A Landmark in Ensuring Gender Sensitive Bilingual Delivery of Public Services
Coordinating the very first networking meeting of the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Focal Points (GEWE Focal Points) from the partner institutions was a significant landmark for NLEAP. Organised in collaboration with the National Languages Divisions (NLD) of the Ministry of Minister of Public Services, Provincial Councils and Local Government (The Ministry), the inaugural networking meeting was held on the 29th of September, at the NLD Conference room. Participating in the session were the GEWE Focal Points from NLD Partner Institutions, the Official Languages Commission (OLC), the Department of Official Languages (DOL) and the National Institute of Language Education and Training (NILET).
Warmly welcoming the participants, M. Thirunavukarasu (Project Deputy Director- NLEAP) underscored the important role that the GEWE Focal Points would play in creating an inclusive environment by helping their respective institutions to promote GEWE within language rights. Ms Veena Verma (Canada Based Project Director & Human Rights, Gender and Governance Advisor, NLEAP) outlining the purpose and objectives of the networking session, congratulated the Ministry team for including the promotion of GEWE in the Strategy Framework for the Implementation of Official Languages Policy. This she foresaw as a critical step in helping promote the delivery of gender-sensitive, bilingual services by government institutions. She reiterated to the Focal Points the pivotal role they would play in ensuring the achievement of GEWE within language rights when implementing the Official Languages Policy (OLP). The succinct overview of the GEWE components of the OLP Implementation Strategy shared by Ms. Saama Rajakaruna (Local Gender Equality Specialist, NLEAP) provided the GEWE Focal Points a context for their roles. She also explained their roles and responsibilities with regards to promoting GEWE in language rights delivery and programming. The presentation of planned GEWE Activity for the rest of the Project Term led to an open discussion amongst the partner institutions on the next steps for the GEWE Focal points. It also provided a forum for the participants to discuss some of the challenges they anticipated when championing GEWE within language rights.
Whilst it is the responsibility of all staff to mainstream GEWE in all aspects of their work, the GEWE Focal Points are entrusted with championing an organisational culture committed to promoting GEWE within their respective institutions. As such, helping their colleagues recognise the importance of promoting GEWE and creating awareness about how gender equality related issues impact and influence language rights form part and parcel of their responsibilities. The NLD and its partner institutions will support the equipping and resourcing of Gender Focal Points to meet these responsibilities by organising such periodic meetings for trainings, as well for sharing experiences and enhancing coordination. Encouraging and stimulating such collaboration within the Language Sector is a hallmark of the technical assistance provided by NLEAP to the Local Government to support and strengthen the implementation of the OLP.