When you are a development professional working on a project with a gender component, you might find yourself nodding to the title of this piece. There might also be a chance you have been working hard to increase female participation in your trainings and find the title triggering. I understand! Getting women to participate in your trainings is still quite an achievement. In the past, little attention was paid to equal participation when a project was not explicitly a women-centered project. But why is participation not enough?

To answer that, it’s important to first ask yourself another question: what will be the long-term changes seen by women after your project is concluded? Will gender stereotypes change? Will women be more empowered? Will they have better access to, or more control over their resources? Chances are high that when you focus only on participation of women, you are neglecting real change for them in the long run.  
That’s why solely getting women (or any other marginalised group that you are targeting) to participate in trainings is not enough. Here are some points to consider to make lasting impact beyond participation.  

1) Consider who has power and who needs it  

It’s all about power. And access. Letting women participate in a training where they, for example, learn how to earn more income, will fulfill short-term needs. Earning more income doesn’t change their subordinate position within their families (and society) as long as they are kept out of the decision-making process of how that extra income is spent. In many countries, men still hold power over the family’s income, so it’s really important to look into which long-term interests your project is fulfilling. What will really change division of labour, power and control, and challenge traditionally-defined norms and values? 

 2) Assess the burden  

Be aware that your project activities might add to the burden of (unpaid) work that women are already doing. Most men take up a productive role (earning income) and community managing roles (in the form of politics) which gives them higher status, and more power. On the other hand, women often take up reproductive (taking care of the family and household), productive (earning income), and community management (care and unpaid work) roles. Do your activities add work or do they relieve pressure from the roles women already fulfill? How does your project influence these roles in the long-term?  

3) Plan where change happens  

Does change happen at a formal or informal level? Are you targeting individuals or full societal transformations?   

4) Follow the money  

Gender equality becomes intrinsic to your project when money is allocated to the cause. Money brings attention, scrutiny, and validity to projects, both increasing the inherent value in the project by participants and the perceived worth by outsiders.  

5) Make it measurable  

If it’s measured, it matters. Just like a budget, you’ll need to set up metrics for important goals of your project. For this, you need to measure these changes during your monitoring using gender-sensitive indicators. When defining those indicators, go beyond the percentage of women participating in your training, and focus on the longer-term changes. Think of how you can measure changes in cultural norms, values, and how women will increase access to and control of resources.