Almost a quarter of the 21st century has passed and there is no longer room for doubt. Gender equality is an imperative. Equality between women and men is a right included in practically all modern constitutions and, therefore, marks a political duty: to remove the obstacles that prevent effective equality.

The European Union countries have a very specific framework, which should also illuminate our foreign action: the EU Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 and the Action Plan on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in External Action 2021–2025 (GAP III). These texts clearly collect the measures that must guarantee real equality in three dimensions: physical, economic and political. The Union's main instrument for development cooperation between 2021 and 2027, the NDICI-Global Europe, requires that at least 85% of new actions have gender equality as a main or significant objective. At the moment, a further step is being taken, developing an ambitious European care strategy, a job that is often unpaid, invisible and unrecognized, which is mostly done by women. Let us therefore banish once and for all the expression “gender ideology”, built by conservative forces and disinformation.

Equality between women and men, girls and boys requires public policies that last over time, that have plans and means assigned for their realization and that are completely safe from partisan uses. In the action of the different powers of the State, the duty to achieve equality must be taken into account, and with this objective the legislative, executive and also the judicial powers must work, whose zeal must be oriented towards fulfilling the constitutional mandate of equality.   

Equality is not only a right and a duty. It is also an opportunity to address the imperative changes that await us: it is impossible to build sustainable development if gender gaps are not resolved. In other words, appealing to the current agenda: none of the transitions that we have at the top of our political priorities will come to fruition if a path clear of ditches and obstacles for women is not guaranteed. The ecological, digital, social and economic transitions will be feminist or they will not be, because they will not reach the power of transformation that they require.  

Mainstream or focus?

In recent years, the formulation of public policies has been debated between two currents: mainstreaming gender or addressing it with specific measures. I think they are not incompatible. Moreover, I am convinced that both approaches are necessary. The mainstreaming of the gender approach aims to analyze the differentiated impacts on men and women. It is a transformative approach that focuses on relational differences, challenging both genders. This implies extending the approach to all sectors of public policy, also encompassing all State actors.

However, we should not neglect specific actions aimed at women. Doing so would mean weakening the institutional framework for women, that is, the mechanisms for the advancement of women, and disregarding the policies that promote equal opportunities that have had positive effects in correcting the disadvantages of women with respect to men.

Mainstreaming currently faces the great challenge of intersectionality: to the extent that inequalities are multidimensional, it is necessary to resolve how to address the interaction of sex and gender with social class, origin, territory or other categories of differentiation in people's lives or in social practices. We would say that it intends to go beyond the transversality that stems from male-female inequality, to attend to those other identities or conditions whose convergence and interaction produce structural situations of exclusion or vulnerability. How do we approach this problem?

At FIIAPP, the Spanish cooperation arm specializing in public policies, we have numerous examples of both mainstreaming and a specific approach to gender in public policies. The national budgets with a gender perspective that we have worked with Argentina are a good example of the power they have as a tool for the effective fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals, and specifically of SDG 5. In Paraguay we have accompanied the formulation of a national care policy. We have just promoted a regional agreement in Latin America to protect women victims of sexist violence between different countries. We fight against the trafficking of women and girls -also men- from the police and judicial security but also addressing little-known edges such as the links between trafficking and corruption. We also strive to collaborate in the development of climate policies with a gender perspective, studying the differentiated impact of climate on women, and we have improved access to justice and land for rural women in Colombia within the framework of the Peace Agreements.

For women and by women

I would like to end by highlighting the need for more women to be at the helm of these public policies. The laws, regulations and policies aimed at gender equality should not only be participated by women: we must also ensure that we also have access to their leadership. The fact that there is only one female president in Latin America and that there are barely six in Europe out of 27 can give us an idea of the dimension of this challenge. We need public policies for and by women, promoted and developed by women as well. We are on the way.

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