National Structures: The Service for Women’s Rights and Equality between Women and Men (SDFE) is the government body in charge of gender equality and gender mainstreaming, placed under the responsibility of the General Directorate for Social Cohesion, within the Ministry of Social Affairs, Health and Women’s Rights. Created in 2010 as part of the general reform of public policies, the directorate promotes women’s rights and gender equality at national, regional and departmental level. The SDFE coordinates 26 regional and 100 district Delegations for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, thus providing France with a dense institutional network to implement a mainstreaming strategy.
In 2012, an Interministerial Committee for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality was established: it comprises all ministers and aims to adopt measures relevant to the promotion of women’s rights in all policy areas. It is required to adopt a transversal action plan to tackle gender inequalities in every policy field. Since 2012, respective ministers report to the Interministerial Committee for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality concerning the implementation of the interministerial action plan, which is a set of measures tackling gender inequalities in different areas. This set of measures provides a general framework to be detailed and supported by monitoring and evaluation measures in the form of gender-equality action plans at the ministry level.
Since 2012, each ministry has appointed hauts fonctionnaires à l’égalité (high-ranked public officials for gender equality), coordinated by the Ministry of Women’s Rights. Their mandate is to implement a mainstreaming approach and design gender-equality plans for their respective policy areas. They are members of the High Gender Equality Council, a consultative gender-equality body instituted in January 2013 and placed under the responsibility of the Ministry of Women’s Rights. The council brings together several bodies that had previously worked separately, but are now endowed with new competencies in relation to gender impact assessments and the evaluation of gender-equality policies.
Regional structures: In France, delegates for women’s rights and gender equality (Délégations régionales aux droits des femmes et à l’égalité, DRDFEs) were established in each of the 26 regions to implement national gender-equality policies. These regions are:
Regional delegates, usually supplied with a small staff, are either attached to the General Secretary for Regional Action, which is directly related to the regional prefect (préfet de région), or to the Regional Directorate for Social Inclusion, Youth and Sports. In charge of implementing state gender-equality policies at the regional level, DRDFEs also coordinate regional and local actors such as the centres d’informations des droits des femmes et des familles (women and families information centres), which were created in 1972. However, as indicated in several evaluation reports, there is a lack of coordination between the departmental delegates (that were previously under the responsibility of the Regional Delegation for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality). This explains the limited activity of many departmental delegates as well as their high rates of absenteeism.
Although the coordinating capacity of the central gender-equality apparatus has been questioned vis-à-vis decentralised structures, recently efforts have been made to improve the accountability of regional services towards the central administration. Since 2012, the Ministry of Women’s Rights has been playing an important coordinating role. Nonetheless, incentives provided by the ministry are currently concentrated in the most advanced regions (i.e. Brittany, Rhône-Alpes and Île-de-France), due to regional delegates’ uneven activity and capacity (in terms of expertise and local political support).