JRS Global Gender Policy

Some background, views, implementation plans, or challenges from some team members within and without the region.

A girl raises her hand in class at a JRS school in Baalbek. December 2016 (Kristóf Hölvényi/JRS MENA)

Jill Drzewiecki

  1. How important do you think it is having a Global Gender Policy at JRS?

Ethically/Morally speaking:
× It is essential. JRS is an organization that believes in the intrinsic dignity of every person and is committed to justice. Gender equality is at the heart of all human rights framework.Even if we have not perceived it before, working towards gender equality it is critical to our JRS mission and values. As the intro to the Gender Policy reads, “Jesuit Refugee Service’s (JRS) commitment to reducing gender gaps and inequalities in its organizational structure, operations, and programmes has not yet been optimized.” Equality, including gender equality, is the heartbeat of our work. JRS goals, objectives, and activities need to address imbalances of power and transform unjust structures and this includes gender inequality, especially if we wish to remain relevant in our field of work. (See below).

Practically-speaking:
× Gender equality can lead to increased funding for our work. If it is not a priority, and if we don’t have a gender policy in place — we risk no longer being relevant within the larger humanitarian-development space. Many funders now require having agender policy and conducting gender analysis as pre-conditions for funding.
× Mainstreaming or consciously integrating gender equity — into our daily work at JRS is an opportunity to approach our programmingfrom a new perspective, to learn new skills, and to not “get stuck” in the way that things might have always been done. In the same way that COVID-19 forced us to innovate — addressing gender inequality in our organization, and its programming, challenges us in a similar same way.
× Enhancing gender equality in JRS will increase overall morale and job satisfaction. Evidence shows that enhanced gender equality in the workplace results in more job satisfaction, less absenteeism, as well as higher employee commitment and retention. This translates into lower overall staff turnover and recruitment costs and time.

2. When did JRS see the need of developing the policy?

I have been with JRS for 5 years. Donors started asking whether we had a Gender Policy in place during my first year with JRS (2016), and I raised the issue with my supervisors. Simultaneously, the Director of Human Resources, Melly Preira was beginning to address gender equality as a Staff Care issue, through the Global Staff Care program. In 2017/2018 — JRS worked with consultants from Georgetown University to develop a Gender-Responsive Education Framework. One of the recommendations of this consultancy was also, to have a global gender policy in place. At the time, I believe Latin America was the only region with such a policy.

3. How was it developed?

Eventually, a gender task force was created at the IO to look at the issue of creating a Gender Policy. It was decided that since this was no one’s specific area of expertise, a consultant was hired to draft a policy. The gender task force then revised it and sent it to management, where it was approved. Finally, the JRS Advisory Council approved it last May 2020. (see something good happened during 2020!)

4. Which are the goals seek with it?

The overarching goal of the JRS Gender policy is: To ensure that gender equality is central to the internal culture, programmes and external relations of Jesuit Refugee Service.

The objectives that fall beneath this larger goal:
1. Ensure gender responsiveness in the design and delivery of all JRS services to forcibly displaced persons in different parts of the world.
2. Promote an organizational culture that guarantees the right to equal opportunity for all women and men irrespective of their faith and social, racial or economic status.
3. Communicate JRS’s transformative gender equality aspirations in clear and simple terms to both internal and external audiences.

5. Is it being implemented locally or globally?

From the IO: Currently, there is no single person or department that is responsible for the managing implementation globally. To be frank, the application of the Gender Policy within the organization, including a gender-responsive (or transformative) approach to programming is still, very much a voluntary act.. The Gender Task Team is currently drafting a corresponding Gender Action Plan (GAP) to the policy and seeking resources for a dedicated staff person with the expertise toguide the global implementation.

From the field: I think that different regions are approaching this differently.I don’t think there is single person within the organization who currently has their “finger on the pulse” of how the policy is being implemented across JRS.. The idea is to have the implementation coordinated from the IO, but the policy and roll-out contextualized to regions, countries, and projects and with:
× a global JRS Gender Task Team representing the needs and views from the field
× a gender focal point system in place, similar to the structure of the Global Education Team (GET)
× criteria in place to appraiseehow countries and regions are doing in terms of implementing the Gender Policy, and promoting gender equality and empowerment — and to provide recommendations for improvement as well as global updates

6. When is its implementation planned to be achieved?

It will happen in phases. To be honest, moving from having a voluntary approach to embedding this policy into culture and practice of JRS will take resources and time. Rolling-out gender responsive trainings is something we are doing now…(gender-responsive education, gender-responsive budgeting, etc.). Other things will require approval of new policies (re: quotas re: gender parity in hiring and leadership positions), etc. Rome wasn’t built in a day!

7. Would you consider the multicultural nature of JRS as challenge for its implementations?

It is a challenge and an opportunity. As we know from our work, displacement — despite its accompanying injustices and sorrows, also creates environments where change is possible. For host communities and refugee communities alike — forced displacement allows everyone to reflect on how issues of gender inequality aggravate and perpetuate conflict, whether within the household or within an entire region. As JRS seeks to “to accompany, serve, and advocate on behalf of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons” the Gender Policy requires us too, as staff, toreflect upon and then act on the ways that gender inequality undermines our own work. Absolutely there will be challenges…as there have been for the last 40 years in JRS! With commitment and grace, we will transform these challenges into opportunities to better work for and with the people we serve.

Atsu Andre

  1. How important do you think it is having a Global Gender Policy at JRS?

Over the years, JRS has been talking about Gender and even efforts have been made here and there in carrying out Gender Programming. However, all these were done without reference to any plan or policy and at the whim of who wishes to do it. Hence, having a Global Gender Policy at JRS will ensure that there is a framework and guiding principle that compel everyone at leadership position as well as at the project to strive to achieve. It is no longer left to individual whim (meaning if one wishes or not) but it becomes the Responsibility for all to ensure we become gender responsive as an organisation

2. What are your views regarding its content?

As a commitment in ensuring that we become responsive towards gender and develop a culture that enable equality and equity, the three (3) objectives set out in this policy, if abide by and fully implemented, will definitely contribute to addressing as an Organisation the gender imbalance.

3. How is this supposed to be implemented in your region?

One of the key priorities for the region this year is Gender. Each of the current four (4) countries in the region will be carrying out gender assessment and develop a response in improving our programming. This will be follow by staff training so that we understand ourselves what Gender is about. In future recruitment, a key component to be taking into consideration will be gender disparity specially a management level.

4. Which are the main challenges you think you will encounter when implementing it?

1)Misconception from our own staff and beneficiaries on gender issues. 2) designing programme that are gender responsive 3) securing enough funding in implementing gender responsive programming

5. Are you optimistic about reaching its goals?

Definitely Yes.

6. Which are the outcomes you expect from it?

My wish is that we fulfil the objectives set in the policy. That is the only way that we can progress in developing an organisational culture that put gender at the core of what we do.

Noelle Fitzpatrick

  1. How important do you think it is having a Global Gender Policy at JRS?

Very important to initiate it and launch it at that level. Even more important to keep behind it at that level, and ensure it is not left to gather dust in JRS offices around the world.

2. What are your views regarding its content?

It’s a little while since I read it, but I liked it, and there is a lot there to come back to us and consider.

3. How are you planning to start implementing it in your Office?

It will take time. I spoke to a friend who has been working in the area of organisational change vis a vis gender for more than 10 years, she will still say that it is driven by a few strong people within the organisation, but that after 10 years it has still not taken root institutionally. So, here is where we have to be really realistic about what is possible within short timeframes. We want to start somewhere meaningful. We will be more gender sensitive in our recruitment processes. I wont spell out the detail of that here, but that will be, and already is a beginning we have made. Otherwise, we have an expert in this line who is hopefully going to help us develop a realistic roadmap and benchmarks for other adaptations we want to make. The conflict sensitive assessments being carried out in March and April this year also have a gender sensitive component. So., we are hoping those assessments will also help inform one or two changes to programming that can be manageable and meaningful within the year as a starting point.

4. Which are the main challenges you think you will encounter when implementing it?

It will be very important not to alienate anyone. We cant be militaristic about it. There is lots of invisible bias, amongst men and women. The objective as we go along will be to gently highlight areas of imbalance in fairness and try to address those bit by bit. We can all as men and women relate to the concept of fairness, and I believe that is a more appropriate and less alienating way of looking at things. Clear communication will be essential. Even when it comes to recruitment practices, we are not proposing to give more jobs to women who don’t have the competence for the role, no, and that must be made clear. What we will do is look at how vacancy announcements are produced/phrased and the criteria that is set out, through a more gender sensitive lense, so we encourage and enable more women to apply. In the end, acting in the best interest of the organisation, those that are most competent to do the job must be the ones to get the job.

Programmatically, a huge nut to crack is how to enable and support more girls/women to complete secondary school education and therefore progress to be trainee teachers. South Sudan needs more female teachers as holistic formators of youth and especially of girls, as role models for the future. Culturally girls drop out of school quite early, there is no one solution — a multifaceted approach is needed. JRS can contribute but it is beyond our capacity to bring significant change on our own.

5. Do you think it is applicable within the cultural framework in your country?

Yes.

6. Are you optimistic about reaching its goals?

We are already on the road……..but it’s a long road and in the words of Oscar Romero some of us sow, others water and others reap, we may not see very clear results even in our lifetime….but hopefully we will see green shoots!!

7. Which are the outcomes you expect from it?

As above. I do think that in the short term we will see more women in leadership positions.

Christina Zetlsmeisl

  1. How important do you think it is having a Global Gender Policy at JRS?

As it becomes more and more a donor requirement, it is very important to have also this Policy in place. But not only for the donors, we are also accountable for our beneficiaries, both female and male. Therefore, the Gender Policy is very important for our daily work in the field.

2. What are your views regarding its content?

The content of this policy is very clear: the goal, the objectives and the scope of this policy how we as JRS staff can ensure gender equality within our offices, projects and in relation with partners and donors.

3. How are you planning to start implementing it in your Office?

JRS Uganda, with support of the International Office, conducted a gender analysis in Adjumani end of 2019. This study was focusing on identifying and addressing the main barriers to access and completion of Secondary School. The findings of this analysis are helping us in developing a strategy around gender-responsive education, especially for girls in Adjumani.
As JRS Uganda we are also asked to consider gender balance among our staffs. While recruiting new staff, gender balance shall also be considered.

4. Which are the main challenges you think you will encounter when implementing it?

JRS during the first influx of refugees from South Sudan from 1993 to 2008 implemented e.g. a project called “affirmative action” to support girl child education. Unfortunately, the impact is not seen as the challenging situation for girls is still the same. The mind-set of the community in regard to girl child education has not changed. Our challenges in implementing activities will lie within the traditional and cultural perception around girls and women.

5. Are you optimistic about reaching its goals?

Looking for example at the staffing of our project in Kampala, we have a gender balance between female and male staff. The reality on ground will present us some challenges but we shall work and do our best to ensure gender equality within our activities.

Jesuit Refugee Service, with the goal of accompanying, serving and advocating for forcefully displaced people in Ethiopia, South Suda, Uganda and Kenya.