Today is International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and girls and raising awareness of the importance of their role in society. It is also a day to remember the challenges they face and the solutions that must be put in place in order to, all together, look towards a more sustainable, fairer and more inclusive future.
In September 2021, with the objective of achieving gender equality in the Mediterranean, MedWaves set up a gender task force within its team. On the occasion of March 8, we give the floor to its members, who underline in this article the importance of the creation of a task force, its role and its vision.
Gender Task Force, March 8 | Today, we recall that 70% of the 1.3 billion people living in conditions of poverty are women and that 80% of the displaced by climate related disasters and changes around the world are women and girls. By zooming in on the Mediterranean, we see that the region is not an exception in terms of gender inequality gaps. Despite incremental progress in the last decade, women’s labor force participation rates in the Southern Mediterranean region are still among the lowest in the world, below 33% (State of the Environment and Development in the Mediterranean, UNEP/MAP – Plan Bleu, 2020). Female unemployment rates are higher than male unemployment rates in most Mediterranean countries. Women and girls also face disproportionate barriers to inheritance, property ownership, and access to capital, as well as one of the world’s highest ratios of unpaid care and domestic work responsibilities compared to men.
In Northern Mediterranean countries, there are important barriers for women to arrive to leadership positions, such as gaps in hiring and internal promotions, and there is a persistent gender pay gap. We also note that both Northern and Southern countries are below the global percentage of women entrepreneurs who own established businesses (5.3 and 4.5% as opposed to 6.2%, UfM 2022).
In a world that drastically needs change and an urgent transition to more sustainable consumption and production patterns, we cannot leave half of the population behind. Their participation is crucial in developing a sustainable and inclusive economy that provides solutions to economic, environmental and social challenges. Women have proven their ability to be leaders, innovators, researchers as well as solution and decision makers and they must contribute to innovation and economic prosperity in our region.
If it is clear that these inequalities must be overcome, it is also clear that we need strategic actions to tackle the underlying causes.
From this statement, the MedWaves Gender Taskforce was born, with the aim of analyzing ongoing activities and designing a strategy to ensure that all MedWaves actions and processes contribute to the achievement of gender equality in the Mediterranean region.
At MedWaves, we are committed to building capacity and to contributing to the exchange of knowledge in the region, and we understand that a gender perspective should be embedded in every action taken by the centre. But the reality of the different countries is extremely heterogeneous, not only because of the many regional actors involved, but also due to the various characteristics each one of those stakeholders has. Being actively conscious of our responsibility is key to amplifying our impact and helping thrive change in the region. To ensure that this gender perspective is embedded in each one of our actions, we have formed the Gender Taskforce with representatives of all the departments of the centre.
In order to prioritize and better focus our efforts, we have designed our Theory of Change, with the aim of identifying the different dynamics of our internal and external activities and understanding how we can make a difference in each of these actions.
A Theory of Change is a comprehensive description and visualization of how and why a desired mission-driven change should occur in a particular context. It focuses on mapping what is described as the “missing middle” between what a program or change initiative wants to do (its activities or interventions) and how these actually lead to the desired goals. To do this, we first identified the desired long-term goals, then worked back to identify all of the conditions (outcomes) that must be in place for the goals to occur, and the relationships between them.
It has been a challenging learning process and at some points we had the impression that instead of being closer to prospective solutions, new layers of complexity were being added to the initial problem. But at some moment, we started to visualize the relations between our ideas and were able to identify tangible activities, outcomes and outputs that could help us reach our desired impact: Achieving gender equality in the Mediterranean Region.
Building up on these first reflections, we identified the key actions that can be taken within different departments of the centre.
A bright, healthy and safe future in the Mediterranean wouldn’t be possible without the high involvement of women and their participation in decision-making. It is therefore essential to ensure equal opportunities for women and men to participate in decision-making. Trainings and capacity building are the main methods of supporting women in politics and we aim to provide access to these trainings within our initiatives.
Facing climate change and transitioning to a better world is a daily fight in which women must speak up. It is our role to give the floor to women and to provide them with more visibility. Languages and the way we express ourselves convey ideas, represent us and have a tangible effect on people’s prejudices and behaviors. This is why it is important to integrate a gender perspective into every communication. This is possible in particular thanks to specific guidelines for inclusive communications, some of them being provided by UN Women, for example.
Supporting Green Entrepreneurs
This year in particular, we celebrate the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in contributing to the transition towards sustainable development. Women entrepreneurs are a source of growth and job creation, they’re innovators providing solutions to today’s environmental, social and economic challenges. The Switchers Support Programme supports women-led or co-led start-ups to frame their ambition and build their green business canvas. It also fosters women’s participation in economic life by promoting the creation of new business models and green jobs through the training and support of women entrepreneurs, the provision of services for women business development, networking activities and the facilitation of access to funding for women.
Consulting and Contracting
Our analysis also revealed that it is essential to have an annual assessment of gender inclusion in the workplace, whether in internal teams or through external consultations or contracting services. MedWaves team is made up of 58% women and similar work to identify the share of women working with the center as consultants is under preparation. Bringing a gender-sensitive approach in our contracting process would allow us to better achieve gender mainstreaming in the region.
The Gender Taskforce is composed by:
The task force was supported by Fields Data in the elaboration of the Theory of Change