Are gender-transformative evaluations in conflict situations different from similar evaluations in other settings?

Gender-transformative evaluations seek to assess impact of policies, programmes and projects on transforming gender and other social relations. They adopt transformative evaluation methodologies and methods, are done people with gender expertise, and findings are fed back to marginalized women and men.

Are gender-transformative evaluations in conflict situations different from similar evaluations in non-conflict settings? Does the evaluator have to keep specific aspects in mind?

In this blog I share some insights that I would like to share from gender-transformative evaluations in Sri Lanka (during conflict), Nepal (conflict and post conflict), Sudan (conflict) and Afghanistan (conflict) in times of conflict.

• Share objectives of evaluation strategically: Conflicts can be gender-neutral, gender-regressive to gender-transformative. It is important to not share the transformative orientation of evaluation in situations of ‘regressive’ conflicts. Stating openly with men community leaders that one has come to the village to assess how far conflict response/recovery has led to women’s empowerment may not work. Instead it may be better to explore what how women have benefitted through response/recovery activities, what they think about it and what is the direction to go.

• Individual interviews are very important. Remember that people on either side of the conflict may be present in focus group discussions and this may lead to conflicts in group discussion which are not to do with gender issues, or one party not taking part in the discussion. Hence supplementing with individual interviews is very important. For example, one woman shared in individual interview that her husband was killed by the army as he was believed to be a terrorist. The group would not support her livelihood activity believing she was also one, and shunned her. When she was in the Focus Group Discussion she did not share the same.

• Use transformative methods which grapple with feelings: Happiness mapping- entails capturing happiness level before the intervention began and at the time of evaluation- throws a lot of insights on change if any and reasons for change. Story telling on discrimination and exercise on shifts in confidence and security are other methods that could be used.

• Examine women in which side of the conflict is benefitting and in leadership positions: During conflict, it is necessary to see if practical and strategic gender interests of women- of both sides- are being addressed equitably in camps for internally displaced. Effectiveness of violence prevention mechanisms need to be assessed. In post conflict situations, it is necessary to see which women are benefitting. I have come across peace committees where majority are women from majority community, and ethnic minorities were neglected. Implementation of UN Resolution 1325 has to also be assessed in post conflict situations. Recovery funds were meant for livelihood of women from ethnic minority group, but half their land was taken away by the majority.

• Assessing retributive justice: In post conflict situations assessing retributive justice is a must. If there has been violence against women by either sides justice has to be secured- and this needs assessment.

• Evaluation team should ideally consist of women from both sides of conflict: This is essential as there is a ‘trust deficit’ in conflict settings and in case one is going to a region dominated by one community it is important to have a woman facilitator from that community. At the same time ensuring the safety of the other evaluator is important

• Be gentle when one interprets: Change takes time in conflict/post conflict situations; hence women coming to meetings without fear could be a transformative indicator, while in a normal context it may not. One also has to remember whether the conflict is progressive, regressive or neutral while interpreting.

Ultimately evaluations in normal situations have to address whether inequalities and human rights violations are reducing, norms on masculinities are changing and vulnerability to conflict is reducing!

Feedback welcome
Ranjani.K.Murthy

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Comment by Ranjani K.Murthy on September 7, 2016 at 11:20

Rituu thanks for your questions....

Comment by Ranjani K.Murthy on September 7, 2016 at 11:20

Dear Mary

Thanks for your comments

I totally agree that the principle 'do no harm' should be maintained. I do believe that separate meetings should be held with women and men, then they be brought together. One person from women's groups should sum up what was discussed in the women's meetings. I feel gender training is required for both men and women. Often women are told about their rights. This is necessary, but norms internalised by women and men both have to be challenged in all settings. Best Ranjani    

Comment by Ranjani K.Murthy on September 7, 2016 at 11:16

Dear Rituu

In some countries (e.g Nepal) women of all ages were interested in peace building. It was in a sense a transformative conflict challenging social hierarchies. In a few countries- regressive conflicts- young women would not be allowed to take part in peace processes by family and community  leaders. By transformative I mean processes and outcomes in egalitarian conflicts, but in a long regressive conflict  evaluations cannot change outcomes much! Best Ranjani   

Comment by Rituu B Nanda on September 6, 2016 at 23:14

I loved your sharing because I enjoy learning from experiences. I had two questions:

  1. What about the age of women? Which age group is harder to engage in peace building?
  2. How do you foster ownership in transformative evaluation? What do you mean by transformation in this context? is the evaluation process transformative or you are measuring the intervention?
Comment by Mary Muthoni Nderitu on September 6, 2016 at 18:10

Good piece Ranjani.your question is valid "Are gender-transformative evaluations in conflict situations different from similar evaluations in other settings?" Yes, an add on is that when carrying out the gender-transformative evaluation there is need to use an approach of Do No Harm - this helps define how to handle(plan) the complexity of the conflict environment. It will heighten our awareness and our conscious role to know how to engage intergroup relationship. Participating in Somalia evaluation the environment and clan issues take centre stage, thus when engaging both men and women together the women agree with the men but separately they speak up and share. While it true that capacity building is done for both on gender, most men trained will agree in the meeting but in practice a woman falls back to her role in the society.

Comment by madhumita sarkar on September 5, 2016 at 10:28
THank You Ranjani, this is really useful. I faced problems in Beirut because of the control of religious leader in camp settings.
Comment by Ranjani K.Murthy on September 5, 2016 at 10:11

Rani Mohanraj thanks!

Comment by Ranjani K.Murthy on September 5, 2016 at 10:11

Dear Madhumita

One thing I want to say is that there is need for greater sensitivity about not having evaluations around Ramzan in general and in conflict settings in particular.

Once I had to go to a country where more than half were fasting, I tried to negotiate changes in dates. It was not possible. Muslim women and men were tired during interviews. Tempers rose between different factions . Non participant interviews were not possible. 

If control of religious leaders was high during/outside conflict situations the organisation brought the women to office for discussion. However, where vulnerability to conflict was lower, the elected leaders were met and they spoke to the religious leaders 

Comment by madhumita sarkar on September 3, 2016 at 11:49
Thank you for sharing your experiences. The strategies are extremely useful and definitely need to be adopted during evaluations in humanitarian crisis settings. I wanted to know if from your experience gathered in these different countries if cultural and religious consideration is also important? how would an evaluator address the issue of control by religious leaders ?
Comment by Rani Mohanraj on September 3, 2016 at 7:16

Dear Ranjani,

Good strategies suggested. 

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