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By design or mere happenstance? Role of women in open government in Asia’s OGP pioneer countries

Web Foundation · October 4, 2019

This post was written by Glenn Maail, Research Manager, Open Data Lab Jakarta, and was originally published on Follow Glenn on Twitter at @GlennMaail.

The inclusion of women in Open Government Partnership (OGP) processes is oftentimes incidental, if not accidental, because of a lack of intention.

This research explores the role of women in open government in Asia and Francophone West Africa and seeks to assess how country governments and OGP processes have ensured both the representation of women and the inclusion of women’s issues and concerns.

The main objective of the research was twofold:

  • To learn how women are participating in the OGP process, including the extent to which women’s issues are represented in the OGP national action plan (NAP).
  • To provide necessary evidence of the barriers to participation, the opportunities, and the viable ways to better engage women towards a more Feminist Open Government.

This research project found that participation of women in the OGP process in selected countries was largely coincidental — leading to less influence on the OGP action plans and limiting the extent to which women’s issues and concerns were included in the process. The barriers to greater women’s participation are multifaceted.

First, low awareness of the OGP process among women organisations and government agencies dealing with women’s issues and concerns contributes to their lack of participation in the OGP national steering committee. Building collaboration between government and civil society organisations (CSOs) not only at the national level, but more importantly at the local level, could improve visibility of OGP.

Second, the nature of the OGP process does not necessarily support inclusion. Guidance could therefore be developed to support women’s participation, including the use of gender indicators to evaluate the quality of open government implementation. To do this, the OGP could benefit from lessons learned from existing multi-stakeholder collaboration platforms.

Third, cultural realities have a significant impact on OGP processes, albeit in a covert way. The extent and breadth of the commitments included in the OGP action plans were reflective of who was at the table. Hence, the presence of women organizations, especially at the grassroots level, is the key to ensure the value and relevance of inclusiveness in the OGP process.

The OGP process can be made inclusive by design, providing more opportunities for diverse women’s interest groups to participate and advocate for women-specific commitments.

Read the final research outputs from both Asia (Indonesia and the Philippines) and West Africa, including specific recommendations for how to increase women’s participation in OGP processes, published as chapters in the final report “Feminist Open Government —Addressing gender equity challenges in open government co-creation processes.” An animated video of the Asia report was also produced to share and explain the findings of the research to a wider audience.

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