Gender mainstreaming is the process of integrating the needs, knowledge and interests of both women and men into all policies, programmes and institutional practices. It is not an end in itself, but a strategy for incorporating the concerns and experiences of women and men into all stages of an activity, from planning to evaluation. Gender mainstreaming ensures that both women and men equally benefit from policies and programmes.
Recognizing that “effective gender mainstreaming, with the goal of gender equality, is important if full use is to be made of the human capital in the OSCE area”, the 2004 OSCE Action Plan for the Promotion of Gender Equality tasks all OSCE institutions and field operations to apply this approach in their work.
ODIHR applies a gender perspective in the development, implementation and evaluation of all its activities, as a means of achieving gender equality, an acknowledged cornerstone of comprehensive security.
The Office also integrates a gender perspective into its organizational structure. For example, it ensures equal opportunities for women and men to apply for positions, and encourages the application of women to senior positions. At OSCE human dimension events, ODIHR strives for gender as well as geographic balance.
The results of ODIHR’s gender mainstreaming efforts are compiled each year and included in an Annex to the OSCE Secretary-General’s comprehensive Annual Evaluation Report on Gender Issues in the OSCE. The report also highlights key activities and outputs of ODIHR’s targeted programmes and initiatives to assist participating States in complying with OSCE commitments on gender equality.
All OSCE participating States recognize equality between women and men as a fundamental aspect of a just and democratic society. Hence an election cannot fulfill OSCE commitments or meet other international standards unless it includes the opportunity for full and equal participation by women.
ODIHR’s election observation missions draw conclusions on the extent to which an election process meets OSCE commitments, taking fully into account how the election process affects both women and men, and make recommendations for the host country.
Missions examine women's participation as voters, candidates, and elected representatives; their involvement in leadership roles within state institutions, electoral commissions, and political parties; and how the legal framework and media structures affect women as well as men.
ODIHR has also developed the Handbook for Monitoring Women's Participation in Elections as a working tool outlining the practical steps to be taken by each Election Observation Mission to integrate a gender perspective into its work.
ODIHR also conducts election-related technical assistance projects and legislative reviews, which cover women’s participation in electoral processes.
The impact of political party legislation on the equal right of men and women to participate in political and public life is a focus of ODIHR’s democratic governance programme. The Office assists think tanks in their analysis of potential obstacles to women’s participation created by political party regulations. This includes the assessment of candidate recruitment and campaign financing procedures.
By providing legislative support, ODIHR reviews legislation dealing with equal opportunities for men and women and examines its compliance with international gender equality standards. The Office advocates the inclusion of all relevant stakeholders, including those focused on equal rights for women and men, in its lawmaking review processes.
ODIHR’s activities also identify the specific challenges faced by migrant women and men in all stages of migration, and provide expertise on making the migration policies of participating States more gender-sensitive. ODIHR, in co-operation with the Office of the Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities has produced the Trainer's Manual on Gender and Labour Migration, which has served as the basis for training sessions in the OSCE region. On a policy level, ODIHR addresses the socio-economic challenges of women whose husbands have migrated for labour purposes.
ODIHR’s work in the rule of law addresses women’s access to justice and the judicial profession, as well as women’s participation in the development of rule of law strategies as detailed in the Kyiv Recommendations on Judicial Independence in Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia. In its work in trial monitoring, ODIHR assists field operations in strengthening their thematic monitoring, including in cases of domestic violence and trafficking in human beings.
ODIHR promotes gender-sensitive and human rights-based approaches in its anti-trafficking work, with a focus on prevention and protection, recognizing that trafficking harms both men and women. Victims of labour trafficking now face similar prejudices and misperceptions as victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation faced a decade ago. For example, male victims of trafficking face additional challenges in that direct assistance is rarely available to them, so ODIHR designs programmes that are specifically tailored to their needs.
Because effective security institutions, policy, and programmes should reflect the needs and interests of both men and women, ODIHR’s human rights, gender and security initiative assists OSCE participating States with gender mainstreaming all security sector institutions. The Office provides advice on integrating a gender perspective in national laws, policies and initiatives. A unique, comprehensive approach to training security sector actors is reflected in the Gender and Security Sector Reform Toolkit, a manual developed by ODIHR and partner organizations.
Given that participating States have recognized that it is the primary responsibility of the state to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, national human rights institutions (NHRIs) play an important role in protecting and promoting women’s rights and gender equality at the national level. ODIHR has compiled a compendium of good practices to enhance the capacities of NHRIs in their efforts to mainstream gender.
Tolerance and non-discrimination
ODIHR sees gender-based discrimination as the systemic, unfavorable treatment of individuals on the basis of their gender roles, which deprives them of full access to opportunities and resources.
Gender equality and discrimination feature as key issues in ODIHR’s Tolerance and Non-Discrimination Information System (TANDIS), which provides links to international instruments and documents.
Gender mainstreaming is also taken into consideration in reviewing draft legislation on freedom of religion or belief and in the preparation of the second edition of the Guidelines for Review of Legislation Pertaining to Religion or Belief.
Roma and Sinti
The Action Plan on Improving the Situation of Roma and Sinti within the OSCE Area recognizes that Roma and Sinti women often face multiple forms of discrimination in many areas of life on the basis of both ethnicity and sex.
ODIHR considers the particular concerns of Roma and Sinti women when designing its programmes, for example their vulnerability to human trafficking, street labour exploitation and early or forced marriage. Recognizing the prevalence of harmful customary practices and traditional gender roles, special attention is paid to address the disadvantages Roma and Sinti girls face in their access to education.
The Office also promotes the adoption of a gender sensitive approach among Roma and Sinti civil society, as an effective tool for empowerment.