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CONEX Balkan Project Rapid Gender Analysis Report : Western Balkan Region – Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia, October 2021

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Executive Summary

CONEX is a regional project implemented in six Balkan countries designed to support the marginalized groups of people in the targeted communities that have suffered the most during the Covid-19 crisis, namely the elderly, unemployed women, minorities, refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and persons with disabilities to transition from relief to recovery and onwards to development.

The Rapid Gender Analysis (RGA) has been conducted to provide essential information about gender issues and concerns that should be addressed and will not only be used to define concrete action points and possible adaptations of project design but also as a learning tool and advocacy platform with national NGO networks and local/national authorities. The RGA objectives are to:

 Assess the ways and the extent to which women and other vulnerable groups are affected by social and economic deprivation due to consequences of the COVID-19 crisis;

 Explore how the prevailing gender norms and roles relate to the project activities and objectives, in particular with regard to the access to information, ability to access services, employment and effects of gender based violence (GBV) and

 Increase the gender analysis and integration related capacities of project staff (gender-sensitization, RGA data collection training).

The RGA was conducted in the period May-October 2021 and consisted of three main segments facilitated by the CARE team: 1. Capacity building of partners on gender and how to conduct the RGA; 2. Coordination of data collection, analysis, and validation 3. RGA report writing.

In total, 28 implementing partners’ staff members from nine organizations in 21 locations in six target countries organized and facilitated 53 events (focus group discussions - FGDs and key informant interviews -KIIs) during which they directly talked to 195 persons (66% female), 21% ethnic minority (Roma and Ashkali), over 29% persons from rural areas and 11% persons with disabilities – PWD.

Particular attention was paid to discussing the intersectionality of gender with other diversities that this intervention is addressing. Therefore, the aspects of age, disability, ethnicity (minorities) and urban/ rural locations have been included into the equation when deciding about the content of the final tools as well as the skills and standards required for the data collection (principles of do no harm, inclusivity, and ethical issues). The following areas of inquiry were used as the basis for the data collection and analysis:

 Sexual/Gendered Division of Labor (Needs, Aspirations & Ambitions)

 Household Decision-Making

 Access to Employment

 Access to Public Spaces and Services

In addition, questions related to the ‘Aspirations for Oneself’ areas of inquiry, as well questions on how Covid-19 affected the personal and professional lives of the participants as well as communities were integrated into the questions for small group discussions as well as the individual interviews.

Key recommendations

The following key actions are recommended to the CONEX team to guide future planning and project implementation to better integrate the diverse perspectives and needs of people of all genders, ages, physical and mental abilities, ethnic backgrounds, and geographic locations. One set of the recommendations applies to all partners and the project as a whole and the second relates more to specific result areas and partners:

 ‘Be the change you want to see’: Sensitize staff and build capacity to ensure that those who implement CONEX contribute to a more just and equal society by 'walking the talk'.

 Ensure gender integration in the project cycle and take into account the Do NO Harm principle.

 Develop adequate complaint and feedback mechanisms at the project and community level with implementing partners to build trust, encourage participation, and support transparency and accountability.

 Train staff and apply where appropriate new methods and tools (CARE’s CSC method Community Score Card; SAA tool Social Analysis and Action and the EMB approach(Engaging Men and Boys).

For specific result areas:

 Make sure that within the Cash & Voucher Assistance transaction is transferred to the woman's bank account, as she is mainly responsible for daily expenses (ensure 'do no harm') and that for the In-kind Assistance & Cash for Work & Medical Assistance the different needs of the vulnerable ones (women/girls, boys/men, persons with disabilities, ethnic minorities, and the elderly) are prioritized. For the home care, psycho-social assistance, and referrals to (public) services engage both the service users (the vulnerable population) and service providers/relevant stakeholders as allies in the design, planning and implementation of activities.

 When it comes to home-based care and soft skills to vocational training and business development and grant implementation: a) strengthen not only women's knowledge, skills and abilities to carry out the planned tasks, but include activities aimed at building self-confidence, self-esteem and ambition; b) if deemed safe challenge patriarchal gender roles and norms related to task sharing/household decisions and sensitize them to placing women at the center of interventions to prevent possible exacerbation of domestic violence/GBV incidents due to changing power; c) consider employing men in jobs traditionally perceived 'female jobs' to become role models and allies and be part of the solution rather than a 'problem'.

 Involve service providers/local authorities as allies: Help them understand the different perspectives and needs, share findings and recommendations based on the assessment in a constructive and collaborative manner, and act as a facilitator by connecting them with communities/groups in need; when sharing knowledge and organizing learning events plan to ensure that target groups are adequately represented at all events on specific topics that affect their lives.

Key findings

 Patriarchal norms, roles and behaviors are still prevalent in the region, as is a strong division of 'male and female work/tasks'.

 Domestic work done by women and girls is not perceived as real work and is taken for granted as such.

 The pandemic and restrictions have disproportionately affected vulnerable groups at all levels (livelihoods, mental health, social contacts).

 The availability of employment opportunities has worsened during the pandemic, but interest in self employment is high among both women and men.

 The RGA development process was participatory and transparent, and helped build partners' capacity to incorporate gender perspectives into programming.