Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Panel on Gender and Development: Discussing "Gender Analysis" at the 18th Annual International Development Conference at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government

We are pleased to share with you that on April 14, 2012, the 18th Annual International Development Conference at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government presented a panel on Gender, Poverty, Opportunity: The Role of Women in Development. Before a packed room full of attendees from across Massachusetts and New England, the panel focused on the overarching question of why 'gender analysis' is becoming an ever more apparent element of international development. Panelists were also asked why looking at gender issues matters and in what ways academics and practitioners in the development sphere can make a persuasive case for the importance of attention to gender in development. Finally, with an eye to the future, the moderator's final question prompted the entire room to consider, in going forward, the best ways to ensure consistent and comprehensive attention to gender in development. Drawn from senior positions in government agencies, international nongovernmental organizations, and academia, the specialists on the panel were able to present varying perspectives and consequently, ignite a rich and stimulating discussion.

Panel participants included:

Stephenie Foster, International Consultant, Former Chief of Staff to two U.S. Senators. General Counsel for the U.S. General Services Administration. Currently a Professor at American University.  

The Panelists:

Carla Koppell, Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality & Women's Empowerment, USAID & a Senior Advisor to the USAID Administrator. Carla has an MPP from the Harvard Kennedy School. A highlight of Carla's discussion came when she explained to the room that although the US has not signed CEDAW, the State Department acts under the assumption that the US is indeed a signatory of the Convention. Carla made it clear that the obligations and accountability at the heart of CEDAW are wholly respected and adhered to within the State Department.

Dr. Jishnu Das, Senior Economist, World Bank. Part of core team preparing the 2012 World Development Report  with a lead on 'Education and Health: Where do gender differences really matter?' Currently a Visiting Scholar at the Center for Policy Research, New Delhi. Jishnu has a Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University. In response to the question of how to make a convincing case for specific interventions aimed at promoting gender equality in education, Dr. Das made a heartening point regarding the success of conditional cash transfers in keeping an increased number of girls in school for a longer period. He argued that that these incentives could shift broader beliefs surrounding the potential costs and benefits of educating the girl child. 

Dr. Brenda Gael McSweeney, Boston University's Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Program, Women's Studies Research Center - Brandeis University, Former United Nations Coordinator and UN Development Programme Rep in India. In her response to the moderator's questions, Dr. McSweeney reminded the room of enduring gender caps at home and abroad. In particular, she touched on the different faces of gender inequality introduced by Amartya Sen in his keynote speech at the launch of the Radcliffe Institute. Repeatedly, she urged the group to ask "Where is the outrage?!" With a wealth of experience from her time at the UNDP, Dr. McSweeney was able to explain the significance of indices such as the Gender Inequality Index. Developed by the UNDP to highlight the ongoing invisibility of women's contributions and introduce reproductive health issues as a societal issue, McSweeney called this new index courageous and a new way of moving forward towards gender equality and empowering women.

Encouraging an enriching and illuminating discussion amongst panelists and audience members alike, the panel on Gender, Poverty, Opportunity was a highlight of the 18th Annual International Development Conference. Gratitude and credit goes out to Panel Organizers Tonusree Basu, HKS '13; and Lauren Harrison, Vice-Chair of Panels and Keynotes for the 18th Annual IDC.

~Katherine Lochery, MIT Leadership Center and 
UNESCO/UNITWIN Network: Gender, Culture & Development