting gender equality
Our commitment to promoting gender equality has been deeply embedded in our way of working for many years. For instance, in Tanzania, Mozambique, Kenya and Ethiopia projects were initiated to address harmful cultural practices such as female genital mutilation and early marriage. In Egypt, significant steps were made to transform deeply imbedded perceptions surrounding domestic violence and the role of women in the household. In Lebanon and Syria, Dorcas’ community centres successfully raised awareness on gender issues for both men and women. And in Eastern Europe sustainable livelihood programmes were implemented with a special focus on female entrepreneurship. These are just a few examples of the many successful initiatives that bring the importance of gender equality to light in our countries of work. In short, promoting gender equality has been, and continues to be, part of our DNA.
Equal participation of all groups
“In all our projects gender aspects will be taken into account,” says Marjolein Helms, responsible for the mainstreaming of the cross-cutting theme Gender at Dorcas. “In our work, we see that the needs of men and women are not always the same. Through gender analysis, we determine the different needs and interests of both genders and adapt our programming accordingly to ensure that women and men benefit equally from our projects and inequality is not perpetuated.”
Marjolein Helms: “This is about sustainable development work. It is completely illogical to work very hard on economic and sustainable development if 50% of a given population remains marginalized. The hard reality is that women are often disadvantaged when it comes to, for example, domestic responsibilities, access to services and resources and ownership rights. Therefore, it is important to put them forward explicitly ensuring the active involvement and support of key male stakeholders in the process. Focusing on equal opportunities for both genders makes the outcomes of projects more effective.”
In all our development efforts Dorcas strives to develop and implement projects that are gender sensitive – at the very least. All our projects will be measured by using the Gender Marker developed by Care International. This is a tool that grades whether or not a project takes into account the different needs of men, women, girls and boys within the community. There are five grades: gender harmful, gender neutral, gender sensitive, gender responsive and gender transformative.
Our desire is to see our portfolio of gender transformative projects grow substantially in the coming years. This means that we are committed to programmes that are adapted to meet the needs of existing gender norms and roles while ensuring equal access and striving for projects that challenge existing gender roles and relationships. This also applies to our relief programmes. Dorcas interventions should never be gender harmful or gender neutral as that often leads to a bias in favour of the existing gender relations.
Culturally sensitive approach
It is essential to be respectful towards the communities we work in and to build good relations and trust. In thinking or assuming that gender roles need to be changed we may experience bias from our own perspective and culture. Identifying where change is really needed is a process that takes time, tact and sensitivity – especially in relation to entrenched cultural practices, beliefs and norms. We work with staff on the ground and local community actors in order to do so. And our people are equipped with intercultural skills in order to discuss culturally sensitive topics. We often work together with religious leaders. They can act as agents of change in a community. As a Christian organisation, we are uniquely positioned to collaborate with faith-based organisations. Not from a Western perspective but through a strong dialogue, says Marjolein Helms: “We stay in communities for a long time. Our community centres and projects need to be safe places for men and women. To ensure this, we always strive to introduce robust protection mechanisms that can be continued and upheld long after Dorcas ‘officially’ moves out.”