Gender mainstreaming in anti-corruption initiatives

By Dharitri Patnaik

Corruption is a moral crisis that corrodes the pillars of governance, hampers development, and erodes public trust. Corruption has long been approached as a “gender neutral” subject, but increasingly attention has been given to the fact that women and men have distinctly differing experiences of corruption. The implications of corruption are far-reaching, affecting both men and women, but it is women who bear a disproportionate burden. Corruption is not a standalone issue. Rather, it is intertwined with gender dynamics, perpetuating inequality and reinforcing power imbalances. Adopting an intersectional perspective will ensure that gender is effectively mainstreamed and that nobody is left behind.
Applying a gender perspective to anti-corruption requires consideration of how corruption affects women and men differently, directly and indirectly. Empirical evidence shows that societies with gender inequalities have higher levels of corruption. This is rooted in the unequal distribution of power, resources and opportunities which may lead to different levels of exposure to corruption. When women are excluded from decision-making processes and economic activities, their voices are silenced, and their needs are often overlooked leading to lack of transparency and accountability.
Gendered corruption impacts public services and essential services putting women’s lives and well-being at risk. From education, healthcare, politics and many other spheres we witness the unequal treatment of men and women.
W20 is an official engagement group of G20 whose primary objective is to ensure that the gender considerations are mainstreamed into G20 discussions and translated into the G20 Leaders Declaration as policies and commitments that foster gender equality. W20 has aligned its work with the Sustainable Development Goals and works with a varied range of stakeholders that include women and men from all walks of life- from remote tribal villages to the urban areas.
During India’s G20 Presidency, W20 India has conducted over 200 Jan Bhagidaari programs (Citizen’s connects) across 15 states of India and globally through online webinars reaching 80,000 women directly. An action oriented Digital skilling Initiative has also been initiated to train one million women and girls over the next three years. W20’s brought out a First Respondent Framework and a Compendium on Women Led Development. W20 worked with twenty one knowledge partners comprising of grassroots organizations to global consultancies. The 5 priority areas that has been derived from India’s Honorable Prime Minister’s vision and the earlier work of W20 includes women’s leadership at the grassroot level, entrepreneurship for small and medium enterprises, education and skill development, bridging the gender digital divide and making women and girls as eco change-makers in climate change.
As advocates for change, W20 bears the responsibility to champion transparency, accountability, and ethical conduct at all levels of society. It is our responsibility to ensure that every individual, regardless of their gender, enjoys equal access to opportunities, resources, and the freedom to make choices that shape their destiny. By dissecting the ways in which corruption perpetuates and exacerbates gender inequalities, we move closer to dismantling the systemic barriers that impede progress.
As the renowned Philosopher, Sri Aurobindo has said, “No words, Act”, the world is full of words but little action. We need to move beyond discourse and take concrete actions to eradicate corruption and empower women.
W20 shall continue its active engagement with the G20 members to reinforce and accentuate certain recommendations that the G20 governments and civil societies can consider and implement to reinforce their commitment of deepening its understanding on gender and corruption and including the gender perspective in its anti- corruption programs and policies. Working towards the goal of ensuing equal ad meaningful participation of women at all levels, G20 countries should work on strengthening the participation of women in developing gender-sensitive anti-corruption polices and measures and assessing gender equality in the public recruitment processes and their representation at higher level posts. G20 members should also enhance their research and knowledge base on the issue of gender and corruption and undertake analysis on gender disaggregated data. Capacity building and training programme modules should be introduced in the education system to sensitize the next generation about gendered impact of corruption. In order to make the systems fair and more transparent, G20 members can work towards exploring and implementing gender-sensitive initiatives related to digitalization of service delivery, public procurements, whistleblower protection, etc.
Engagement Groups such as W20, C20, T20, B20 would continue to partner with G20 members to support their policy discussions and implementation initiatives. These groups should further strive to advance gender equality and the empowerment of women in fighting corruption in all sectors and raise awareness on how corruption impacts men and women differently through carrying out assessments on the gendered impacts of corruption in various governmental and private sectors. The engagement groups should also initiate digital and anti-corruption training programs at grassroots level.
The fight against corruption and gender inequality is not merely a moral obligation, it is very important for progress. By addressing corruption’s gendered impact, we can break the vicious cycle that perpetuates inequality and aim to contribute towards more gender-sensitive anti-corruption initiatives and policies. It is time for G20 members to build up on the work done by all the stakeholders on the subject ‘Gender Mainstreaming in Anti-Corruption Initiatives’ and come out with some concrete deliverables addressing the issues related to gender and corruption.

(Chief Coordinator W20 India)

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