Our Perspectives

Gender Mainstreaming and Procurement: Changing the Way We Work


A UNDP Somalia construction site uses a unique labour force made up of women. At UNDP looks for innovative ways to help Somalis break gender barriers.

Procurement and gender is not something that comes together in one sentence very often. And even less so in Somalia, where women are still hugely marginalized and underrepresented in all sectors of the economy and in the society at large.  While UNDP Somalia addresses gender inequality issues with various programmatic activities, we at procurement unit wanted to be actively engaged too. The idea of gender and procurement was challenging at first, but, with time, we were able to identify avenues for incorporating gender into our work.

This is the story of our journey of small strides to mainstreaming gender into procurement of UNDP Somalia that is already showing positive impacts.

Our approach was to look at this from equal opportunities perspective. Firstly, we analyzed our statistics. It turned out that most companies that provided services to UNDP Somalia were headed by men. For example, the Expression of Interest carried out in Garowe was attended by 38 suppliers, only one was a woman, a partner in the business and not the owner. A similar initiative in Mogadishu was attended only by men. Additionally the representation of women workforce in these companies was minimal. So UNDP procurement benefits (new contracts, new jobs) were not being shared equally.

Secondly, we decided to raise awareness of this. We requested the gender unit to conduct a presentation at “UN Somalia Business Seminar” which occurred in November of 2014. This gave UNDP Somalia a platform for introducing the gender agenda to our local and international vendors who are interested in doing business inside Somalia.

The term ‘gender’ was totally new to the majority of local vendors. Nobody has raised this issue before or requested information about it from companies. Our communication was clear - UNDP was giving gender equality great interest and was keen to see the same reflected from vendors who were willing to engage with the organization. The message was “If you are more gender aware you have higher chances of transacting with UNDP”.

Thirdly, as a concrete intervention, we incorporated gender considerations into bidding processes by simply asking vendors to provide the ratio of men to women staff employed by them. Last year UNDP Somalia carried out pre-qualification of vendors in Mogadishu and Garowe and included gender as evaluation criteria. It served as an encouragement to the suppliers to ensure they set up gender initiatives within their firms. With time we have seen a positive change in the response of the vendors and what is most surprising is that the response is from the more unlikely sector - civil works.

Women in Civil Works

The February 2015 business seminar for civil works in Garowe reflects initial positive gender trend. Although only the technical staff from the civil works contracts were in attendance (with no female participants), they were keen to confirm that they did in fact employ women, even if mostly to handle administrative and operational tasks, the technical staff where majority male. A trend we hope will change gradually as UNDP continues to request gender positive actions and commitments from its vendors. 

This year we are in the process of issuing a Questionnaire which UNDP Namibia was kind enough to share with us on gender to all our key suppliers in Kenya and in Somalia. Later, the questionnaire will include a narrative on how to set up gender initiative / system within a company.

It is yet a long way to full equality for Somali society. However, even small initiatives can start positive trends. At UNDP Somalia we continue to look for innovative ways to raise and address gender issues, not only in our programming but also importantly in our operations.

What are you doing to mainstream gender into procurement processes? Share with us your stories and let’s learn from each other.

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