Alliance Conference 2019: Putting Gender Front and Centre

Allliance Conference 2019: Putting Gender Front and Centre

On 25 September 2019 we gathered with over 200 representatives from across Scotland’s vibrant and diverse international development sector, with the promise of Putting Gender Front and Centre. In light of the 2019 SDG Gender Index finding that “no one country in the world is on track to achieve gender equality by 2030”, the need apply a gender lens to our work in international development could not be more evident. On the fourth anniversary of the UN Sustainable development goals, we explored practical solutions to the question ‘how can we create sustainable, enabling environments for women and girls? 

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2019 Conference main room

What Happened on the Day?

The Conference opened with a welcome from our Chair Tasheen Jafry, followed by a Ministerial Address from Ben Macpherson MSP, and a keynote speech from Memory Kachambwa, Executive Director of FEMNET,  a pan- African membership-based feminist network based in Nairobi. 

Ben Macpherson MSP announced The Scottish Government's commitment to gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls (SDG 5), and annoucned the launch of a new Inter-Ministerial Group that will take forward the Government’s commitment to policy coherence for sustainable development. Memory Kachambwa shared her personal journey to becoming a champion for women's rights, ending her speech with a call for a transformative shift in our approach towards gender equality as a sector. 

In the afternoon, we heard from our second international keynote speaker Olaoluwa Abagan, Founder and Executive Director of Girl Pride Circle, who called for the sector to 'hit the refresh button' on gender justice, and shared her dreams visiting "gender equality museums", and for a time when the struggles of gender injustice are referred to in the past-tense. 

Breakout Sessions:

Morning Sessions (11:15-12:30)

Approaches to tackling violence against women and girls (World Café)  

 This session explored various approaches that have been taken to address violence women and girls (VAWG) 

Key questions: how can we eliminate violence against women and girls?

  • We must to fill in the gap between structural, personal and political  
  • Intergenerational dialogues are necessary   
  • Behavioural change is needed, we must create  safe spaces for people to voice their views, experiences and concerns   

Untangling intersectionality in programme design (Panel Discussion) 

This session explored what intersectionality means in practice and in a sustainable development context. 

Key takeaways: 

  • Programme design needs to be based on qualitative as much as quantitative methods, and needs to be iterative. Analysis measurements need to be qualitative.
  • Note the importance of co-design, enabling and understanding communities and promoting self-empowerment of these communities

Gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls through humanitarian action (Panel Discussion) 

This discussion explored the main challenges faced in ensuring that gender equality and women’s empowerment are mainstreamed in the context of humanitarian action, in order to enhance impact. 

Key takeaways:  

  • It is very important not to have a ‘one size fits all’ approach to gender in programming – take a gender lens into every aspect of programme planning
  • We have to recognise that there is often existing entrenched discrimination and resistance to affording the same rights to women and girls
  • Vital to consider boys and men too.  Humanitarian response that does not take account of the different needs of women and girls, boys and men, will be ineffective

Afternoon Sessions (13:45-15:00)

Improving education outcomes for girls: sharing practice from across the network (World Café) 

This session explored how different approaches have been used to improve educational outcomes for girls – including through teacher training, and targeting girls at risk of dropping out of education. 

Key takeaways:

  • The importance of working with the right local actors, understanding what they know   
  • Importance of flexibility in evaluation of programme s  
  • Providing skills for women has not been encouraged in schools – more teacher training   
  • Hollistic support to help girls access education   

Gender Justice for Climate Justice (Workshop) 

 This session lead participants to critically reflect on the gendered nature of climate impacts using a problem analysis tool.  

  • Local people are experts on their local communities. At local levels people know everything about their situation, so it’s them that we should be consulting with; it’s hard for us to imagine what the issues are from an outside perspective.  

Gender in the context of SDG8: Full and productive employment and decent work for all (Panel Discussion)  

This session explored what can be done to remove barriers and accelerate progress towards women’s economic empowerment, offering women greater control over their own lives.

  • Unpaid work is predominantly undertaken by women (care & other forms). This needs to be recognised and addressed – this will catalyse economic redistribution – both within households and between households and states  
  • The concept of ‘dignity for workers’ must be embedded into every stage along the supply chain by businesses  

Driving equality in our own workforce: Gender and leadership across the international development sector (Panel Discussion)  

Despite our sector’s focus on ‘Leaving No One Behind’, the international development workforce still faces challenges when it comes to diversity, inclusion and unequal pay. This session reflected on the steps which must be taken to address the issue and enact real change.

Key takeaways: 

  • Scotland’s National Performance Framework is outcomes-based and the values within it include kindness and social justice.  Gender equality mainstreaming flows from those values. 
  • Gender equality in the workforce affects organisations’ outputs and reputation and demands leadership from the top.  This should be part of leaders’ performance reviews. 
  • Intersectional approach essential, e.g. position of women of colour – where are they in the decisions taken about them?  Decisions must be made inclusively. 

You can view our full programme, including breakout session panellists here. 


Not only was the event itself a success, we trended in Edinburgh and Glasgow for a total of 7 hours! Below is a word cloud made up of all tweets made under our conference hashtag. Missed the event? You can still join in the discussion by viewing  #genderfrontandcentre on Twitter. 

Alliance Photo Competition 2019: 

To close our conference, the winner of our 2019 photo competition was annoucned by Steve Sloan, Royal Geographical Society, and Founder of DignifEye - an initiative to promote positive and appropriate imaging in the Third Sector. This year we invited entries that addressed the theme ‘Sustainable development through the lens of gender’. The photo below shows our winning entry - a portrait of Dr. Isioma Okolo. A huge congratulations to our winner Roderick Penn!

Scotland's International Development Alliance Photo Exhibition 

The 2019 Alliance Photo Competition was our best yet, with almost 100 entries from over 60 organisations and individuals involved in international development in Scotland. The enstries were of such a high calliber, we are pleased to announce that over 20 of the top photographs will be showcased for one night only on 6 November at Edinburgh's City Art Centre

This evening exhibition and networking event will give you a unique opportunity to see the work many of our members and their partners do in relation to gender issues, while also providing the chance to speak with Alliance staff and representatives from our diverse network of 150+ members. Sign up on our Eventbrite page now!

Continue to Put Gender Front and Centre! 

Were you unable to make our 2019 conference? Is there a question you wanted to ask a panellist that you didn't have a chance to ask? Have you been inspired to make a change in your approach towards securing gender equality? We have created a space on the Alliance Community for you to share your key takeaways. The Alliance Community is an online space exclusively for Alliance members to share best practice and connect with others passionate about creating a fairer world. 

Join Scotland's International Development Alliance and be part of Scotland's international development community. 

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