Torild Skard – Norway

Linked with Frontal Attack on the UN, and with Norwegian Institute of International Affairs NUPI.

Ms. Torild Skard is currently a researcher at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs in Oslo where she focuses on gender and development issues.

Torild Skard - Norway.jpg

Torild Skard – Norway

She says: “It is part of the picture that the great majority of politicians and providers of socialservices all over the world are men. There are relatively few wom-en and they are usually in subordinate positions. Clients and citi-zens, on the other hand, include 50 per cent or more women. Womenappear to be particularly numerous among the poor. The spotlightin the report on Kerala and Urdah Pradesh (pp. 44–45) has the be-ginnings of a gender analysis that is very interesting, but this is aboutall.

It is amazing that the relationships between poor people andproviders and between poor people and policy-makers, the hetero-geneity among clients and the participation of citizens can be ad-dressed without bringing out the consequences of the fact that menand women in many cases have different roles and act differently; amazing, too, that the challenges related to girls’ education and women’s health are not discussed either”. (More on MISSING PERSPECTIVES).

She has also served as Director General and Assistant Secretary-General of the Norwegian Ministry for Development Cooperation and as a Senior Adviser to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ms. Skard has held several positions in UN agencies, including UNESCO, UNICEF, ILO and UNAIDS. She was a Member of Parliament and the first woman President of the Upper Chamber of the Norwegian Parliament from 1973-77. Ms. Skard holds an M.A. in Education, School Psychology and Social Pedagogy from the University of Oslo. (See the whole on UN.org/womenwatch/…).

She states:

- Coherence must not be perceived as a goal in itself. It is a means to achieve a goal, in this case improved development efforts. Coherence might be useful in some contexts, but not in others. In many cases, differing views are useful to improve efforts, an example being the critique of among others ILO and UNICEF regarding the World Bank structural adjustment policies. The strength in the diversity of the UN system should not be overlooked during UN reform.

- Gender mainstreaming must not be perceived as a goal in itself, either, but a means to empower women and achieve gender equality, and it must be supplemented with other means.

- A special UN agency for women, autonomous, with a strong mandate and adequate resources, is extremely important to promote gender equality. It must not be expected that the organisation should be perfect, however. That is impossible, but it should make the UN efforts with regards to gender equality considerably better, having a noticeably greater effect. A special women’s agency must not replace nor weaken the efforts of other UN agencies to promote gender equality. On the contrary, these must be strengthened.

- The effective promotion of women’s empowerment and gender equality in national as well as UN bureaucracies requires extensive institutional change. Political will is not sufficient. We have experienced this f.ex. in Norway, in our bilateral aid cooperation. We thought we were doing well, having introduced gender mainstreaming and giving continued political support, but we were not succeeding. A recent evaluation showed that the follow-up was in practice weak, fragmented and partly invisible. We have to institutionalize the efforts to get results on the ground. There must be a committed and knowledgeable administration, including the top management; incentives and gender expertise must be developed, human and financial resources allocated, accountability, reporting and evaluation systems established.

- In the UN system, the experience is that progress for women has often been achieved by means of a triangle of forces including committed feminists (usually women, but not necessarily all women, and sometimes also men) in the governing board, committed feminist staff in the organisation and active feminist groups or organisations outside of the system putting on pressure. It is important to stimulate and strengthen such triangles. (Read this on peacewomen).

A beginning of bio on the Norwegian wikipedia.

In spite of progress the world in 2006 is still characterised by widespread discrimination of women and inequalities between women and men. Girls and women generally receive less education and maternal mortality in developing countries is high. The position of women on the labour market is weak and they earn less than men even if they often work more. Large groups of women live in abject poverty and many are the victims of violence and abuse. At the same time the representation of women in political and economic decision-making bodies is with few exceptions very weak, if they are represented at all … // … With the experience we have so far, there are no simple solutions or rapid fixes to strengthen the efforts regarding equality. Action must be broad based and include many different kinds of measures. All UN organisations must have:

  • - policies and programmes aimed at strengthening women and gender equality,
  • - an actively committed leadership that is accountable for the efforts,
  • - a gender balance among staff at all levels, including the highest,
  • - knowledge about women, gender relations and equality,
  • - effective strategies and mechanisms of implementation for the promotion of equality in programmes and projects (mainstreaming is not enough),
  • - resources to implement measures of different kinds, and
  • - regular reporting and evaluation of efforts and results.

As every single organisation must have one or more units that can accumulate knowledge and draw lessons from experience, act as a watchdog and innovator, such units must also exist for the UN system as a whole. The existing units – for example UNIFEM and INSTRAW- must be strengthened, and possible reorganised, so the system can have an autonomous and dynamic organisation of one kind or the other, that can give women a voice, with a mandate to view women’s lives as a whole, a structure ensuring that views are heard at the highest political levels and resources making it possible to stimulate or implement actions that make a difference.

The effectiveness of the UN system is important above all at the country level. The panel should therefore study the situation in a selection of recipient countries to find out how the system can be strengthened to promote the implementation of the Millennium Goals, including gender equality, before concrete reform proposals are elaborated. In the recipient countries different ministries, including women’s ministries, and NGOs, including women’s organisations, should be consulted. Such a course of action may provide constructive, user friendly and effective solutions and at the same time contribute so that the different approaches in the North and the South will not prevent useful reforms.

Strengthening the efforts of the UN system with regards to women and gender equality will be very much appreciated by the international women’s movement and Norway – where equality is a priority task – should take the lead to make this happen. (Read all on iwtc.org).

She wrote a book: REVIEW OF CONTINENT OF MOTHERS, CONTINENT OF HOPE: UNDERSTANDING AND PROMOTING DEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA TODAY. Torild Skard. London, New York: Zed Books, Ltd., 2003. 256PP. ISBN 1-84277-107-8, Price: Hardcover, $65.00, Paperback, $22.50. See also this pdf article, on the same subject, on jendajournal, and also on WHO.int, and this comment on the same.

Read also the Publisher Comments – Cutting through the Western media’s stereotypical picture of Africa as a continent wracked only by civil conflict and AIDS, Torild Skard has written an engrossing introduction to a continent in change. Based on her extensive travels through the region, Skard combines eyewitness accounts, lively description, and deeply informed insight to portray the human reality of Africa today. With honesty, cultural sensitivity, and a commitment especially to women, she frankly describes the social, health, and other problems experienced by its people, but also the sources of hope for the future represented by courageous individuals, community-level projects, and programs being implemented in the region. (Read more here).

Commission on the Status of Women CSW, 50th Session, 27 February -10 March 2006, (read on this page of UN.org/womenwatch).

links:

Norsk Kvinnesaksforening (NKF) er en feministisk organisasjon som arbeider for kvinnefrigjøring og full likestilling mellom kjønnene.;

She participates on the taskforce Education for all;

Veien mot like utdanningsmuligheter, Kjønnsperspektivet i EFA-satsingen.

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