Few weeks ago, UNDP India was awarded the coveted gold seal for our work on gender equality. It is no small feat. In the Olympics of gender equality at UNDP, the India country office came on top, successfully integrating the gender lens in everything we do, in both programmes and operations.
The UNDP Gender Equality Seal is a corporate quality assurance mechanism that measures and certifies achievements and competence of UNDP Country Offices (COs) in advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment. It benchmarks the ability of UNDP COs to contribute to gender equality on the ground.
This was only possible because gender equality did not come up as a random agenda or priority. It is one of the key common threads that bind us in the work we all do. The gender equality agenda has been internalized by the staff across all levels. There is a strong sense of collective responsibility for advancing gender equality in our work and in the workplace.
The only comparison that I can give you to the gender equality seal experience is probably to Avengers Endgame, all of us with different superpowers of innovation, collaboration, creativity, working together against our own version of a real Thanos – the patriarchy.
In a huge organization like UNDP India, with so many moving pieces, so many key players, and several teams but all working in tandem, under strong leadership, together with one overarching goal – the Gold Gender Equality Seal – we were the Gender Avengers.
India has seen progress towards gender equality in the recent decades, but vast inequalities continue to persist. UNDP’s Gender Inequality Index 2023 ranks India 122nd out of 191 countries, with Indian women being subject to disadvantages that manifest from birth and continue throughout their lives.
Gender equality and women’s empowerment has been recognised as a key enabler for the Sustainable Development Goals by UNDP’s Strategic Plan (2022 -2025) and Gender Equality Strategy (2022-2025). As the most populous country and with the largest youth population, India’s progress on gender equality will make or break the achievement of Agenda 2030 for the world.
Recognizing this, UNDP India has made gender equality a key priority across all its work. Our main superpower is being able to consistently apply the gender lens in everything we do and to keep looking for entry points to address gender inequality, making gender everyone’s business.
Take our recent study on AI and Human Rights for instance. It explores the impact of AI on human rights of consumers in sectors of healthcare and financial services, and the labour force in sectors of retail and gig economy. The gendered impacts of generative AI were so glaring in the report that UNDP will be undertaking a specific study on AI and gender which will also include a toolkit for stakeholders to use to mitigate the harmful effects of AI.
Moving beyond the binary, LGBQTIA and trans rights has been a core component in advancing gender equality for UNDP India. In fact, research conducted by UNDP on trans welfare was cited in a progressive Supreme Court judgment recognizing the gender identity of transgender persons.
UNDP India through its immunization and vaccination programmes has built the capacity of 730,000 women health care workers and cold chain vaccine handlers, which will expand to 1 million in the coming years. While this has significantly improved access and efficient monitoring of vaccines, it has also led to reduced time poverty of women as well improving their work performance.
Recognizing the power of innovation in accelerating gender equality, the Accelerator Lab developed a free interactive mobile game called Corona Champion which highlighted the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on women and girls, while being a source of information for the public.
Is there anything better than finding a partner who shares the same values as you and enriches you? Through partnerships with the government, private sector, civil society organizations, and project participants, UNDP continues to be a catalyst for women's economic empowerment and drive gender transformational results. Recently through a consultative process involving several partners and sector experts, UNDP will initiate innovative interventions on childcare services to address the imbalanced and excessive burden of unpaid care work on women, while also creating pathways for increasing women’s participation in the workforce.
All of this is amazing, but if you don’t post about it, did it really happen? Communicating effectively about the transformational stories on gender equality involves capturing diverse voices and a commitment to amplifying those voices. UNDP India's second edition of the Inspiring India magazine, 2023 features stories of women and trans changemakers, who have been advancing gender equality in typically non-traditional spaces. This edition was launched by celebrity advocates Bhumi Pednekar and Prajakta Koli earlier this year.
Engaging people is key - evident through initiatives like the Gender Book Club – Bold and the Bookish and Gender Jams. These informal spaces have fostered open discussions, built gender understanding, and created a sense of camaraderie among colleagues.
Making gender everyone's business is not the end; it's a continued commitment to a future where equality is not just a goal but a lived reality for all. The Gold Gender Equality Seal is just the beginning to an uphill road, but a road paved with collaboration, partnerships and innovation.
The Gender Avengers have assembled.
Watch the Gender Seal video here.