March 8, 2021 Whitney van Schyndel

Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) in CFYE

Co-authored by: Janske van Eijck, Sara Selleri & Whitney van Schyndel

Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) targets are integrated into the goal of the Challenge Fund for Youth Employment (CFYE) by specifically stating that 50% of the beneficiaries should be female. GESI is also integrated into the provision of Technical Advisory (TA) to the implementing partners. GESI is one of the three main themes – the others being Youth Empowerment, Engagement and Resilience and Decent Work – that our technical advisory and assistance, focuses on. All three main themes are integrated into our monitoring and are explicitly stated in our impact indicators. In the below article we will elaborate on why gender equality and social inclusion are important to CFYE as a fund. But first, we will kick off with the definition of gender and how it is socially constructed.  

The overall goal of CFYE is: the Fund aims to create a prosperous future for 200,000 youth, of which 50% women, in the Middle East, North Africa, Sahel, West Africa, Horn of Africa, by supporting youth employment initiatives in these regions.

What is gender?

Gender and GESI are terms that are used by a variety of stakeholders, and often in a different manner. The terms Gender and Sex are not the same;
Sex refers to the biological differences between males and females i.e. different reproductive systems.

Gender is a socially constructed category assigning different roles and expectations to males and females in terms of behaviours, characteristics and thoughts.

The Social Construction of Gender

Gender, like all social identities, is socially constructed; this means society and culture create gender roles, assigning behaviours and expectations for a person of a certain sex that do not relate to biological differences: i.e. capacity to vote, capacity to drive, capacity to provide caretaking; gender roles are not fixed as they differ between countries and cultures.

Gender differences often transcend physical characteristics and abilities, i.e. the assumption that a man (even if small) is more suitable for heavy works like construction than a woman (even if big); by the same token, because of social norms and traditional roles, women are thought of as more suitable for housework and caretaking, even if those are not directly related with female or male biologically-related skills and abilities.

Gender Equality, Equity and Inclusion

Gender Equality refers to the opportunity for women and men to have equal rights, access to opportunities and participation.

Gender Equity means that the exercise of these rights leads to equity of outcomes that are fair and just for all.

Gender Inclusion happens when the gender-specific issues and concerns of women and girls are integrated at all stages of design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of all policies and programmes, to avoid the perpetuation of inequality and to ensure that women’s rights and needs are recognized and addressed and that women and men share benefits equally.

Why focusing on Gender in the CFYE

One reason is that the CFYE is legally bound to contribute to Gender Equality, both by the global sustainable development goals, as well as by the objective of the Dutch government.

Sustainable Development Goal 5 (2015-2030) – Gender Equality
Within the Sustainable Development Goals gender equality is a main priority:

“Women and girls, everywhere, must have equal rights and opportunity, and be able to live free of violence and discrimination. […] Gender equality by 2030 requires urgent action to eliminate the many root causes of discrimination that still curtail women’s rights in private and public spheres. For example, discriminatory laws need to change and legislation adopted to proactively advance equality. Yet 49 countries still lack laws protecting women from domestic violence, while 39 bar equal inheritance rights for daughters and sons. Eliminating gender-based violence is a priority, given that this is one of the most pervasive human rights violations in the world today.” Read more here.

Within our consortium of partners, we aim to lead by example. One noteworthy step was undertaken by Palladium in 2018, as they endorsed the Minimum Standards for Mainstreaming Gender Equality, being the first private company to do so.


Government of the Netherlands – Gender Equality Policy
CFYE is a 6-year programme funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Governments own statement on gender is the following:

“The government seeks to promote equal rights, opportunities and responsibilities for men and women. One of the chief aims of its gender equality policy is to strengthen the economic independence of women and raise the percentage of women in employment. This means getting more women into work and making it possible for men and women to share work and care responsibilities more equitably.” Read more here.

More women in work

The Dutch government does not oblige women to work – the choice is up to the individual. However, the government wants to make it easier for men and women to combine work with care responsibilities. It is also important for women to understand the financial risks of not being economically independent. After all, getting divorced or having an unemployed partner can have major financial consequences.

Combining work and family care more effectively

Women sometimes encounter obstacles in looking for employment outside the home because they find it difficult to combine this with looking after their children. Often, women shoulder most of the responsibility for caring for their families. It should be made easier for both men and women to combine a paid job with caring for their family. For instance, businesses could be given incentives to arrange flexible working hours, introduce parental leave schemes or make a financial contribution towards the costs of child care.

Increasing opportunities for low-skilled women

Many low-skilled women do no paid work. The government has signed agreements with municipal authorities to encourage low-skilled women without jobs or benefits to discover their talents. The aim is to give them greater self-confidence for work or training.

More women in top posts

Research has shown that diversity in top executive positions boosts corporate results. The Dutch government, therefore, wants more women to be promoted to senior positions. Furthermore, as from 1 January 2013, management and supervisory boards must consist of at least 30% women and 30% men. This legal target will be valid until 2020. The government is also taking action to have more women in senior positions (including management) in central government.

Apart from the legal obligations, we have as a fund we wholeheartedly believe in equal opportunity for all, not because of the former but because of the business case behind those obligations.


The most important reason for gender equality is obviously the business case. Excluding half of the world’s population will limit the possibilities that companies and organisations have to reach revenue targets, consumer spending and GDP contribution.

The lack of Diversity & Inclusion also means “bad business” from an economic & organizational standpoint. Gender Equality can lead to a 26% global annual GDP increase. McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) reports that “In a “full potential” scenario in which women play an identical role in labor markets to that of men, as much as $28 trillion, or 26 percent, could be added to global annual GDP by 2025. No other sectors of the economy showcase these projections.”

Furthermore, increased female leadership in PS firms leads to 15% in net revenue margin. The Peterson Institute for International Economics reports that “For profitable firms, a move from no female leaders to 30 percent representation is associated with a 15 percent increase in the net revenue margin.”

In terms of market size, female consumers will spend $15tn by 2028. CDC Group (UK’s Development Finance Institution) reports that “By 2028, female consumers will control around $15 trillion of global consumer spending.”

In other words, if half (or more) of the workforce, talent pool and consumers are being “left behind”, countries, their economies and the private sector do not thrive nor fulfill their potential.

We are happy to see that GESI is integrated at the core of CFYE, and we look forward to working together with all implementing partners to make sure that our GESI targets are met throughout all projects and activities.