By Jhon Lugo and Margaret Roper
Over the past decade and more increasingly, international development donors are calling for stronger approaches to incorporate gender into program design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation.
But what does that really mean?
The nuance in the gender conversation
Let’s begin with clarifying some misconceptions around gender.
Whether it is a social or a business setting, gender is a term that gets thrown regularly in many conversations to convey, often, different meanings. For example, people tend to use the terms “sex” and “gender” interchangeably. But while connected, the two terms are not equivalent. Gender is a social construct that differs between cultures and over time. It refers to beliefs about the “appropriate” roles, duties, rights, responsibilities, accepted behaviors, opportunities, and status of women, men, transgender people, and others in relation to one another.
Similarly, it is not uncommon to see people drawing links between gender, women, and a feminist agenda. However, analyses of gender should move beyond a sole focus on women and girls and include the institutions, structures in place limiting the realization of gender equity. This requires a holistic approach that importantly considers how the role of men and boys fit within those institutions and structures.
As a social research tool, gender analyses are critical to making determinations on the different impacts of program interventions on men and women, especially in transforming gender norms, reducing gender gaps, and creating a more just world.
Throughout our work in providing evaluation and research, monitoring support, and capacity building services, we have learned, adapted, and implemented the following best practices for “engendering” or incorporating gender into our work.
1. From “light-touch” gender analysis to “in-depth” gender analysis
While sex-disaggregation of project data is an important aspect to conducting gender analyses, it is insufficient to comprehensively examine the extent to which project interventions may contribute to widening or lessening gender gaps among program participants.
A fully gender-sensitive approach would include analyzing issues such as access to and control of resources, political, legal, and social constrains on economic, social and political participation, and domestic and gender-based violence.
Tip: The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Women’s Economic Empowerment and Equality (WE3) dashboard is a great tool to identify different gender domains of analysis and gender related indicators, including access to capital, access to markets, gender-based violence, leadership and agency, and human capital. The tool, which explores over 60 countries’ performance on women’s economic empowerment, can be used to inform evaluation design as well as a source of secondary data.
2. Identify key stakeholders and their roles
Ensuring participation of a diverse group of key stakeholders both inside and outside the program will strengthen accountability, trust, credibility, data use, and quality. When bringing key stakeholders together, be mindful of power dynamics and what particular stakeholders might gain or lose as a result of their participation.
Tip: Rather than asking who your stakeholders are, ask who has a stake in the program and how their participation promotes or hinders inclusive participation.
3. Develop gender-related evaluation questions
A first step is to identify the purpose of the evaluation and determine how strongly gender-integrated the evaluation is.
If the evaluation is designed to examine questions that are primarily or wholly focused on gender, evaluation questions that focus on specific gender concerns should naturally follow. For evaluations that do not have a primary purpose of addressing gender, gender should nevertheless be considered in the development of the evaluation questions.
Tip: Here are some examples of illustrative questions:
- Have stigma and discrimination against people who do not follow traditional gender norms and behaviors been reduced?
- What positive or negative unintended effects on gender equality were identified during implementation, if any? How were they addressed?
- Were there any constraints (e.g. political, practical, bureaucratic) to addressing gender efficiently during implementation? If yes, what efforts were made to overcome these challenges?
4. Select an appropriate study design
Mixed methods evaluation designs are most appropiate for conducting analyses of gender. While quantitative methods are important for capturing sex-disaggregated statistical data, they often do not adequately address gender sensitive issues such as domestic violence, power relations, and attitudinal and behavioral changes.
Tip: Since inequality and inequity are lived experiences, qualitative methods are better suited to examining the unique experiences and complex relationships of men and women.
5. Gender-sensitive data collection
Gender-blind data collection tools, protocols, and research methods may unintentionally narrow the diversity of perspectives and experiences captured from key stakeholders, especially those who are low in social power.
For example, evaluators need to be aware of factors that might influence the likelihood that disproportionate numbers of males and females will participate in data collection for the evaluation, including factors such as where and how they spend their time, how much leisure time they have, whether there are prohibitions on women appearing in certain places or speaking with certain types of people, and whether powerful cultural gatekeepers have control over who participates.
Tip: Consider how the proposed methodology may prevent those with low social power from participating and if it limits participation consider an alternative.
6. Gender expertise on the evaluation team
The evaluation team should also include one or more members with local cultural expertise, including an awareness of gender norms, how gender interacts with other identity elements, and which sub-groups of women may be at risk for exclusion from the project or evaluation. Evaluation teams should include members of both sexes and of different genders depending on the subgroup of population being targeted. Gender-balanced evaluation teams are particularly important in cultural contexts in which constraints prohibit women from talking to unrelated men, or where women may not be comfortable speaking to a man.
Tip: Including local evaluators with relevant gender and cultural expertise can be particularly valuable for integrating gender.
Have we missed anything? Do you use alternative approaches to engendering evaluation? Leave a message below. We’d love to hear from you!
You can also download the presentation related to this blog, or visit some of our previous #EvalTuesdayTips on gender: