UN Women are currently mid-way through a global evaluation of their strategic partnerships.
As part of this process, we would love to know more about the views and experiences of the community regarding what characterises effective partnerships for gender equality. The evaluation team will use this information to help compare and contrast our findings about the performance of UN Women. However, by asking four questions that are pertinent to all partnerships, we hope that the discussion will also be useful for your work.
We will post a new question every 3 days. To get started, it would be great to hear your thoughts on our first question:
Dear colleagues, this is an important agenda. Level of effectiveness of partnerships can make or break outcome of interventions. But, 'partnership' between organizations, or individuals remain to be a serious challenge in many contexts. So different interventions continue to be implemented in isolation. For example, if two interventions are targeting same farmer, same woman, they do NOT talk to each other, thus limiting the potential impact for the ultimate beneficiary. We faced great challenges trying to implement '' Credit with Education'' (also called Credit +) programme which aims to integrate microcredit with essential skill training, Business Development Services, market linkages, etc, so that borrowers can benefit more from increased income, empowerment, etc.
As the UNDP defines it, the pro-poor PPP is one that “increases access of the poor to basic services by promoting inclusive partnerships between local government, business, community groups, NGOs, Faith Based Organizations and others. In other words profit motivations are blended with social concerns and empowering targeted communities.
So the first agenda should be for partners to have a shared mission/vision. If some are socially driven mission, while others are profit motivated, the challenge would be how to balance among these (seemingly) divergent objectives.
Thank you Getaneh for sharing your insights on 'mission-alignment' in working on Credit+. You raise a vital point given that multi-sector/multi-stakeholder partnerships are becoming such a big part of the agenda for the Global Goals and responding to resource constraints. I wonder if you have any insights into whether it is possible to align or balance the vision of partners over time, or whether partners need to be fully aligned from the beginning (or even at a deeper level of organisational culture etc)?
Dear Joseph ... Thank you for the good feed back. One of the key intervention to influence gender issues at the grass-root level is to 'integrate'' gender programmes with some ongoing activity (pigy-backing) like value chains, ruralfinance, etc (Key advocate is Freedeom from Hunger, FFH). Perhaps ruralfinance (microfinance) is being increasingly used as an effective ''entry-point" (the logic being that since microcredit is one of the key tools to enhance income generation, etc, it can reach many poor people, men/women). Collaboration with the microfinance service providers gives a room to reach poor people, applying for loans, or using saving services (often in groups), during which time capacity building on gender is facilitated (eg. on men/women, boys/girls rights, responsibilities, opportunities, challenges of existing 'norms', etc). Some institutions are making it a requirement the business proposal presented by households need to indicate how the increased responsibility as a result of the new loan would be 'shared between husband/wife, who controls income, etc. This is piloted in Uganda, but also being implemented in other countries like India, Peru, Nigeria, etc (supported by UN-IFAD, Oxfam-Novib, HIVOS, etc). An interesting video is posted at
I have summarized an evaluation report, for Oxfam-Novib, which can be accessed from:
Thanks Getaneh for your detailed and thoughtful response, including the links. It is great to have some concrete examples of what we might mean as 'entry points' for partnership!
Gender equality is achieved when women and men enjoythe same rights and opportunities across all sectors of society, including economic participation and decision-making, and when the different behaviors, aspirations and needs of women and men are equally valued and favored.
The best example of partnership I have seen is that of Vital Voices Global Leadership Network DC,and Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ), Nigerian.I believe their commitment is responsible for their strong partnership.
Long-term commitment and
Paying more attention to partners capacity.These are very crucial to achieving effective partnership for gender equality and women empowerment.
Joy, thanks for sharing both this example and the four criteria that you have identified. These really resonate with a lot of the evaluation evidence that I have seen, so it is great to have an experience from Nigeria that triangulates these.
The Best example of a partnership between two organizations addressing gender equality - is in Kenya under a project granted by Embassy of Sweden in Nairobi through a local Development partner Act Change Transform and a community civil society organization - Centre for Indigenous Women and Children (CIWOCH) . Project based in Rural Kajiado County in Kenya with Maasai as the ethnic community living on community land. The grant addressed protection of land rights through reference to Constitution of Kenya 2010 (Land Act) by openly condemning the historical land injustice committed decades ago in group ranches where maasai women did not have a say in Communal land administration, management and ownership. Their husbands ordered for land subdivision and sold parcel of land to private members and women were not supposed to challenge the process. Husbands kept the money and could not share with their wives, thus many families became squatters. The two organizations facilitated paralegals to capacity build the women in the villages to advocate for their rights. Later the women owned the process and matched to the County Governor's office and office of the Lands commission through a peaceful demonstration seeking for a hearing with the county executive government. Today women rights are at the top of Kajiado County, women are involved in community land reforms processes and legislation at County level. They have also been included at the County Land Control Board and local land tribunals at constituency and ward levels to ensure women rights are safeguarded. in Addition some of the cases filed in court were ruled - stop the land subdivision while the sold land cases are still waiting for the ruling.
Hi Mary, thanks for your example of a partnership. As I read your description, it feels to me that this partnership was really effective at helping Maasai women to realise their human rights based on available policy frameworks. I wonder if the partnership also enabled the experience of the work on Kajiado to influence policy advocacy? Cheers! Joseph
Thanks everyone for your great comments. The final Twitter survey results suggested that 'accountability' is critical to effective partnerships.
To finish our discussion, I would love to have your thoughts on our last two questions:
In your experience, what partnership capabilities are most important for organisations like UN Women to develop in order to be effective?
What are the factors that most often undermine effective partnerships for gender equality and women’s empowerment?
As stated in my response in the Pelican community there is a wealth of information on partnerships in the EU EQUAL initiative platform (an initiative that run for 7 years working on gender equality and women empowerment in the EU labour markets).
As you may read in the documents (specially on the reflection notes and the guide for development parthernships) some of the most common failures are related to:
- Unbalanced partnerships (in terms of big/small - grass root/national authorities - first time partners / already known partners - etc.)
- Lack of resources for running the partnerhsip (i.e.: support staff, scheduled time, etc.)
- No capacity building for partners is envisaged in the project (i.e. workshops, guides, etc.)
- And many others (referred to the involvement of partners throughout the differect project life cycle; the correct selection of the legal framework where partnership shall be laying upon; etc.)
Hope this helps somehow though it is necessary to carefully checkout all related documents to extract the best transferable lessons learned.
Responses in Pelican online group (shared with permission)
"The literature on partnership includes both analytical research on how partnerships actually function – how they are established and operate – and normative guidelines and tools about
how they should be established and operate. Although one would expect that guidelines would be based on evidence, in practice research studies do not always present suggestions for action,
and guidelines seldom seem to be based on prior research"
Tina Wallace, Oxford, UK
How are you defining partnerships for gender equality and what is the evidence used to assess different elements of 'success'?
How is feedback on partnership being related to specific examples of positive change for women?
Rick makes v strong points about the gulf between norms and indeed rhetoric and reality so if like to understand how these complex issues of methodology and self reporting are handled in this study.
The questions are interesting and important but how does this methodology contribute to understanding them better in practise? Thanks.
It is interesting to see the three major factors as you set out in your note:
"Responses to three twitter polls (tagged #UNWomenSPeval) have suggested that 'accountability', 'communication' and 'feminist values' are major factors that contribute to effective partnerships for gender equality."
In my experience as an evaluator and organisational development practitioner I find that the potential for strong partnerships on 'gender equality' happens when organisations are willing to reflect on their thinking about 'feminist values'. Doing this is a significant step in a process to improve practice for 'gender equality'. And doing this is not easy. Processes such as participatory organisational gender self assessments are important change interventions for promoting awareness, building capacity and accountability. The more organisations are able to look at their own internal thinking on gender equality and practice, the more I believe there is room for dialogue within and across partnerships.