'Gender mainstreaming must be taken seriously in all the work of the Marshall Islands government.'

This was the message emphasised by Mr Peter Wallace, Acting Secretary in the Ministry of Internal Affairs when he opened a two-day training session on gender mainstreaming in Majuro, capital of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), this week.

'The gender and energy training provided the opportunity to mainstream gender, taking into consideration traditional roles of the men and women of RMI,' said Mr Wallace. 'Interventions through renewable energy projects can change gender roles both in positive and negative ways, However, potential social impacts of such interventions should be considered, and ways to lessen any negative impacts need to be integrated at the beginning of any energy interventions.'

The training was a collaborative effort by the Community Development Division of the RMI Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Energy Division of the RMI Ministry of Resources and Development, SPC's Human Development Programme (HDP) and the Energy Programme of SPC's Economic Development Division.

'Gender mainstreaming is about adopting gender approaches that will safeguard the practical, productive and strategic interests of men and women, while also understanding the traditional and cultural norms of all stakeholders,' stressed Aliti Vunisea, SPC Human Development Adviser and one of the facilitators of the training.

The training also provided an opportunity to discuss the findings of a recent stocktake conducted by SPC on gender mainstreaming in RMI. It revealed that there is a need to develop capacity in the Internal Affairs Ministry, to strengthen networks for the Women in Development Office, to develop a gender policy, to improve the collection of sex-disaggregated data, to develop gender mainstreaming tools, and to consider having gender focal points in various government sectors to ensure that gender mainstreaming happens in all development sectors.

Participation of equal numbers of men and women from each sector and organisation was encouraged. The first day of the training focused on understanding gender issues, concepts and culture, and introduced gender mainstreaming tools.

The training acknowledged that the energy sector in RMI has been proactive in adopting gender mainstreaming tools and approaches in the design and implementation of energy projects. The lessons learnt and best practices from the energy sector experiences were shared with the participants on the second day.

The training emphasised the importance of monitoring and evaluation as part of the gender mainstreaming process. SPC is presently assisting RMI to put together the gender indicators for all its sectors. These indicators are fundamental for assessing the effectiveness of gender mainstreaming and other gender-related work in RMI.

This training was jointly funded by the AusAID project - Stocktake of the capacity of PICTs government for mainstreaming gender and women's human rights - implemented by the RMI Internal Affairs Ministry, the German funded project - Gender equity in adaptation and mitigation - implemented by the Economic Development Division of SPC and the EU North Pacific ACP Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Project (North-REP).

RMI, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia are recipients of the North-REP implemented by SPC's North Pacific Office. The project is also providing co-financing of gender mainstreaming training/workshops to be delivered in the three countries in the next two weeks.