Support the design of gender-inclusive laws, policies and regulations

Effective implementation and enforcement of sound laws are crucial for advancing women’s participation in the electoral process. Advice on legislation and electoral systems must, however, be coupled with accountability measures for effective implementation. State institutions need protocols, procedures, and training to effectively enforce legislation. This programmatic option provides a step-by-step guide in support of inclusive laws, policies and regulations.



A wide variety of laws can affect women’s prospects for full participation in all aspects of an electoral process. The most apparent is of course the election law, but laws regarding gender equality, gender-based violence, political parties, citizenship, personal status, the family, identity documents for returnee and internally displaced persons will also have significant impacts on voter behavior. Some laws may also prompt indirect discrimination; for instance, literacy requirements may disproportionately disadvantage women who tend to make up a bigger proportion of illiterate populations.

Nonetheless, even sound laws will make little difference unless state institutions ensure they are effectively implemented and enforced. In light of that, there is a need for effective protocols, procedures and training to address impunity, also through response systems such as an early warning system (see programmatic option on “Gender-responsive early warning system coupled with early response”). In addition, the legal system should be set up to provide prompt and effective remedies for women whose rights have not been upheld. In sum, it is critical to provide advice on legislation, electoral systems and best practices that can advance women’s participation in the electoral process, but equally important to couple them with accountability and follow up measures that can ensure their effective implementation.


The following step-by-step guide may help the design of gender-inclusive laws, policies and regulations.

  1. Step 1: conduct a gender analysis.

A well-conducted and thorough gender analysis can help examine how certain policies and programs affect women and men differently. It can help policymakers to understand the varying and sometimes unique needs, challenges, and priorities of women in all their diversity and can assess whether policies accurately respond to those.

A gender analysis has been defined as the “the study of differences in the conditions, needs, participation rates, access to resources and development, control of assets, decision-making powers, etc., between women and men in their assigned gender roles.”. As such, it provides the necessary data and information to integrate a gender perspective into policies, programmes and projects. The analysis identifies the differences between women and men in terms of their relative position in society,  the distribution of resources, opportunities, constraints and power in a given context, as well as highlight women’s unique needs that the policy and legal framework ought to respond to. In this way, conducting a gender analysis allows for the development of interventions that address gender inequalities and meet the different needs of women and men.

Preferably, a gender analysis should be carried out at every stage of the policy-making process, from planning to implementation and evaluation, but it is particularly important to conduct a rigid analysis from the onset to work as a baseline.

Agender-analysis is usually carried out by a civil society organization to map a country’s policy and legal environment themselves or support parliamentarians who would like to conduct/commission a similar assessment. International organizations and other actors can support such efforts when relevant and appropriate, by commissioning an analysis. An Electoral Management Body can also support by offering, or when relevant and appropriate, commissioning expertise on the electoral legal framework.

  1. Step 2: Implementation 
  • Data collection: 

The first step is to collect available data and information, as well as identify data gaps.

  1. Identify relevant data to provide a picture of the gender equality situation in a given context.
  2. Draw on existing qualitative and quantitative research findings as a basis for evidence-based data.
  3. Ensure that data is disaggregated by sex (and other intersecting forms of discrimination, such as age, ethnicity and any other factors relevant to shedding light on intersectionality)
  4. Identify where further data is needed and generate additional data that captures gender issues 


  • Identify the underlying causes of gender inequalities:

The second step is to identify underlying causes of gender inequalities and seek to examine and address the cause of the problem to adequately meet the different needs of women and men.

  1. Reveal and examine differences and inequalities in women’s and men’s lives and analyze their causes and effects.
  2. Integrate relevant gender issues, gaps and inequalities into the full problem analysis, including assessing patterns of decision-making is affecting the policy by evaluating who has access to and control over resources, assets and benefits; and assessing the barriers and constraints on women and men participating in and benefiting equally from the policy.
  3. Examine representation and participation of women and men in different policy sectors and at different levels. Ensure that an intersectional approach* is deliberately included, i.e. defining in what way the given policy aims to respond to the needs of women and men and describe how the policy will affect the everyday lives of women and men or specific groups of women and men (i.e. relating it to age, bodily ability, ethnicity, migration status, income and other factors)
  4. Define the differences between women and men in the policy area (with regard to rights, participation and representation, access to and use of resources, social norms that affect gender roles and relations and gender-specific behaviour).

*For more information about the concept of intersectional and using an intersectional approach in programming, please see programmatic option on “Support the creation of intersectional spaces for women to engage among themselves and others”.

  • Inform policy and legal framework:

Thirdly, assist implementation of policy change and proposals. Offering expertise on gender issues can help to:

  1. Showcase unequal distribution of resources, opportunities, constraints and power between men and women.
  2. Ensure that the different needs of women and men are clearly identified and addressed in the creation of policy and laws and through the entire policy cycle.
  3. Articulate the viewpoints of women and men and making their contribution a critical part of developing policies and legislation
  4. Promote women’s participation and engagement in community, political and economic life; advancing policy and legal framework to be better informed, more gender-responsive and ultimately more effective. 


  • Monitoring & Evaluation:

For legislation and policy to be effective a proper accountability framework and follow up measures are required. It is therefore critical to keep monitoring the policy and legal environment to identify gaps in implementation. If there is a lack of political will for successful implementation, this needs to be recognized and addressed.

Advocacy can play a key role in campaigning for legal reform and implementation, as well as to continue to hold decision-maker and policymaker accountable for legal reform promised.




A thorough and careful assessment of how any legislation or policy will impact concerned groups – including youth, indigenous people’s and others – need to be at the centre of the designing process. Particularly how such provisions might inhibit certain political agenda’s need also to be part of the assessment and consultation process to ensure that all perspectives are taken into account, as well as safeguarding hard-fought and hard-won rights of marginalized group by introducing legislation and policies with the aim to advance such existing rights, never to jeopardize them.

To ensure a fully inclusive process, consideration in facilitation to participatory consultations and engagement sessions with youth groups, indigenous people’s and others, integrate intersectional approaches that recognize the diverse identities and experiences of individuals, empower youth-led organizations and community-based initiatives to advocate for their rights, access resources, and participate in decision-making processes at all levels.



Partners usually include parliamentarians and government actors, but can equally include civil society actors (including human rights defenders, and advocacy coalitions working on gender issues) and local media organizations when it comes to advocating for and communicating policy and legislative changes. 

It is important to ensure an inclusive and consultative process when designing legislation, regulation or policy. Seeking advice, guidance and recommendations from partners – as stated above – is therefore pivotal in this process. A couple of pointers are necessary: 

  1. Ensuring an inclusive and consultative process, based upon a thorough assessment of the current legislative environment, public opinion as well regional environment and advancement that has been made related to designing gender-inclusive policies and laws. 
  2. Ensuring that partnerships also include representation from marginalized communities, including youth, indigenous populations and other groups.  
  3. Seeking early and broad buy-in to the approach and input into the design of articles can help create a collective acceptance of the framework. This is critical to keep in mind when deciding on timing. 



Legislative bodies may seek or obtain advice on the design of gender-inclusive laws, policies and regulations through a number of ways. It can be through seeking advice from international organizations, academia or national experts. Collaboration with civil society actors – to better inform such policies – is also key as they may receive relevant recommendations.






It is important to account for potentially deploying external expertise, especially for policy and legal advice (consultancy fees for legal experts, gender specialists, and project management staff.).  Other cost centers to be considered include funding for data collection, literature reviews, and legal assessments that will inform the design of gender-inclusive laws and policies and cost linked to advocacy and communication expenditures for awareness campaigns, and public outreach activities to mobilize support for gender-inclusive laws and policies.




Advancing gender equality within government entities: UNDP Gender Seal for Public Institutions

The UNDP Gender Equality Seal for Public Institutions is a certification program designed to advance gender equality within government entities. This initiative, developed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), provides a comprehensive framework for public institutions to assess, enhance, and monitor their commitment to gender-responsive policies and practices. Through a rigorous process, participating institutions undergo evaluations of their organizational structures, policies, and workplace culture to identify areas for improvement in promoting gender equality. Achieving the Gender Equality Seal signifies a commitment to fostering inclusive environments, closing gender gaps, and empowering women within public institutions, contributing to broader efforts aimed at realizing the Sustainable Development Goals related to gender equality and women’s empowerment.


Putting policy into practice: gender-responsive laws and policies in Rwanda

Rwanda has implemented various legal and policy measures to promote gender equality and inclusivity, particularly in the political sphere. One key initiative is the gender quota system established to enhance women’s representation in political decision-making bodies, that ensures at least 30% of the seats in the lower house of parliament are reserved for women. This legal requirement has significantly increased women’s representation in the Rwandan Parliament, with women holding a substantial percentage of seats. Other successful examples of gender-responsive policies has been legal protection against gender-based violence, including legal provisions ensure the protection of survivors, and the country has made efforts to raise awareness and provide support services for victims. Notably, the introduced maternity and paternity laws to encourage shared parental responsibilities and promote gender balance in caregiving roles


Parental leave

Parental benefit is money you can get in order to be able to stay home with your children instead of working, looking for work or studying. Sweden was the first country in the world to replace gender-specific maternity leave with parental leave in 1974, i.e. the possibility for both parents to stay at home with their children.  Parents in Sweden are entitled to 480 days of paid parental leave when a child is born or adopted. Each parent – should they be two – is entitled to 240 of those days. Statistically, fathers in Sweden currently average around 30 per cent of all paid parental leave. The shared parental leave is often mentioned as a key pillar in Sweden’s gender equality strategies and can explain its often high rankings in gender equality indexes.



After Kenya’s 2010 Constitution guaranteed gender equality and the use of affirmative action, UN Women backed a gender audit of a draft Political Parties Bill to see if principles were translating into practice. The Interim Independent Electoral Commission subsequently adopted recommendations to make the bill more gender-responsive. When it passed into law, it stipulated that the registration of political parties depends on having no more than two-thirds of any gender in their governing bodies. Another provision requires filling vacant seats in the legislature with people of the same gender. 





Information Integrity E-learning

Coming soon