Gender impact assessment was established in Lower Saxony in 2004, in the framework of gender-mainstreaming work. As a consequence, draft cabinet acts and other legal acts and regulations have to perform a gender impact assessment, as set out in the Joint Rules of Procedure of the State Government and Ministries in Lower Saxony.
The way to do this is articulated in a specific guide, which provides the rationale for gender mainstreaming in general and gender impact assessment in particular. It also includes details about the steps to be followed when assessing any draft law.
Gender impact assessment must be performed by civil servants. They have to demonstrate if, and in which way(s), women and men may be affected differently by the proposed measure and if the initiative addresses these gender-specific impacts. Nevertheless, and even though all cabinet drafts contain a reference to gender impact assessment, the depth and comprehensiveness of the assessment may vary, as gender expertise during the process is not ensured.
A control function can be exerted over the process by the central gender equality unit, which was attached to the regional Ministry for Social Affairs, Women, Family, Health and Integration until 2013, and is currently part of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Health and Equality (Ministerium für Soziales, Gesundheit und Gleichstellung).
Finally, a knowledge pool was established in 2007, in the form of a community of practice on gender mainstreaming and gender impact assessment. It can be accessed via the intranet and provides policy officers with easy-to-find, substantial information that is needed in order to carry out comprehensive gender impact assessment.
In Lower Saxony, the regional government has produced various guidelines and supporting instruments. These include:
- The guideline on gender mainstreaming in cabinet drafts (2002), which articulates the rationale for gender mainstreaming in general and gender impact assessment in particular, and details the different steps to be followed in a gender impact assessment of cabinet drafts, also providing examples and a brief checklist.
- An e-learning programme on gender mainstreaming, including gender impact assessment, which was developed in 2007 by the Ministry for Social Affairs, Women, Family, Health and Integration of Lower Saxony in cooperation with the University of Hildesheim. Devoted to awareness-rising and enhancing knowledge on gender equality issues in the daily work of government officials, it has been designed to complement face-to-face training measures. The programme is accessible via the intranet so that government officers can enhance their knowledge and skills regarding gender mainstreaming during their work time. It offers the possibility of taking a multiple-choice exam at the end of the programme, the result of which can be included in her or his personnel file if desired by the participant.
- Gender training is regularly organised by the gender equality unit. Although not obligatory or tailored to specific groups of public officers, this training is nonetheless offered on a regular basis.
- A knowledge pool was established in 2007, in the form of a community of practice on gender mainstreaming and gender impact assessment. It can be accessed via the intranet and provides policy officers with easy-to-find, substantial information that is needed in order to carry out comprehensive gender impact assessment.
Concerning the specific guidelines for gender impact assessment, these are the questions posed.
1. Determining gender-specific impacts:
1.1 Does the field of intervention, in relation to which the present proposal was developed, directly or indirectly concern persons?
- If the answer is no: end of analysis; brief explanation of results.
- If the answer is yes: who exactly does this measure affect, and how?
1.2 Are there differences in terms of the interests of the persons concerned?
When evaluating whether women and men are affected differently — possibly involving a consideration of their living situations, such as family structures, age, etc. — the following questions can provide orientation:
- Available financial resources (e.g. income, receipt or distribution of public resources);
- Attitudes and behaviour (e.g. relating to political decisions, social affairs, crime);
- Participation in social formation and decision-making processes (e.g. committees);
- Access to information, healthcare and technology;
- Use of time (free time, time spent at work, time spent with family);
- Conditions of mobility;
- Education and training;
- Profession and professional development (e.g. choice of profession, working conditions, careers);
- Societal factors influencing groups of persons (e.g. concerning esteem/respect, prevalent stereotypes, discrimination);
- Particular impacts/risks (sexual violence, human trafficking of women).
- If there are differences: explain exactly what they are.
- If there are no differences: determination of gender-specific impacts is completed. The result should be outlined briefly.
2. Assessing the different gender-specific impacts
Does the present proposal address the potential differences and, if yes, in which way?
- The proposal acknowledges and respects female and male needs: explain how it does so.
- The proposal does not acknowledge/respect female and male needs fully or in part: explain why not.
In this regard, the following questions arise:
- Are there alternatives to the present proposal in which the differing needs could be better taken into account, and why were they not chosen?
- Could negative impacts connected to the proposal be minimised, for instance through measures targeted at one specific group of persons?
- Are there any plans to account for these needs in the future?
Strenghts and weaknesses
In Lower Saxony, gender impact assessment is obligatory, which ensures its regular deployment and implies the involvement of every ministry. However, the quality and thoroughness of analyses may be very different, since gender expertise is not guaranteed during the process.
The central gender equality unit can monitor legislative activity to identify initiatives requiring gender impact assessment and it can even exert some control over how gender impact assessments are performed. However, there is not a systematic procedure to follow up gender impact assessments. Consequently, the quality and thoroughness of gender impact assessments may vary.
On the other hand, many instruments have been developed to support civil servants’ work. These include an online knowledge pool and regular training. However, there is no tailored or mandatory training for certain groups. Therefore, there is no guarantee that it contributes to building the gender equality capacity of those directly involved in gender impact assessment.