Gender policy makes a difference

The future of feminist and gender-democratic policy at the Heinrich Boell Foundation

June 10, 2008
By Barbara Unmüßig

Deutsche Version

By Barbara Unmüßig, Member of the Executive Board
Berlin, October 2007

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Gender policy and feminist analyses and strategies have a permanent place at the Heinrich Boell Foundation and are of key importance to its activities at home and abroad, scholarship programs and the entire organization development. Gender policy is one of the Foundation’s key political hallmarks. In organization development, the Foundation has become a precursor and role model for many other organizations.

"…We are proud [of the common task of gender democracy at the Heinrich Boell Foundation] because it is virtually certain that these structures are not found in another mixed organization. But, for us, there is no reason to leave the Foundation’s further development process to its own devices."

The above statement made by Gunda Werner in 1999 – a mentor for the role model of gender democracy at the Heinrich Boell Foundation – is the result of a fundamental contemplation of our strategies and key political areas of gender policy as well as their institutional embedding within the Heinrich Boell Foundation.

For this reason, part of our political culture involves repeatedly sounding out whether our gender-political orientation is moving in the right direction given the new social, political and economic challenges. Do we affect the discourse of gender policy? Are we, as a political foundation, in a position to lend gender-political impetus for the furtherance of gender equality – on a global scale? And, finally: how do we accomplish our role model of gender democracy as a common task within our own organization and within the corporate culture?

In answering these questions, we set about, last year especially, holding numerous discussions and making some important changes: we have merged the two units “Executive Office for the common task of Gender Democracy” and the “Feminist Institute”, which, until then, had been working independently, into one common organizational and working unit. The aim of this move is to be even more effective politically and to jointly deal with the tense rapport between feminism and gender democracy productively. With respect to political education work, the newly founded “Gunda Werner Institute for Feminism and Gender Democracy” (GWI) seeks to illustrate in certain select core issues that viewing and addressing political issues from a genderpolitical perspective does indeed make a significant difference and provide impetus for political action.

At the same time, the Heinrich Boell Foundation has, over several stages, taken full stock of its equality, equal opportunities and empowerment policies in its activities abroad and, at a Foreign Department strategy workshop, determined new thematic courses for the future.

The aim of this position paper is, firstly to tackle the gender-political challenges of the future for our activities at home and abroad, and to renew our self-image and/or our role model of gender democracy. Secondly, we would like to outline our program focus more clearly, define our aims and tasks, and agree on the terminology and tools of gender-democratic policy.

The Executive Board has passed “Programmatic Guidelines” and defined gender policy both as a common task and an independent issue. These need to be bolstered in our activities at home and abroad, in scholarship programs and in organization development through concrete programs and adequate financial and human resources.

Unlike virtually any other strategic paper drafted by the Heinrich Boell Foundation, this position paper has been the subject of intense discussion during all of the draft stages among employees, all of the international offices, virtually every department within the Foundation, as well as among the honorary bodies of the Foundation (Supervisory Board, Women’s Council, General Meeting, Expert Advisory Board North/South and Expert Advisory Board Scholarship Programs as well as the Men’s Forum). The majority, if not all, of the many suggestions and additions have been incorporated into the final draft of the position paper on the future of feminist and gender-democratic policy at the Heinrich Boell Foundation. Our sincerest thanks go out to all concerned!