The Commonwealth’s gender equality programme is defined by the Commonwealth Plan of Action for Gender Equality 2005–2015 (PoA).
It provides the framework within which the Commonwealth will advance its commitment to gender equality and equity. Based on current and emerging challenges, the Plan of Action identifies four critical areas:
PoA Area 1 - Gender, democracy. peace and conflict
Our work in this area seeks to strengthen democracy among member countries, particularly through the promotion of the minimum 30 per cent target for women’s participation and representation in government and decision-making processes. It also addresses issues of peace building and conflict management, including early warning mechanisms and women’s contribution to these processes through capacity building training, workshops, conferences and technical advice to member countries.
The impact of issues of political participation, peace and conflict cannot be divorced from the broader goal of achieving democracy and peace for all Commonwealth people. However, the issue of access to women in these processes requires a firm commitment to changing mindsets through continued advocacy, awareness raising and education.
Our challenges remains to demonstrate the impact of women’s contribution to democracy, peace and conflict management; promote accountability; balanced representation; harmonise national legislation with international commitments and promote a culture of peace through education in the Commonwealth.
PoA Area 2 - Gender, Human Rights and Law
The PoA recognises that women and girls experience different forms of discrimination and disadvantage during their lives and that gender inequities intensify their disadvantages. To ensure gender justice, the PoA calls for the enactment and implementation of gender sensitive laws, and reviews of customs, practices and mechanisms in countries. Approaches include support for strengthening of policy frameworks, resource material, regional meetings and training programmes.
In this critical area for Commonwealth action on gender, human rights and the law, we focus on:
PoA Area 3 - Gender, Poverty Eradication and Economic Empowerment
Gender inequality causes and exacerbates the impact of poverty on women, who account for almost 70 per cent of those living in poverty. New opportunities for economic growth from globalisation and trade liberalisation can also pose critical challenges related to loss of livelihoods and employment for both women and men. Many women bear the primary responsibility for household and community management through paid and unpaid work, and with the existence of gender-based occupational segregation, the impacts of trade policies on men and women are often different.
In order to address these issues, the Gender Section works in the following areas:
PoA Area 4 - Gender and HIV/AIDS
In acknowledging that poverty and gender inequalities are driving factors in the spread and impact of HIV/AIDS, the PoA emphasises the need for bringing together gender analysis, mainstreaming methods and a multi-sectoral approach in HIV/AIDS interventions. Approaches used include policy dialogue, technical assistance for capacity building and production of resource material.
In the critical area for action on gender and HIV/AIDS, we focus on: