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Stepping in the Right Direction – the IRM’s Gender Journey

SONGDO,
Bo is a female community member at a project site funded by an international financial institution. She normally spends most of her day doing household chores and taking care of her five children. Her husband does not allow her to leave the house on her own, and she is bound by very strict social norms against women. Recently, she secretly joined the Women’s Cooperative, where she and her female neighbours make tablecloths for sale. This activity is one of her few sources of joy, since she can meet her friends and can earn some money to keep for herself. However, a recent project, being implemented together with the Government, has torn down the Cooperative’s building to construct a dam, and no proper compensation has been offered to the women who used part of the building. Unfortunately, she is unaware of the funding institution’s grievance redress mechanism where she can file a complaint relating to harm caused by the project. Even if she did know about how to file a complaint, she has very limited means of communication, since she does not read or write and has never used a computer or a cellphone. More importantly, she is also afraid that she will be kicked out of the house if her husband finds out that she had been spending some time of her day outside of the house.

Just as climate change can affect men and women differently, the GCF’s climate change projects and programmes can also have varying impacts on different genders, and the accessibility of the GCF’s Independent Redress Mechanism (IRM) may be limited to people of certain gender identities. Recently, the Office of the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman of the International Finance Corporation (the World Bank’s private sector lending arm) shared its observation that over the last two years, only 33 per cent of their complainants were women. Although more data should be gathered to get a clearer understanding of this issue and the reasons behind it, this low percentage of female complainants suggests that there are systematic barriers that women like Bo face in accessing remedy. Thus, in order to prevent any such limitations to complainants of a certain gender, it is essential that the IRM prepares its own measures to do its utmost to be accessible and responsive to all genders.

In fact, the Procedures and Guidelines of the IRM approved by the GCF Board clearly mandates the IRM to “take a proactive approach to raising awareness and providing information about the IRM in a gender responsive and culturally appropriate manner to its stakeholders…so that they may have the information they may need about its mandate, objectives and functioning, and so that the IRM can be effective in fulfilling its functions.” To do that, the IRM is committed to taking a gender-responsive approach, which goes “beyond acknowledging gender gaps (gender-sensitive) and really doing something about the discrepancies”. Accordingly, the IRM has been developing a strategy note to document the general to specific and more immediate to long-term approaches to make itself more accessible to all genders and to be gender-inclusive in all its processes and operations, both internal and external.


To begin with, the IRM has decided to gather gender-disaggregated data of all its stakeholders, including its own staff, participants of outreach and capacity building workshops, complainants, mediators, subject experts etc. This data will allow the IRM to reflect on how gender-inclusive it has been and in what potential direction the IRM may be headed in terms of making itself more accessible for complainants of all genders.

While the IRM continues to build up this data, it will implement the strategies that it has been developing in terms of the IRM’s five major functions: complaints handling, outreach, capacity building, advisory work, and the processing of reconsideration requests. Some of the strategies that the IRM has developed for three[1] of its key functions include:

Complaints handling - The staff of the IRM plan to receive training on how the team can be more gender-responsive. This training could also be rolled out to the IRM’s subject experts, mediators and interpreters. The IRM will also more clearly and extensively incorporate the need to consider different gender identities throughout all its processes in its supporting operating procedures. For example, the IRM has included in its retaliation SOP a direction to its staff to assess gender risks as part of the retaliation risk assessment. When staff conduct site visits, information about certain gender norms and social roles will be collected prior to the trip, since gender norms are different from society to society. This information can help the IRM identify, for example, what the major gathering sites are for certain genders, so that staff can access them at these sites in a way that is less burdensome for them. During the problem solving process, the IRM also recognises that the complainant(s) should be given options in selecting the mediator of a certain gender so that they feel more comfortable, particularly if there are instances of Sexual Exploitation, Sexual Abuse and Sexual Harassment (SEAH) involved.

Outreach – As in the case of Bo, she was one of the unfortunate ones since she did not know about the IRM. That is all too often the case. As part of its gender strategies, the IRM will strive to open up its outreach sessions to as diverse gender identities as possible to make the IRM more visible to potentially affected people. The IRM will use its local contact points to make physical announcements of its outreach events so that marginalised groups can participate in the IRM’s in-person workshops or even virtual ones with the help of local civil society organisations. The IRM will make sure to invite more women and women’s organisations. During its outreach events, the IRM will discuss the issue of gender and the participants will be asked to provide their views on the issue to help us understand how we can approach marginalised genders in their region.

Capacity building - As much as the IRM is committed to becoming more gender-responsive, it is also important to help the grievance redress mechanisms of the GCF’s Direct Access Entities to be equally gender-responsive and inclusive in their operations. The IRM is currently planning to incorporate a session on gender issues into its online learning modules and its capacity building workshops so that the participants, including the IRM, can share experiences and learn from each other on the issue of gender and grievance redress mechanisms.

The IRM’s gender strategy note is being continuously reviewed and commented on by external stakeholders and is undergoing a few rounds of revisions. The IRM will continue to incorporate learnings into the strategy to keep up with its efforts to be gender-responsive. If you have any further thoughts on how the IRM can be more gender-responsive and you would like to share them with the IRM, please contact us! We want to learn from you!
 
[1] The IRM’s strategy note considers how to be more gender responsive in relation to each of its 5 functions. However, advisory work and processing reconsideration requests are not extensively explored in the strategy note since they do not have apparent and imminent gender-related accessibility issues.