The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action represented a major milestone for womens rights, prompting the creation of national mechanisms for women´s empowerment worldwide. Nevertheless, for most countries, gender mainstreaming across a number of executive bodies and service providers, as well as the implementation of multi-sectoral policies, remain a challenge.
Gender continues to be a central issue for the development of communities and countries. Across the globe, gender inequalities have an enormous impact on the life experience of women and girls, and can manifest themselves as discrimination, oppression and violence. Actions and policies to end violence against women have received greater attention and investments, varying in scale, duration, and outcomes. Yet, fewer initiatives aim to achieve social protection and economic empowerment for women. South-South cooperation may lead to identifying and sharing best practices, helping to address existing gaps and prompting more robust policy approaches to gender equality.
Towards a Solution
The project, ”Brazil and Africa: Fighting against poverty and empowering women through South-South cooperation”, brought together the Governments of Brazil and Mozambique in a trilateral South-South cooperation arrangement that also included the support of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and the United Kingdoms Department for International Development (DFID). From 2015 to 2017, the joint initiative generated an innovative approach to promoting gender equality and ending poverty, aimed at fulfilling three specific objectives:
- Contribute to the strengthening of the institutional capacities of the Mozambican authorities to provide inter-sectoral and integrated responses and address gender violence;
- Support social mobilization and community participation, especially of women leaders, in preventing and responding to gender-based violence and women’s economic empowerment; and
- Promote the institutional capacities of the Mozambican national authorities to formulate and implement public policies and strategies to promote women’s economic autonomy.
The leadership of cooperating countries set the priorities, goals and implementation strategy with technical support from United Nations agencies. The Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC), an entity of the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in charge of South- South cooperation, assumed a leading role in coordinating Brazilian institutions, working in partnership with the Secretariat of Policies for Women. On the Mozambican side, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation played a key role in initial mediations, after which the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Action was responsible for mobilizing managers and technical teams, with the support of the gender focal points in each institution. Civil society counterparts were also engaged, particularly in Mozambique: rural activists linked to the Rede de Margaridas no Mundo, a global rural women’s network, from both countries shared analysis and strategies and the Mozambican Women´s Forum carried out awareness-raising activities on violence against women. UNFPA and UN Women in Brazil and in Mozambique provided technical assistance and logistic and operational support for counterparts.
The project promoted the registration and analysis of laws, policies, programmes and institutions aimed at promoting gender equality and empowerment of women in Brazil over the past 20 years. Relevant initiatives were chosen in partnership with the Secretariat for Women’s Policies in Brazil, taking into account the Plan of Action for the Promotion of Gender Equity (2014-2016) of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries. In line with the demand-driven support tenet of South-South cooperation, good practices were identified and shared to respond to Mozambique’s request for cooperation in three areas: social protection; womens economic empowerment; and violence against women and girls.
Mozambican authorities and technical staff were introduced to initiatives such as the Bolsa Família (conditional income transfer programme), the Casa da Mulher Brasileira (units offering primary social support, police and legal aid services for survivors of violence against women), the Mulher, Viver sem Violência programme (Women Living without Violence, a multi- sectoral programme to end violence), integrated healthcare services for sexual violence survivors, and social policies targeting rural women. Moreover, Brazilian institutions presented strategies to increase the efficiency of services, such as ensuring confidentiality and sensitizing service personnel. In addition, Brazilian cooperating agencies were introduced to the inter- sectoral coordination arrangements featured in the Mozambican National Council on the Advancement of Women, and to the single registration form (ficha única) for survivors, a tool to avoid re-victimization by ensuring that all services collect and share information on cases, which will eventually allow for the unification of administrative records. As a result of the project, multisectoral knowledge was shared across a broad range of Brazilian and Mozambican government agencies and civil society organizations, where each agency contributed its own knowledge of specific innovations.
In the 2030 Agenda, South-South and trilateral cooperation feature as key resources for implementing effective and targeted capacity-building in developing countries to support national plans. To this end, the Brazil and Africa project invites further appraisal of the potential benefits of principle-oriented experience exchange and knowledge transfer among countries of the global South. In this regard, trilateral cooperation is as a platform that promotes gender equality and women’s rights, contributing to the achievement of the objectives set out in the 2030 Agenda.
At the same time, South-South cooperation projects targeting gender equality should adopt a long-term perspective and take into account the complexity of institutional arrangements resulting from a multisectoral approach. At the national level, programmes to promote gender equality alone require joint efforts by government agencies as diverse as education, health, social assistance, justice system and security. Challenges multiply when actions involve other governments, United Nations agencies and civil society, as do the potential advantages. In this regard, stakeholders might benefit from the leading role assigned to the foreign relations agencies, which coordinate actions and can encourage the involvement of various government bodies at the highest level. These efforts not only benefit international initiatives, but also foster multisectoral approaches at the national level by renewing commitment to equality, prompting innovation and addressing gaps in national policies.
This project is rendered sustainable through two approaches: creating knowledge within relevant government agencies that could eventually lead to policy formulation and better programming; and empowering civil society organizations to advocate for necessary policies while delivering the required services.