Children smiling

Integrating gender into your evaluation

By Shubh Sharma 22 July 2016 3 minute read

Gender inequality impacts all aspects of work and life around the globe, so it is increasingly being viewed as a cross-cutting issue in charitable and development work.

The work of gender specialists shows that ‘articulating the processes and factors leading to gendered outcomes can help develop more effective policies and programmes’. Hence donors like IDRC, the Ford Foundation, USAID and the Gates Foundation have begun to encourage the integration of gender in evaluation. And it’s one evaluation approach we are using a lot at Dasra, too.

What is ‘gender evaluation’?

‘Gender evaluation’ recognises that the impact of most charitable interventions will be affected by the sex and gender identity of their beneficiaries (much like other demographic factors such as race or age).

Approaches like this are key to ensuring you understand all of the levers and barriers to change at play within your work. So understanding the impact of, say, a livelihoods programme for young people must take into account where a participant’s gender may be a barrier to success (due to unequal opportunities and discrimination).

Evaluation through a gender lens may also help identify where a programme might be having an impact in ways that would otherwise be underestimated or overlooked. For example, employment as a result of a charitable intervention may enable young women to have greater control over their income, as well as play a bigger role in decision making at home and work.

Integrating gender into an evaluation

A key starting point is to develop a gender transformative theory of change for a programme or organisation. The five critical steps we take are:

  1. Engaging key stakeholders in planning, implementation and evaluation. This helps us to identify and then measure outcomes that are relevant to the objectives and participants of the programme. It also empowers constituencies to sustain and expand change; ensuring that evaluation does not become a mere reporting exercise, but leads to an uptake of the evidence.
  2. Establishing contextual understanding of how gender inequality and discrimination operate in the programme areas. One of the best ways to do this is to talk to programme participants about their experiences and the barriers they face.
  3. Defining assumptions and challenges in the pathway of change. This is important given that patriarchy and gender inequality are intertwined with other forms of inequality like class and race. Take the previously mentioned livelihoods programme, for example: are we assuming that the parents of female participants will let them go out for paid work? Because this may not be the case in many communities. This will affect the programme’s impact and should not be overlooked.
  4. Identifying which indicators to measure. Some gender-related indicators should be track for both sexes—for example, a reduction in the gap between learning outcomes for boys and girls as a result of a programme—whilst some will be only relevant to one, such as improved mobility and safety for women and girls.
  5. Articulating intermediate outcomes, those that mostly have to do with people’s understanding and attitudes. This is important to understanding an incremental progress towards impact, given that transforming patriarchal norms and practices takes years, if not decades.

Once organisations start engaging with this type of focused evaluation, Dasra supports them to communicate their evaluation findings to further their advocacy agenda, and to improve their evaluation systems and processes.

Staying connected and championing good evaluation

Measuring what matters offers another advantage for donors like us who operate at a level removed from the ground. It keeps us connected to our fundamental goal of promoting social change. Otherwise, as we grow we can be consumed by the processes and systems that we need to build and lose sight of our larger vision.

The enthusiasm around evaluation today is exciting news for the development sector. Mainstreaming gender in evaluation by engaging implementing organisations in the process will lead to more nuanced measurement and sustained achievement of relevant outcomes.

NPC will be discussing further innovations in impact measurement at our annual conference in London on 12 October, including our panel discussion ‘Looking ahead in measurement + evaluation‘. Sign up here.


photo credit: Happy kids via photopin (license)