Paradox of gender mainstreaming strategies: why are they not fully realized in sexual reproductive health projects in Malawi?
Gender mainstreaming in sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services like family planning in Malawi remains a significant approach in development. Yet, the expected gender related changes in gender mainstreaming focused SRH projects have been inadequate. The central aim of this paper is to expose the salient reasons behind the inadequate gender relations changes in the family planning (FP) SRH projects implemented by the local organisations. The study employed an exploratory design with more qualitative focus and a bit of quantitative approach. The empirical data for this article was collected in gender focused SRH projects implemented in selected communities in the last five years by three organisations in Malawi.4 The findings show that, the way project staffs understood the gender mainstreaming strategy affected how they designed and introduced the strategy. Subsequently, this affected the realization of the gender related changes from the projects. Furthermore, it was found that gender related changes were compromised where gender analysis had not been done. Further, the involvement and inclusion of men and women during the family planning projects implementation was mere tokenism. Therefore, the paper recommends that, a systematic process need to be in place when introducing gender mainstreaming in SRH projects for the organisations to achieve gender related outcomes. This entails ensuring that gender analysis is done prior to the SRH projects implementation to understand gender needs and before the staff involves men and women jointly during the projects cycle stages. This paper will contribute to the discussion on the determinants of gender mainstreaming strategy in SRH programmes.
Keywords: Gender mainstreaming, sexual and reproductive health, family planning, gender relations