This year, UN Women’s theme for International Women’s Day is think equal, build smart, innovate for change. The theme focuses on how we can advance gender equality and women’s empowerment in social protection systems, access to public services, and sustainable infrastructure. It also links to the Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG5, and echoes the priority theme of the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63). Transformative shifts, integrated approaches, and new solutions are central to removing structural barriers and ensuring no one is left behind, across all SDGs.
What does this inspirational theme look like in practice?
From aspiration to action
The CSW63 priority theme is at the top of our minds this March 8, as we reflect on success, opportunities, and lessons learned about how to remove barriers and accelerate progress for gender equality, encourage investment in gender-responsive social systems, and build services and infrastructure that meet the needs of women and girls.
At the heart of EnCompass’ organizational mission is a commitment to innovative solutions that support positive change, and so we are especially proud to be part of the Transform: Primary Health Care project. Gender integration is a fundamental element of this project’s actions to generate change across the primary health system in the four most populous regions of Ethiopia, from improving household-level practices to enhancing programmatic learning to prevent maternal and child deaths. EnCompass has been tasked with leading an approach to gender integration in this complex project, moving from aspiration to action.
We started by thinking equal.
We began with a strong partnership and commitment among the implementing partners—Pathfinder, EnCompass, and others), the funder (USAID), and the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health—to the centrality of addressing harmful gender norms and gender inequalities to achieve the project’s purpose of preventing child and maternal deaths. Our shared commitment to gender equality was our constant theme in planning and project design.
We built smart.
“Building” began with a gender analysis, designed collaboratively with USAID and the Federal Ministry of Health to identify what gender gaps and opportunities the project needed to address to achieve its results. Using the gender analysis findings, we collaboratively developed a gender strategy and vision to guide evidenced-based, gender-transformative interventions across project’s four result areas.
And, we’re continually innovating for change.
At EnCompass, we live and breathe the practical application of our tagline—Innovative Approaches for Organizational Excellence. For the Transform: Primary Health Care project, this means the gender strategy is a truly living document, one we revisit regularly to incorporate new learning, check our assumptions, and keep innovating toward our 2021 vision.
Living the gender strategy means being fully open to changing course, refining activities, or developing new ones to respond to emerging gender needs, gaps, and opportunities. In other words, we use the strategy to guide how project funds are invested, interventions are measured, and which actions are taken toward positive change for the health of all Ethiopians.
This International Women’s Day, we invite you to join us in identifying ways to operationalize think equal, build smart, and innovate for change in your own work to build more inclusive systems, efficient services, and sustainable infrastructure that accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and gender equality—and to engage with representatives of Member States, United Nation entities, and nongovernmental organizations from around the world in at CSW63. We hope to see you there!
Photo by Chris Goldberg via Creative Commons
Director, Gender & Inclusive Development
Lyn Messner is EnCompass’ Director of Gender and Inclusive Development, and serves as EnCompass’ Manager for the USAID ADVANTAGE IDIQ. Ms. Messner has over 25 years of experience in project design and management; organizational development and capacity building; training design and facilitation; program evaluation; gender analysis; technical assistance; proposal development and writing; and grants management. She has developed, implemented, and managed effective organizational policies and strategies for nongovernmental and governmental organizations and provided direct technical assistance in over 35 countries to improve agriculture, environment, education, health, HIV/AIDS, small business, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and youth projects.
Ms. Messner has authored and edited widely disseminated program and training documents, field resources, newsletters, and reports for domestic and international audiences. She holds an MA in Development Anthropology from the George Washington University with a focus on gender and development in Africa.