Gender-responsive Small Arms Control

Manual and Guideline
Originally published



The last two decades have seen the steady convergence of global agendas on small arms control; women, peace, and security; and sustainable development. For small arms control programmers, policymakers, and donor governments, this convergence requires a shift in thinking and a new approach to project implementation.

In particular, it is now broadly accepted that significant reductions in armed violence will not be achieved without the full and equal contributions of people of all genders––and a better understanding of the gendered underpinnings of violence and insecurity.

The challenge now is to reflect these understandings in practical programming. Disarmament efforts, for example, will miss the mark if they do not take account of the gendered dynamics of arms acquisition, use, and misuse in affected areas. Similarly, community violence-reduction initiatives will lose credibility–– and effectiveness––if they do not incorporate the contributions of community members of all genders in their design. Once the effort is made, the benefits are considerable. Enhancing the gender responsiveness of small arms programmes makes them more effective and furthers the aim of gender equality.

Gender-responsive programming, however, is not yet the norm. In part, this is due to a lack of comprehensive guidance enabling diplomats, relevant government ministries, and practitioners to develop, support, and evaluate small arms programmes through a gender lens. The present Handbook seeks to fill that gap.

The Handbook takes the reader from an overview of the shifts in the global policy landscape to the specifics of gender-responsive project planning and execution. It is designed to be as practical as possible, with key messages and selected examples included in each chapter to enhance its practical utility. The intended audience of this Handbook is, in fact, broad and non-expert; potential readers include diplomats with small arms portfolios, donor government agencies, and NGOs working on small arms control.

The Handbook consists of four main chapters and a case study, each written by different authors:

  • Chapter 1 explains why the incorporation of gender in small arms programming is important, and defines key terms and concepts that are crucial to genderresponsive small arms programming and used throughout the volume.

  • Chapter 2 analyses the recent convergence of the global small arms control regime; the Women, Peace and Security Agenda; and Agenda 2030, explaining where they are mutually reinforcing—while also stressing the ongoing challenge of translating gender-related guidance and commitments into practical programming.

Bridging Chapters 2 and 3 is a case study that offers a gendered analysis of the development of the Firearms Control Act (2000) of South Africa, focusing on the extent to which the concerns of women, in particular, were reflected in the law’s development and implementation, while also exploring the gendered impacts of the law.

  • Chapter 3 outlines some of the gendered impacts of small arms, based on available data, and provides a gendered analysis of the various stages of the small arms life cycle and related interventions, including small arms manufacture; use and misuse; transfers and diversion; and stockpile management.

  • Chapter 4 indicates how to mainstream gender into design, monitoring, and evaluation processes, focusing on key decision-making points that have a significant impact on these processes.

In summary, the Handbook offers practical guidance designed to make small arms programming more effective, inclusive, and sustainable by taking account of the different experiences and perspectives of people of all genders. Genderresponsive programming can also help transform the gender dynamics that underpin violence––not only supporting gender equality but also addressing both the effects and causes of violence.