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SEEP Gender Working Group: A practical voice for collective action

Our Story

November 2010: Exploratory meeting held during SEEP Annual Conference to gauge member interest in a Gender Working Group. A small (7 people) but enthusiastic group comes together, brainstorms, and submits a concept note centered around:

(1) developing local solutions to local gender challenges; (2) advocating for regional improvements to gender policy; and (3) sharing local achievements and best practices globally.

January 2011: SEEP leadership approves concept, and GWG officially launched. Global facilitator and Latin America regional facilitator identified.

February 2011: GWG invited to participate in USAID MicroLinks event on gender. GWG facilitator acted as rapporteur, taking the meeting notes and issuing the final report.

March 2011: Momentum builds, as 15 people participate in the first quarter meeting via Skype. Six of them form a subcommittee to explore the possibilities for collaborating with the US Department of State in response to outreach by an officer there who shares the GWG’s focus on gender issues.

May 2011: 20 people attend a GWG presentation held in Prague at the Microfinance Centre conference of microfinance institutions of the Eastern Europe / Central Asia region. Although the ECA region is not the focus in the pilot year, the groundwork has been laid for future regional engagement.

June 2011: In Amman, Jordan, approximately 30 people attend a GWG presentation at the Sanabel conference of microfinance institutions of the Arab region. Eleven of them register to form a regional working group. A regional facilitator is identified. In Washington, 13 people participate (whether in person or virtually) in a lively discussion at the GWG session held in conjunction with the SEEP mid-year meetings.

August 2011: The regional meeting of the Latin America group held in Lima, Peru. The group completes self-evaluations of their institutions’ gender practices which are aggregated by the regional facilitator.

October 2011: First annual meeting of the GWG. The Latin America regional facilitator presents a PowerPoint of the survey findings and the global facilitator presents details on the GWG activities to date and its plansThe group’s discussion focuses on objectives – ranging from more modest to “stretch” goals – for 2012.

November/December 2011: Based on the input of the attendees at the annual meeting, the GWG concept note for 2012 is prepared with an emphasis on ongoing refinements to the website, in-depth case studies of gender best practices at the institutional level, and a roll-out of the survey (already completed in Latin America) in the Middle East / North Africa region and possibly Eastern Europe / Central Asia.


Where we’re going

The GWG’s inaugural year yielded much success – success we plan to build on going forward in 2012 and beyond.

Here’s what we’re planning and how you can get involved:

Expanded membership. GWG membership is open to anyone in a SEEP-member institution. You do not have to be a gender expert; the point of the group is to build the knowledge base of the microfinance and microenterprise development industry around gender issues.

You can: Register to join our Community Forum. Take part in the discussions, follow our progress and, when you can, come in person to the quarterly meetings. Dates and times will be circulated with plenty of advance notice

Ongoing additions and refinements to this GWG website. A major priority for the GWG is to have a keyword-searchable “one stop shop” where anyone interested in gender can find what they need. We have made a good start so far, with almost 100 studies, reports, fact sheets, tools, and other documents drawn from diverse sources.

You can: Send us more! We are especially interested in practical, how-to toolkits. But anything that you find interesting or helpful that pertains to gender, send it our way. If it is in a language other than English, please provide a short (no more than 100 words or so) English description of what the document is.

Regional expansion: We are looking for champions for Africa and Eastern Europe/Central Asia to serve as regional facilitators. In both regions, there are strong established networks who will help support the facilitators’ work – but there needs to be a point person. 

You can: Step up! Or send people our way. Know anyone who would make a good facilitator? Ideal candidates are based in (preferably natives of) the relevant region, proficient in English, highly organized, able to work independently, committed to gender issues and women’s empowerment, and thoroughly familiar with the microfinance/microenterprise development industries. Send names our way!

Roll-out of the survey instrument in the Middle East / North Africa and Eastern Europe/Central Asia regions: The Latin America survey yielded a mixed picture -- of a region with some best-practice institutions where women, including working mothers, are highly respected and valued and others where gender is an afterthought at best. The GWG will next roll out the survey in:

The Middle East / North Africa: Where the transformations underway in the wake of the “Arab spring” provide an unprecedented potential opportunity to advocate gender issues

Eastern Europe / Central Asia: Where traditional – and sometimes discriminatory – gender practices can carry more weight than the legacy of absolute gender equality that was the official policy, if not necessarily the reality on the ground, during Communism.

You can: Talk up this work in your region. And follow our progress by registering and becoming an active participant on our Community Forum spaces.

Case studies: Now that we have some aggregated data from Latin America, it’s time to do a “deeper dive” and look more closely at a few best-practices institutions. We want to understand not just what they do, but how they arrived at those decisions. What kind of commitment did it take? How much time did it take? What resistance was encountered along the way, and how was it overcome?

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