FIE/MME Week: Katherine Hay on How to do Feminist Evaluation
Hi, I’m Katherine Hay. I’ve spent the last 15 years in India working on development, research, and evaluation.
- A mantra I use all the time is: ‘there is no gender neutral policy, program, or evaluation.’ If I hear one of these things described as ‘gender neutral’ I start to probe. Usually when an intervention is called ‘gender neutral,’ it is actually gender blind.
- South Asia, my home and the place I work, has the worst gender inequities in the world.
- Evaluation can reinforce or reflect social inequities – or it can challenge them. I want to play a part in challenging them. To do that, evaluation has to help us figure out what shows promise in shifting inequities and what does not. This is what draws me to feminist evaluation.
- Mainstream development, and by extension mainstream evaluation, grapples with mainstream questions. This has resulted in designs, approaches, and tools which are not particularly well suited to understanding inequities. Feminist analysis brings inequity to the foreground.
- I’m often asked, ‘But how do you do feminist evaluation?’ There are no shortcuts. The answer is, ‘by applying feminist principles at different stages in an evaluation.’ For example:
- At the start of the evaluation feminist analysis can be used to ask, ‘whose questions are these?’ and, ‘whose questions are being excluded?’
- A rigorous feminist evaluation uses the mix of methods that matches the questions. But some designs factor out the perspectives of marginalized groups. Feminist evaluation designs include them.
- At the judgment stage, feminist evaluations recognize that there are different and often competing definitions of success in development interventions. Feminist analysis brings these differences to the surface for debate.
- At the use stage, feminist analysis brings recognition that particular pathways may be strategic, blocked, or risky. A feminist approach also brings responsibility to take responsible action on findings.
- Get Involved. Peer support has been invaluable to my evaluation practice. I’m part of a group in South Asia trying to strengthen our work through feminist analysis. We share our designs, instruments, processes and challenges. We are critical but supportive. Being part of this group reminds me why evaluation matters. Try to find a group of peers to challenge and inspire you. If you want to share resources or get in touch, we have a Feminist Evaluation website.
Rad Resources :
- Donna Podems paper. describes feminist evaluation as being a way of thinking about evaluation.
- The My M&E website has free books including Evaluation for Equitable Development Results that has a section on feminist evaluation. The site also has webinars like the one Ratna Sudarshan and I did on Feminist Evaluation.
The American Evaluation Association is celebrating the Mixed Methods Evaluation and Feminist Issues TIGs (FIE/MME) Week. The contributions all week come from FIE/MME members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.