Feminist TIG Week: Michael Bamberger on The evaluation of 2015-2030 Sustainable Development Goals: a challenge and an opportunity for feminist evaluators and gender researchers

Hello, I’m Michael Bamberger. I have been working on gender issues since I prepared the Venezuela country gender assessment for the First Women’s World Conference in Mexico in 1974. I spent nine years with the Gender and Development Department of the World Bank and have had the good fortune to have consulted and taught gender evaluation with many development agencies around the world.

In September 2015 the UN General Assembly approved the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These 17 goals provide an ambitious set of targets to guide international development through 2030. They replace the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which were in effect from 2000-2015.

These goals will have a major influence on how international development is approached, financed, and evaluated. It is important for feminists and gender specialists to understand how gender issues are addressed in the SDGs. Below are the goal and subgoals that specifically address gender.

Goal 5: “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”

Subgoals refer to:

  • Elimination of all forms of discrimination
  • Violence against women
  • Harmful practices such as child and/or forced marriage and female genital mutilation
  • Recognition of the value of unpaid work
  • Women’s full participation in leadership in all levels of decision-making
  • Universal access to universal and reproductive healthcare
  • (Under review) Equal rights to economic resources
  • (Under review) Enhance the use of information technology to promote the empowerment of women
  • (Under review) Support for legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls

Most other goals such as the end of poverty and hunger, ensuring healthy lives and access to education (among others) specifically recognize the need to ensure gender equality within each goal.

The challenge and opportunity for feminist evaluators is that work is now starting on the development of the framework for evaluating the success of the SDGs. The monitoring and evaluation systems of the MDGs were criticized for being too narrowly quantitative, ignoring issues relating to the quality of the services and to equity issues concerning access by the poorest and most vulnerable groups. The M&E systems were also criticized for being decontextualized and applying the same metric to all countries. There is an awareness of these issues and discussions are already underway on how to improve the quality of the data and how it is used for the SDGs. These issues will be a particular challenge for evaluating Goal 5 given the complex political, social, legal, economic, institutional and cultural factors sustaining gender inequalities and the fact that the evaluations must address difficult-to-measure qualitative indicators relating to power relations, self-image and mechanisms of social control (among many other factors).

Rad Resources:

  • “Transforming our world: The 2030 agenda for sustainable development” (2015). Provides a full list of the goals and sub-goals.
  • “Transform”. The first journal dedicated exclusively to gender responsive evaluation. UN women. Available on-line.

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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