Advancing OGP's Gender Strategy

We stand on the cusp of a major push to advance gender equality through the Open Government Partnership (OGP). Inclusion and gender equality have emerged as among the highest priorities for OGP. We are really excited about deepening our forthcoming commitment to gender.

At the same time, we must begin by acknowledging that our gender effort in OGP is nascent and insufficient at the moment. And we must address concerns that the open government community have raised. Over the past few days, OGP and its incoming co-chairs have been criticized for a lack of diversity and representation in leadership. We wholly agree with these concerns.

OGP has very impressive women leaders throughout the partnership, including in the Steering Committee and in the OGP Support Unit. We take pride in the strong leadership role OGP’s women leaders have played in building OGP from scratch. OGP has a gender-balanced Steering Committee, Board of Directors, as well as Support Unit management team and staff. But we fully recognize that at key political moments in recent months, including the last UNGA event and in recent meetings with the incoming co-chairs, we have indeed fallen short. We do not view this as a communications or optics problem.  These high level meetings should have been representative of OGP’s overall leadership and they weren’t.

But we also need to go much further. Building on the foundation that OGP women leaders have set, we need to ensure that women lead, drive, and shape OGP’s gender strategy, working with male leaders in the partnership. And in so doing, we need to chart a course for a truly inclusive partnership that is responsive to and representative of all open government champions regardless of their gender identity, race, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, or socio-economic status. “Open government for all” is a new mantra we take seriously and are committed to embracing in the years to come.   

We need to take actions at three interrelated levels to forcefully advance gender equality through OGP – partnership-level, country-level, and the Support Unit-level.

Partnership Level

We are committed to developing an overall strategy to advance women’s empowerment through OGP. This means inclusive co-creation of OGP action plans, transformative OGP commitments to advance gender equality, and assessments through the Independent Reporting Mechanism. It also means taking a fresh look at the way OGP events and summits are organized, building on the existing “no manels” rule that has been in place for the past two years, and ensuring that opening plenaries and partner organized events around OGP meetings are also as diverse as possible.    

To co-create this strategy, we will convene a diverse and inclusive task force with women leaders from the Steering Committee and the partnership more broadly to lead and drive this work. This will also include internal and external experts with commitment to and experience with gender strategies at multilateral organizations and within the broader NGO community. We will also work closely with our inspiring group of Ambassadors, which includes five women leaders who play critical roles in the global policy landscape. All of this work will be underpinned by research and evidence we plan to commission through a new initiative with International Development Resource Center (IDRC) and Results for Development, that will support partner organizations at the country-level who have been working in the trenches of advancing gender equality through open government for many years; their work will also be shaped and guided by this forthcoming task force.

Country Level

The biggest impact and dividend from our gender strategy will come at the country level. We need to join forces to advance women’s empowerment and gender equality in the co-creation process and in commitments in OGP action plans across our 75 countries and 20 local participants.

Two weeks ago, I had the honor of speaking alongside very impressive women leaders such as former Senegal Prime Minister, Dr. Aminata Toure, and Ana Maria Perez of the United Nations at the Carter Center conference on “Women and Access to Information.” In my remarks, I invited the gender and open government communities to co-create a vision of how OGP can advance gender equality and join forces to ensure, for instance, that over the next two to three years, 30-40 countries make at least one major transformative commitment to empower women through OGP reforms.

Some possible ideas that we discussed include:

  • Collectively ensure that women’s groups fully participate in the OGP co-creation process of every country, as they have recently in Afghanistan, Argentina, Costa Rica and Colombia, so women play a leadership role in shaping commitments at the country level.    

  • Ensure that a set of OGP countries – developed and developing - commit to tackling the epidemic of sexual and gender-based violence, as Sierra Leone and Colombia are doing through their OGP commitments.  

  • Ensure that another set of OGP countries commit to enhancing women’s voice and participation in shaping policies, as in Cote d’Ivoire, and overseeing service delivery, as in Bojonegoro, Indonesia.

Support Unit

Within the Support Unit, our Chief of Communications and Campaigns Stephanie Bluma will lead our gender strategy, represent us in key meetings, and play a lead role on the taskforce. She will lead a diverse team of staff from across all departments.  She will work with her peers within OGP senior leadership to ensure the voices of all our staff are reflected in our new gender strategy. At our global all-staff retreat next week, we will focus specifically on formulating a plan for co-creating our gender strategy.

The new initiative with IDRC and Results for Development, mentioned above, will also facilitate the recruitment of a gender coordinator, who will work with the taskforce to guide this seminal work.  

On April 1, OGP will become its own independent NGO. One of our very first steps that we are putting in place are policies and procedures to ensure that OGP principles of inclusion and diversity are reflected in all internal operations.

The Way Forward

Addressing the structural biases facing women must begin at home, as Open Heroines has noted – in ensuring women leaders lead and drive our own OGP gender strategy.  While addressing this, we also need to go much farther in empowering women across the partnership through OGP action plans – in leading the co-creation processes, in shaping policies, in overseeing services, in tackling gender-based violence.

As we advance our gender strategy, we invite you to share your insights and guidance with us.  In the forthcoming months, we welcome comment, input, and criticism from the community and beyond. How can OGP do better? What do we need to do? What do we need to not do? What concrete steps need to be taken to ensure these mistakes aren’t made again?

We encourage you to share your insights and suggestions with Stephanie Bluma (email - stephanie.bluma@opengovpartnership.org), Joe Powell (email - joe.powell@opengovpartnership.org) and Tonu Basu (email – tonu.basu@opengovpartnership.org).

Authors: Sanjay Pradhan
Topics: Gender
Filed Under: OGP News