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Institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women
Editor: Shirin M. Rai

The role of national machineries, as a way to promote the status of women, acquired international relevance during the World Conference on the International Women's Year, in Mexico City in 1975. This book reflects Division for the Advancement of Women's (DAW) long-standing interest in the area of national machineries, bringing together the experiences, research and insights of experts. The first part of the book sets out the major issues facing national machineries at the conceptual level. It reflects upon five aspects of democratization: devolution or decentralization; the role of political parties; monitoring and auditing systems; and the importance of increasing the presence of women within institutions of the state and government. The second part is a comparative analysis and sets out the major issues facing national machineries at the political level. A combination of factors, including civil society, state bodies and political actors, need to come together for national machineries to function effectively in the interest of gender equality. Next comes the 'lessons learned' by national machineries in mainstreaming gender. National machineries should have an achievable agenda, an important part of which must be 'a re-definition of gender issues. The third part contains case studies that build upon the specific experiences of national machineries in different countries. The successful experience of Nordic countries in gender mainstreaming is also discussed.

Open Access (free)
Shirin M. Rai

This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book reflects Division for the Advancement of Women's (DAW) long-standing interest in the area of national machineries, and brings together the experiences, research and insights of experts. It also reflects upon the ways in which the move from focusing on women to gender has opened up the issue of gender analysis for policy making. The book explores the theme of the importance of the political role of women's movements within the context of the national machinery of the Philippines. It examines the successful experience of Nordic countries in gender mainstreaming. The book argues that 'the work of the National Commission for Women provides a useful focal point not only to address specific policy issues but it also allows us to raise the broader issues of differences among women'.

in Mainstreaming gender, democratizing the state?
Mainstreaming gender, democratizing the state?
Shirin M. Rai

Institutionalizing women's interests in all areas and sectors of policy at all levels has been a concern of women's movements worldwide, as well as of international institutions such as the United Nations (UN). Gender mainstreaming has emerged as a strategy for addressing this issue, relevant to all states and public institutions. National machineries for the advancement of women are regarded as appropriate institutional mechanisms for ensuring that gender mainstreaming agendas are implemented and issues of gender equality remain in focus in public policy. This chapter sketches out the major positions that have been articulated in feminist state debates, and the shifts that have occurred within them. It focuses on the processes of democratization and argues that the question of engagement with the state and state institutions cannot be seen in terms of binary opposites.

in Mainstreaming gender, democratizing the state?
The Indian experience
Shirin M. Rai

This chapter examines the brief history of the National Commission for Women in India that was set up in 1990. It provides a background to the political system within which the Commission functions. The chapter also examines the options before the Commission in the light of the consensus that emerged on national machineries at the Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. It explains the structure and functions of the Commission itself. The chapter points out the strengths and weaknesses of the Commission in the context of the politics of the country, as well as the parameters within which it functions. This analysis is based primarily on interviews with Commission members. The chapter concludes by raising some issues for the long-term functioning and efficacy of the Commission.

in Mainstreaming gender, democratizing the state?
Open Access (free)
Looking forward
Shirin M. Rai

This chapter provides an overview of the main issues raised by the contributors of national machineries. These include both the success stories of, and the challenges faced by, national machineries for women. The chapter examines the issue of accountability of national machineries themselves as a means of strengthening machinery-civil society relations which in turn may strengthen the position of the machinery within the state structure. It can be argued that the legitimacy of national machineries is an important political capital. In support of increasing autonomy for national machineries, it could be argued that a mainstreaming of gender agendas requires negotiating across ministries, sectors of government bureaucracy and with civil society organizations. The chapter summarizes the lessons learnt from the various case studies in this book and determines what may be an enabling environment for national machineries.

in Mainstreaming gender, democratizing the state?
Open Access (free)
Shirin M. Rai

In order to explore the feminist perspectives on democratization, people need to understand both the feminist frameworks and methodologies. This chapter outlines what a feminist framework might be and then uses this perspective to analyse feminist engagements with the theory and practice of democratization. It presents some insights arising from the work of feminist scholars that extend the authors' understanding of democratization at the theoretical level. Feminist insights have insisted upon de-mythologizing an 'essential woman' through the study of difference between men and women and among women as a theoretical strategy that underpins women's struggles for empowerment. The chapter then discusses the specific field of gender and democratization and the nature of women's participation in politics. It further reflects upon the wider socio-economic context in which men and women are engaged in democratization struggles.

in Democratization through the looking-glass