Hot tips for building the evidence base around gender through evaluations by Emily Springer

Hello evaluators! I’m Emily Springer, a PhD candidate in Sociology with a focus on international development. I recently completed research on “What works for gender-norm change? Enhancing gender inclusive agricultural development programming” for the International Center for Wheat and Maize Improvement (CIMMYT).

Although specific to the Ethiopian case, it does not appear that external evaluations are capturing much about gender! This means that an evidence base of “what works” simply isn’t growing as rapidly as the agricultural development sector’s interests in working with women. So how can we, as evaluators, help improve evaluations to address gender?

Hot Tip: If the client wants OECD guidelines to drive the evaluation, create questions for each criterion that place a focus on gender. For example, under efficacy, be sure to evaluate: What is the ratio of male to female beneficiaries and what is the rationale if not 50/50? What outcomes occurred for male beneficiaries? Female beneficiaries? Under sustainability: Were gender social norms fostered to support the project objectives? If so, how?

Hot Tip: Let’s stop having a “Gender as a Cross Cutting Issue” section and actually mainstream it in the evaluations. But how do we do this? Describe and discuss differential outcomes for women and men in each and every section and talk about gender social norms when relevant. Since most donors require sex-disaggregated data is collected, you can use the data. And if it’s not there, document that and explore why. Consider breaking down the results by male and female headed households and work to evaluate outcomes for women in both household types. Lastly, use words carefully. If the evaluation says “farmers” throughout the majority of the report, but then uses “female farmers” in the ‘gender section,’ does that imply that all data in the report is for men only? Be clear who you are describing in each section.

Hot Tip: Make qualitative research systematic and rigorous. Women are often positioned in evaluations as one-off anecdotal “success stories.” Instead, create a rationale for your sampling frame, ensure that for each stakeholder group you interview has both men and women. If you have any imbalances, give commonsense advice on how this would skew the results. Utilize participatory methods as much as possible. When presenting beneficiary quotes of the project, be sure to include a sentence noting how representative that quote is or, if not, what can be learned from exceptional case. Lastly, assess and document organization staff ratios – who is implementing trainings? Who is making decisions?

Hot Tip: Carry forward gender into the most-read report sections: executive summary, lessons learned, and recommendations. Highlight what worked and why or document that gender was not properly incorporated by including the barriers as a recommendation for future projects, even the mundane stuff: budget, childcare, invest in women’s basic numeracy in year 1, etc. If “social norms” were the barrier, document which norms and how they might be addressed. If women were successfully engaged, recommend the specific programmatic elements that should be continued.

Want more detail? Please check out the report!

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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