This conversation took place in Sri Lanka in August 2004 during a rare free moment when Sunila Abeysekera and Marilee Karl sat down together to reflect on concerns about gender mainstreaming in the women's movement today.
Marilee: Gender mainstreaming is an idea that has been around for a long time and there are ongoing attempts to mainstream gender into United Nations agencies, their programmes and projects, government policy-making bodies, and many other institutions. Gender mainstreaming has become a mantra.
In recent years, some donor agencies that have traditionally provided funding to women's groups, organisations, networks and projects have cut out this funding--sometimes in a very sudden way--giving as their reason that gender should now be mainstreamed into all programmes and projects and that there is no need for separate women's organisations and projects.
I would love to hear your reflections and explore with you the concept and practice of gender mainstreaming.
Sunila: In the women's human rights movement, when we first talked about mainstreaming gender concerns, we did it from the point of view that there was a need to take into consideration the differences between men and women in their ability to enjoy human rights. In the human rights movement in those days, there was no concern for what was happening specifically to women. Because of the exclusion of women as individuals and the exclusion of women's concerns and the specific rights abuses faced by women, we worked to include gender-specific information and analyses in the national and international documentation prepared for the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993.