FIE TIG Week: Silvia Salinas Mulder and Fabiola Amariles on Latin American Feminist Perspectives on Gender Power Issues in Evaluation

Hi! We are Silvia Salinas Mulder and Fabiola Amariles, co-authors of Chapter 9 of “Feminist Evaluation and Research: Theory and Practice”. Our article examines the fact that in our region, understanding and accepting gender mainstreaming as an international mandate is still slow and even decreasing in some political and cultural contexts, where the indigenous agenda and other internal and geopolitical issues are gaining prominence. Feminist evaluation may play an important role in getting evidence to create policies to improve the lives of women, but it is necessary to make feminist principles operational in the context of the multicultural Latin American countries.

Lesson Learned: We should re-consider and reflect on concepts and practices usually taken-for-granted like “participation.” In evaluations, members of the target population are usually treated as information resources but not as key audiences, owners and users of the findings and recommendations of the evaluation. Interactions with excluded groups usually reproduce hierarchical power relations and paternalistic communication patterns between the evaluator and the interviewed people, which may shape participation patterns, as well as the honesty and reliability of responses.

Hot Tip: Emphasize that everyone should have the real opportunity to participate and also to decline from participating (e.g., informed consent), and should not fear any implications of such a decision (e.g., formal or informal exclusion from future program activities). Having people decide about their own participation is a good indicator of ethical observance in the process.

Lesson Learned: Sensitivity and respect for the local culture often lead to misinterpreting rural communities as homogenous entities, paying little attention to internal diversity, inequality and power dynamics, which influence and are influenced by the micro-political atmosphere of an evaluation, oftentimes reproducing exclusion patterns.

Hot Tip: Pay attention and listen to formal leaders and representatives, but also search actively for the marginalized and most excluded people, enabling secure and confidential environment for them to speak. The role of cultural brokers knowledgeable of local culture is key to achieve an inclusive, context-sensitive approach to evaluation.

Lesson Learned: Another key concept to reflect on is “success.” On one hand, the approach of success as an objective and logically-derived conclusion of “neutral” analysis usually omits its power essence and intrinsic political and subjective dimensions. On the other hand, evaluation cultures that privilege limited funder-driven definitions of success reproduce ethnocentric perspectives, distorting experiences and findings, and diminishing their relevance and usefulness.

Hot Tip: Openly discussing the client’s and donor’s ideas about “success” and their expectations regarding a “good evaluation” beyond the terms of reference diminishes resistance to rigorous analysis and constructive criticism.

Rad Resources:

Silvia Salinas-Mulder and Fabiola Amariles on Gender, Rights and Cultural Awareness in Development Evaluation

Batliwala, S. & Pittman, A. (2010). Capturing Change in Women’s Realities.

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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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