International Center for Policy and Conflict (ICPC) places great importance on women’s participation in local governance, and the key role County Governments are playing in fostering strong and more inclusive participatory local democracy.
County Governments are increasingly being recognised as key actors in achieving sustainable development through localisation. This is something ICPC fully promote and support.
Local governance is critical in addressing the challenge of poverty and exclusion. County governments are key actors in tackling the issues that matter most to citizens’ lives. They have a direct impact on the provision of services that can improve women’s lives in tangible ways, such as health, education, water, safety, nutrition and community participation.
ICPC supports County governments in designing and implementing gender responsive policies that aim to improve access, availability and quality of public services for women and girls – key levers for development and the fulfillment of women’s human rights. Positioning gender equality and social justice at the center of local governance is critical to achieving good governance.
Women’s contributions are essential to strong and sustainable local democracy. Women can and should be part of the institutions of County government. They should be represented at all levels of decision making in the county governance system. Women must be part of these local governance, and gender considerations should be mainstreamed to respond to the needs of women and girls.
Women’s participation in county governments has positive effects on resource allocation; ensuring key services have sufficient funds to meet their needs. Women in local governance work to ensure policy positions and service priorities meet the needs of the constituents, including women and girls, and are delivered in ways that are fair and accessible to all.
Presence of women not solution
Of course, the presence of women in local governance does not necessarily mean that women’s issues are addressed. By the same token, achieving equality between women and men is not just the responsibility of women, but requires also male leaders who advocate loud and clearly for equality.
Research has shown that the presence of women leaders at the local level have a positive effect on the aspirations of young women and girls. The gender equitable local development works to improve women’s access to resources and services at the local level through gender-responsive planning, programming and budgeting. This does not only create opportunity to address the structural issues that hinder development but also tackle gender-based discrimination and inequalities.
Ending violence against women and girls is significant priority. County governments have a critical role in ensuring that prevention initiatives and service delivery to survivors of violence are prioritised, budgeted for, correctly delivered and executed.
Capabilities and resources is equally important. Women and men need equal opportunities – equal access to land and credit, natural resources, education, health services, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, decent work and equal pay. Policies, such as child care and parental leave, including for men, are needed to promote equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men in care-giving and domestic work. County Governments are key allies in ensuring equal opportunities are accessible to all.
Finally, women and girls’ voices must be heard. Women and girls are entitled to participate equally in decision making in the household, the private sector and institutions of governance. For democracy to be meaningful and inclusive, women and girls’ voices and leadership must be amplified in all public and private spaces, including in local level institutions and in civil society.
We must all make concerted efforts to leverage the political will and resources to effect change: leveling inequalities and creating a future in which girls and boys, women and men can fully realise their potential.
[The Writer is a Human rights defender and the Executive director International Centre for Policy and Conflict-ICPC]