Gender ministries can simultaneously perform a variety of different roles and functions in pursuit of gender equality and empowerment goals. However, the literature does not characterise particular ministries as being generally ‘successful’, though there are cases where gender ministries have helped push through significant advances in specific areas of gender policy and have thus been considered effective in performing a particular role. This report identifies such examples from both developed and developing countries, including information on the factors that may enable or constrain the performance of ministries or other gender-oriented state agencies.
Since the Beijing Platform for Action recommended all countries to establish ‘national machineries’ to support accountability for commitments to gender equality, there has been growing attention on the ability of these institutions to achieve their stated goals. However, measuring their success or impact is considered highly challenging for a number of reasons, including:
- Making direct causal claims about the role of gender ministries in improving gender equality or empowering women is problematic.
- It is difficult to isolate the role of gender ministries in reform outcomes, particularly because ministries sometimes achieve their goals by working productively with other actors and institutions within and outside the government.
- It is important to distinguish between the effectiveness and impact of agencies, where effectiveness is defined as the agency’s role in influencing policy debates and impact is measured by the substantive policies and processes that result from its influence.
Although the impact of particular ministries remains limited, there is some consensus around the general types of conditions that can enable or constrain the ability of gender ministries to achieve their goals. A number of factors affecting their success broadly relate to levels of capacity, resources, political commitment, and prioritisation and positioning within government and political structures.