Gender-Based Analysis should prioritize marginalized voices

Since the 2015 election, the federal government has continually expressed their desire to commit to a feminist structure of governance. One of the tools they use to do so is GBA+ (Gender-based Analysis Plus), which aims to analyze how different people experience policies and programs based on gender diversity. The added factor to this is the “plus” that attempts to incorporate intersecting identities for example, race, religion or socio-economic status, alongside gender.

On November 21 and 22, the Minister of Status of Women, Maryam Monsef, fulfilled a piece of her mandate letter from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by hosting the historic GBA+ Forum at The Shaw Centre in Ottawa. The forum, championing the theme of “Everyone Benefits,” featured more than 500 participants from the public service, private sector and civil society, among others.

Included in the program was a ministerial address from Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, along with a video message from Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance, who shared highlights from the 2018 fiscal update. Other prominent guests included; Special Advisor to the PM on LGBTQ2 Issues, Randy Boissonnault, who served as Master of Ceremony for the reception held at the National Gallery of Canada; Deputy Minister for Status of Women, Gina Wilson, and accompanying Parliamentary Secretary, Terry Duguid.

The two-day event provided ample opportunities to facilitate dialogue on the integration of GBA+ in policy development across multiple sectors. Through several panels, Q & A’s, interactive policy-making activities, and networking initiatives, Status of Women Canada reiterated their interest in continually improving the way GBA+ can be used.

However, while there stood a consensus on the importance of GBA as an overall approach to policy-making, questions from the audience illustrated that there is far more work to be done to ensure that the “plus” is shown equal value. Absent from many of the conversations were tangible steps that should be taken to reinforce intersectionality as a non-negotiable aspect of gender-based analysis. Rather than tacking on the “+” to GBA, intersectional perspectives should be leading the way. Often, it was suggested that the absence of intersectionality stems from a lack of available statistical data to initiate evidence-based policies. Hence, while there exists a desire to develop inclusionary methods that provide marginalized individuals and communities with a seat at the table, no concrete movements are aimed at prioritizing those voices.

In order to showcase the true value of GBA+ it must be applied throughout the policy development cycle, not as a post-analysis of what could have been done better. This requires that GBA+ also be used to determine who is creating policy and programming in the first place and for whom are they meant to serve. If data collection is one of the root causes in dismissing the Plus, then we must apply the premise of GBA+ to this process as well. To see that the intersection of identities is reflected in the numbers, one simply needs to ask the right questions.

The government has taken a historic initiative in professing a commitment to feminism at the federal level. To apply this framework responsibly, they ought to begin prioritizing intersectionality and recognize that it is imperative in presenting the equality they have promised Canadians. After all, it’s 2018.

Serisha is CPJ's Public Justice Intern - Refugee Issues

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