Orissa Development Action Forum (ODAF) is a network of 12 independent organizations working with Adivasi, Dalit and backward communities of Orissa. Looking into the human resource of ODAF and its member organisations there is a felt need of Gender Policy. It aims at the emergence of a just and humane society that is based on values of social justice, participation, empowerment and equality, including gender equality.


Gender refers to the social and cultural definition of men and women; the way societies distinguish between men and women and assign social roles. In our context a gender perspective would be the lens with which we understand the role, relationships and contribution of men and women in the major task of facilitating development. Gender sensitivity would mean the nature and quality of response that takes into consideration gender differences and the complementary nature of men and women in achieving our goals. It also reflects:

  • The legitimacy of gender equality as a fundamental value that should be reflected in development choices and institutional practices
  • The gender equality is recongised not just as "women's issue" but a societal one
  • The gender equality goals influence mainstream economic and social policies that deliver major resources
  • The gender equality pursued from the centre rather than from the margins
  • The Women as decision-makers about social values and development directions
  • The women as well as men in a position to influence the entire agenda and basic priorities
  • The Collective efforts by women to redefine the development agenda

Given the context of the vulnerability of women in a historical perspective, some of the significant roles that gender-sensitive ODAF member NGOs are called upon to play at the grassroots level are:

  • Promoting access to and control of resources with a special emphasis on women
  • Capacitating women in their productive roles
  • Creating separate spaces for women to dialogue and promote self- assertion
  • Increasing women’s participation in decision making
  • Takes into consideration the potential of both men and women in planning and implementing development initiatives
  • Takes into consideration the specific vulnerabilities of both men and women in capacity building initiatives
  • Relates with compassion to response patterns of both men and women towards each other and in the context of development
  • Facilitates processes where women are empowered for self- assertion at one level and mutual respect between men and women is strengthened at the other.
  • Enhance women’s and men’s equal participation in the sustainable process towards a dignified quality of life
  • Empower women to realise their full potential as human beings and actors in development at par with men
  • Transformation of the society

For a gender policy it is important to distinguish between policy implications at two levels i.e. at the programme level as well as at the organizational level

At the Programme level:

In the development context gender has been a major concern particularly in relation to the positioning of men and women in our target communities linked to social conditioning as indicated below:

Positioning of Men Positioning of Women
  • Strength derived from the fact of being male
  • Ownership and property rights
  • Acquisition of skill and resources that empower
  • Opportunities to participate in public domain
  • Work universe related to technology, core processes of production
  • Places men in enlarged universe
  • Men emerge as planners, decision makers and in commanding positions
  • Vulnerability by the fact of biology
  • Traditional skills and knowledge in limited areas of household, agriculture and livestock
  • Limited access to resources, knowledge and technology
  • Work universe confined to household economy and farm labour
  • Restricted and often symbolic participation in public institutions
At the Organisational level:

In development it is not enough to be gender sensitive in relation to the target group alone. As NGOs we are called upon to be gender sensitive organizations as well. Gender sensitivity at the ODAF and the member Organisations level the organizational level is reflected in values, perceptions and attitudes within ourselves and within the organization. Gender sensitivity is an attitude of respect and responsiveness to specific gender needs and differences in the context of a larger societal framework. Hence being gender sensitive is a continuous process that involves changes in perceptions values and attitudes, both at the personal, organizational and network level.

One of the major challenges in responding sensitively to gender variations is to recognize that both men and women are products of their past. This is likely to reflect in conflicting positions being expressed especially when it comes to issues of equity between men and women within the organizational context.

Gender sensitivity in the organizational context is usually reflected in:

  • Women’s representation at the level of governance
  • Women’s involvement in decision making within the organization
  • Capacity building initiatives to enhance the potential skills of women within the organization
  • Space for deliberation on gender related issues: interpersonal communication, feedback, group and inter group processes
  • Policies that take into consideration specific gender needs e.g. nature of facilities in the field taking the special needs of women into consideration, maternity leave, paternity leave etc.
  • Designing human resource development programmes that promotes gender sensitivity within individuals, both men and women in the organization
  • Effective information flow is a prerequisite for mainstreaming gender equality
  • Gender needs assessment will be undertaken and accordingly the capacity of women members will be improved to access to basic needs, knowledge, education, resources, skills etc.
  • Gender sensitization programme will be undertaken among G.B. members & staffs in order to develop conceptual understanding.
  • Women will be in key position of all programmes related to women.
  • Other than women programmes, all integrated programmes will positively focus more participation of women.
  • Financial benefits like salary & others allowances will be same for equal positions irrespective of sex but special allowances will be given to women staffs working far away of their homes.
  • Gender sensitization within the organization/staff will not be limited to discuss only rather the day to day behaviours, inter-personal relation, approach & communication methods will be monitored & reviewed in order to develop a good culture.
  • The needs, problems & suggestions of women staffs will be solved & recognized with decentralization of decision making power.
  • Women staff desiring to go for higher studies with support from the organization will be encouraged.
  • Paid maternity leaves will be provided to women staffs.
  • Sexual harassment to any women staff within the organization will be considered serious and it may lead to cancellation of all benefits or termination from the job.
Facilitation at the Network level:

ODAF being a gender-sensitive network it is essential to facilitate the partner organizations are facilitated to be gender sensitive. Hence here are some points for consideration:

  • To what extent do partner organizations feel the need to be gender sensitive?
  • To what extent the partner organizations enhance and sustain gender awareness and sensitivity of staff at all levels of the organization?
  • How do the partner organizations capacitate the staff to address gender in their respective field of work more effectively?
  • How do partner organizations reflect gender sensitivity in their organizational structures and procedures?
  • To what extent do partner organizations have policies in place facilitating gender sensitivity within the organization?
  • To what extent is gender equity integrated in the policies, programmes and projects of partner organizations?
  • In what way are partner organizations making special efforts to address gender specific hurdles?
Facilitating mechanisms for promoting gender sensitivity within the network
  • Strive towards a working culture within ODAF, which is gender sensitive by creating mechanisms for mainstreaming a gender perspective within partner organizations
  • Keep active the process of gender awareness through creating a space for sharing of experience, orientation and learning events between partner organizationsCreate a gender team within ODAF to look into the special gender related issues
  • Be gender sensitive in the planning, monitoring, evaluation and documentation functions of ODAF network
  • Ensure that a gender balance is reflected in the governance structure of ODAF.
  • Ensure that ODAF’s project reports reflect gender related concerns, gaps and successful interventions.

"Taking account of gender concerns in all policy, programme, administrative and financial activities, and in organisational procedures, thereby contributing to a profound organisational transformation. Specifically, Bringing the outcome of socio-economic and policy analysis into all decision-making processes of the organisation, and tracking the outcome. This includes both the core policy decisions of the organisation, and the small every-day decisions of implementation."