Empowering communities through GESI:

NURP’s Mainstreaming of GESI Paves the Way for GESI Focal Persons Embedded in Pokhara Metropolitan City

By Shambhavi Basnet

The Pokhara 2100 and Periodic Strategic Action Plan (2077 – 2082 B.S.) details five-year objectives for the municipality on various sectors important to effective local governance. One of these sectors is social development for which the specific strategies include making community and institutional schools disability-friendly, ensuring higher education access for differently abled citizens, and providing diverse community health services and programmes for people of all ages. The action plan also ensures participation of women, differently abled and marginalised communities at a decision-making level within all structures of the municipality. To achieve this, the strategy included steps to enhance women’s knowledge, skills and abilities, emphasise self-reliance, establish policy arrangements to enable equal pay, and effectively implement necessary policies to protect the rights of people with all types of disabilities. 

This vision document, prepared with the support of the Nepal Urban Resilience Programme (NURP), is one of the many examples where Pokhara Metropolitan City has enhanced strategies and plans to better include women, people with disabilities, marginalised communities, and other groups in planning as well as decision-making processes.  

[It is] Not only a project-level agenda, but a nation-wide responsibility to mainstream GESI across all institutions.

A GESI assessment done in Year 1 of NURP’s implementation in Butwal, Janakpurdham, and Pokhara, addresses several existing challenges in the system concerning GESI by providing recommendations with regard to allocating GESI-related governance responsibilities, promoting diversity, creating an enabling environment, facilitating policy coordination, enhancing GESI capacities, ensuring gender-responsive monitoring and evaluation, improving access to / control over resources in patterns of power and decision-making and to economic opportunities by women and marginalised communities.   

Following the GESI assessment, the GESI strategy developed for NURP lays out the path to mainstreaming GESI across all municipal work related to sustainable urban development and resilience by building understanding and capacity amongst municipal personnel, providing on the job technical support to build GESI into decision-making processes and support relevant GESI policies of the municipal government 

In 2021/22, the Nepal Urban Resilience Programme (NURP) conducted a training on Gender Responsive Budgeting (GRB) with the concerned divisions of Pokhara Metropolitan City (PMC). In the training, the participants prepared a GESI action plan for each municipal division. The Social Division of PMC, particularly, committed to including similar trainings in the annual budget. NURP, through providing continuous support, played a significant role in the inclusion of a provision for GESI audit and GRB training in PMC’s annual budget for the Fiscal Year 2079/80 B.S 

One of the recommendations from the GESI audit done by the Social Division in 2022 was about appointing GESI focal persons in all divisions of PMC. NURP had, in several instances, emphasised the importance of having a GESI focal person in various forums such as GESI orientation, consultation meetings, and GESI Training of Trainers. Similarly, the importance of having a GESI focal person has been articulated in the GESI Policy and Strategy that have been developed for Butwal and Janakpurdham Sub-Metropolitan Cities respectively, with the support of NURP. Hence, to support the recommendation from the GESI audit, NURP aided PMC in the preparation of a detailed Terms of Reference (ToR) for appointing focal persons in each division of the municipality.  

Handover of GESI strategy to Janakpurdham Sub-Metropolitan City.

These focal persons have the responsibility of assisting the municipal division in making gender-responsive policies, laws, rules, plans and programmes; taking initiative for gender responsive budgeting and arranging for effective implementation; conducting gender analysis and GESI audit; updating the gender segmented statistics and identifying needs from various gender equality and social inclusion studies to recommend programs; adopting a policy of zero tolerance of gender violence and creating an environment to listen to and address employee grievances with a gender perspective for gender justice; participating in meetings, seminars and discussions related to gender issues, share experiences and internalize good practices in the municipality; taking initiatives to localize GESI by further segmenting them at the local level, and advocating about gender equality and address issues of women and children, senior citizens, women with disabilities, and so on. 

The strongest reference of appointing GESI experts and focal persons in municipalities is mentioned in the GESI Strategy 2021 – 2023 prepared for the Government of Nepal. These focal persons were stated to have the responsibility for organising dedicated capacity development initiatives on GESI sensitive monitoring, reporting and evaluation at provincial and local governments. The Strategy also listed ensuring mandatory participation of GESI focal person in any policy and management related discussion and meetings/consultation related with programme planning, budgeting, and M&E. The GESI focal points would also be regularly capacitated in GESI concepts, GRB, GBV and Violence Against Women (VAW), GESI mainstreaming in plans, programmes, policies, etc. It promotes the mandatory provision of and dedicated support to GESI focal points in concerned federal, provincial and local government lines and requires GESI focal person in each division of all the ministries and government offices. 

The Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Operational Guidelines 2017 prepared by the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport highlighted the inadequacy of incorporating gender mainstreaming and social development concerns in the sectors of roads, railways and transport management. The guideline aims to ensure adoption of GESI responsive approach in the Ministry and mentions appointing GESI focal persons as a necessary step to do so.  

NURP’s assistance is not only limited to supporting local governments in GESI mainstreaming but also ensuring that the Government of Nepal’s initiative of mainstreaming GESI is targeted across all sectors and levels.

These two national-level documents emphasise that the Government of Nepal (GoN) has put in the appointment of GESI focal persons in all ministries and organizations and across projects. It is not only a project-level agenda, but a nation-wide responsibility to mainstream GESI across all institutions. But GESI focal persons act as an expert who will guide and support the implementation, monitoring and reviewing of GESI and GRB guidelines as well as with the overall integration of GESI in planning and budgeting. Thus, NURP’s assistance is not only limited to supporting local governments in GESI mainstreaming but also ensuring that the Government of Nepal’s initiative of mainstreaming GESI is targeted across all sectors and levels. In the appointment of GESI focal points, NURP has provided support only with the preparation of the ToR while the municipality has utilised its own existing resources to appoint the suitable focal persons for each division. This is a good example of municipalities taking ownership of and securing budget for GESI integration and mainstreaming. 

Recently, NURP has prepared a GESI Guide for all three target municipalities. This guide will assist municipal government leaders and officials in understanding GESI and implementing it at the municipal level. The GESI guide has been shared with the social division in PMC with a request to circulate it among the appointed GESI focal persons for pilot/pretesting. The GESI Guide has been prepared to ensure that GESI mainstreaming continues even after NURP phases out from PMC. 

NURP is currently supporting the three target municipalities of Butwal, Pokhara and Janakpurdham with the annual planning, programme and budget for the Fiscal Year of 2080/81 BS, where NURP will continue working to ensure that GESI activities are integrated fairly.  

The focal persons selected based on the ToR released by the municipalities have also attended the GRB training held by PMC, in April of this year, which was planned with the objective of equipping the municipality on GRB. 

A Glimpse from the Training on Gender Responsive Budgeting (GRB) organised in PMC in April 2023.