A Gender Journey UNDP Support to Women in Bahrain

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We are proud to have been a part of Bahrain’s journey towards gender equality in the Kingdom of Bahrain.  Significant progress has been made and UNDP plans to build on these results in partnership with national institutions.

Guided by UNDP’s Gender Equality Strategy 2008-2013, UNDP Bahrain worked with national agencies and civil society towards the empowerment of women and gender equality in Bahrain. In 2002, UNDP partnered with the Supreme Council for Women (SCW) and Bahrain Institute for Political Development (BIPD) to provide training for women candidates for the 2002 elections. UNDP Bahrain also supported the Supreme Council for Women (SCW) to implement the National Strategy for the Advancement of Bahraini Women through a programme which was signed in 2009. The UNDP-SCW Women Programme had four major objectives: building institutional capacity for Gender Mainstreaming and Women Empowerment, enhancing economic empowerment of women, enhancing Bahraini women’s political empowerment and finally,  ensuring gender mainstreaming in national plans.

Under the Women Programme; UNDP helped establish Equal Opportunity Units at government ministries and institutions. Currently, there are 17 Equal Opportunity Units (EOUs) with staff dedicated to ensuring gender equality in the organizations they belong to. Capacity building activities were conducted for staff working in these Equal Opportunity Units; full training modules were developed and staff received training over a period of 6 months. Staff of the EOUs were introduced to various concepts; from basic definitions of Gender Mainstreaming and its terminology to the concepts and application of gender sensitive and gender responsive budgeting.

The concept of Gender Sensitive and Gender Responsive Budgeting was also introduced to Parliamentarians under the UNDP project “Strengthening Capacity of the Parliament”. A Gender-Responsive Budgeting workshop was organized where concepts and approaches were presented to the MPs. Using CEDAW as one of the frameworks for focus, as well as MDG targets, emphasis was put on equitable distribution of resources among all groups in society highlighting the aim of empowering women for progress in achieving the advancement of sound economic governance.

UNDP has expanded women’s access to productive assets and financial services through the establishment of funds and micro-finance schemes and promoting women’s entrepreneurship. The Micro-Start programme, which has been operating in Bahrain since 1999, and the expanded micro-finance scheme, aims to reach more women and youth.  Fifty percent of recipients of micro-credit at the local communities’ level are poor women.

Towards enhanced economic empowerment of women, UNDP Bahrain signed with the University of Bahrain the flag ship project “Gender and Economic Policy Management Initiative (GEPMI) for Arab States” with a total budget of $3.34 M. GEPMI is a comprehensive capacity development and policy advisory services programme that aims to accelerate achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by making economic policies and poverty reduction strategies deliver results equitably to women and men, girls and boys.

In 2011, UNDP Bahrain, in partnership with the Supreme Council for Women, supported an advocacy campaign for women’s participation in the parliamentary by-elections for eighteen vacant seats. As a result, three additional women were elected, raising the number of elected female MPs from one to four among 40 MPs in total.

The journey is not over; UNDP will continue to support impressive national efforts on identifying and redressing power imbalances and empowering women to manage their own lives which will require strategic interventions at all levels of programming and policy-making.

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