UNFPA-UNWOMEN collaboration in Cameroon

Date: 25/01/2012

UNFPA-UNWOMEN collaboration in Cameroon

At the end of 2010, during the UNPA Global Meeting in Princeton, the Executive Directors of UNFPA and of UNWomen outlined their vision on how both agencies should operate at global and country level – in light of the creation of UNWomen. At the same time, in Cameroon, the UNFPA Country Office had held the mid-term review of its country programme and started preparing its 2011 Annual Work Plans (AWPs). The Representatives of UNFPA and UNWomen saw a golden opportunity to review and strengthen their existing collaboration, focusing on comparative advantages of both agencies and on complementarily in their respective programme niches. They both met Mme. Marie - Thérèse Obama, the Cameroon Minister of Women’s Empowerment and Family (MINPROFF) who welcomed their determination to start a new era of UN cooperation and coordination.

The principles:

UNFPA was determined to recognize and significantly strengthen UNWomen’s coordinating role of the UN System’s operational activities on gender. The clear messages to UNFPA staff and to the UN country team underlining the change and of doing business differently were the basis of a widely participatory and iterative coordination process which led to:
-    A meeting between the Ministry and all UN agencies working on gender issues whereby we insisted on the need for the Government to be in the driver’s seat. The UN system, through UNWomen would provide a coordinated support to the Government taking full ownership and leadership on gender and women’s issues in Cameroon
-    Support to the MINPROFF to create a coordination unit among all entities of the Ministry, i.e. a platform and one-stop shop which would interact directly with the UN System, through UNWomen. This was extremely important since various directorates – or specifically created project units) of the Ministry were used to work directly with separate UN agencies – often leaving government entities and the UN System without properly coordinating or communicating among themselves
-    Support to UNWomen’s coordination and convening role. UNFPA offered a M&E national expert to UNWomen, whose task consists in planning,
coordinating and monitoring the UN system’s activities on gender and who interacts directly with the MINPROFF’s coordination unit.
-    Strengthening UNWomen’s operational capacity to carry out its coordinating role with UNFPA offering a project vehicle and a driver to UNWomen.

The result: a UN wide effort to support implementation of the National Gender Policy

-    First UNFPA and UNWomen signed a MOU to formalize the operational collaboration between the two agencies.
-    The MINPROFF pro-actively developed a budgeted Action Plan of its priorities which it submitted to the UN System. The centerpiece of the Action Plan is the implementation of Cameroon’s first National Gender Policy
-    UNWomen assisted the MINPROFF to translate its Action Plan into a comprehensive results and resource framework, including new indicators in line with the UN System’s comparative programming strengths
-    AWPs of UN agencies were then aligned to the Government’s Action Plan avoiding duplication and maximizing their pooling their resources
-    UNWomen is leading more effectively the UN Theme Group on Gender, speaking with one voice and communicating more efficiently with the MINPROFF

Shared responsibilities between UNFPA and UNWOMEN

As mentioned above, UNWomen plays the overall coordinating role of the UN System and supports the Government on normative and strategic issues such as the National Gender Policy, Gender-based Budgeting and Financing, Mainstreaming Gender in the revised PRSP etc.
UNFPA provided direct support to develop the thematic priority areas on health and human rights under the National Gender Policy. UNFPA also led the elaboration of the Government’s National Strategy on Gender Based Violence and published  a series of evidence-based studies on the socio-economic situation of women (one of the analytic themes of Cameroon’s third Population and Housing Census), the legal status of gender issues, and gender-based violence. In addition, UNFPA – through its decentralized offices and integrating gender with its reproductive health and population and development components - started building capacity of rural radios on gender-based violence and developed a user-friendly advocacy toolkit on how to integrate gender, reproductive health and rights and the dompographica variable into national planning and development frameworks.

Both UNWomen and UNFPA now coordinate their field support to the Ministry’s regional delegations in areas like socio-economic re-integration of victims of violence, including obstetric fistula and establishing local platforms on how to prevent GBV.
The collaboration between UNFPA and UNWOMEN and Cameroon has had a positive spill-over effect to the UNFPA and UNWomen offices in Chad and the Central African Republic since both countries are covered by the UNWomen Office in Cameroon.

Lessons learnt

The UNFPA - UNWOMEN partnership faced some “in-house challenges”, due some initial negative perceptions and prejudices among their respective staff. 
By confirming and supporting the Government’s leadership on gender issues, both agencies focused on their collective strengths as a team, rather than individual agency’s “territories”. The partnership is a clear example of pragmatically programming and implementing jointly – without having to engage in time-consuming UN or UNDAF Joint Programme Documents. According to both country representatives, their strong and cordial relation is a sign of mutual trust and confidence, whereby the will to coordinate, to share information and to deliver jointly outweighs individual agency turfs and rivalries.


Alain Sibenaler, UNFPA

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