Feminist Issues in Evaluation TIG Week: Transformative Feminist Evaluation and Empowerment of Women and Girls by Donna M. Mertens and Julie Newton

Hi, we are Donna M. Mertens, Professor Emeritus at Gallaudet University and a long time member and past President of the American Evaluation Association and Julie Newton, Senior Advisor in the Gender Team at the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) in the Netherlands. We connected because of Julie’s interest in innovative evaluation strategies to measure the empowerment of women and girls, and my involvement with the development and application of the transformative paradigm in evaluation as a guide to increase the contribution of evaluation to social justice and improvement of the lives of members of marginalized communities, including women and girls. We share perspectices on the use of feminist- and gender-focused evaluation resources. Here we share our learnings and associated resources with you.

Hot Tip: CARE provides a glimpse into how to develop gender indicators inspired by an outcome mapping approach that can be found here. CARE adapted this participatory approach framed by social justice principles and inclusion of the concept of complexity. CARE demonstrates how M&E systems can be designed to enhance learning about complex processes such as empowerment and support for more flexible and adaptive programming.

Rad Resources:

The Journal of Mixed Methods Research published a special issue on research and evaluation with members of marginalized communities, including examples of the application of transformative approaches for women and girls.

We have found three books that are great resources about the use of a feminist lens in evaluation: Feminist evaluation and research, Feminist research practice, and Program evaluation theory and practice.

A new publication, Qualitative Research for Development: A Guide for Practitioners, developed for Save the Children, provides guidance to practitioners on how to integrate principles of qualitative research into monitoring and evaluation. It provides guidance on how to use participatory approaches to engage project participants (particularly children) in shaping the learning objectives of evaluations and at different stages of the project cycle.

Lessons Learned

  • The importance of being aware and reflexive on how your philosophical paradigm background will frame your whole approach to evaluation.
  • In the context of ‘empowerment’ measurement and evaluation, a transformative approach adds particular value because of its take on whose knowledge counts. A transformative approach places emphasis on how measurement (i.e. in context of evaluation, research, monitoring) can increase social justice by tackling unequal power structures that marginalize women and girls, across other intersectional markers. This involves attention to many of the issues discussed under the transformative philosophical assumptions of axiology, ontology, epistemology and methodology (i.e. dealing with ethics, whose knowledge counts, importance of context). It recognizes the value of mixed methods approaches to understanding complex issues such as empowerment.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Feminist Issues in Evaluation (FIE) TIG Week with our colleagues in the FIE Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our FIE TIG 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 aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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