EVALSDGs Insight #10- gender and equity in SDGs

EVALSDGs Insight #10 concerns a longstanding issue: gender inequality and the degree to which the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can assure equality and equity among peoples. Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) of SDGs implementation in 66 countries indicate that countries must act vigorously to achieve gender equity across all SDGs. This Insight proposes some solutions for strengthening gender responsiveness in evaluations of the SDGs.


Women Talk Too Much. What I learnt from a Manager who thought so

A few years ago in a workshop I was facilitating, a man grew impatient with the pace at which the women in his group were trying to reach a consensus. He literally put his foot down, said 'women talk too darn much and that's why we don't leave decision making up to them'. Having silenced the women, he proceeded to make the decision for the group.

Coincidentally (or ironically), the workshop was to sensitize local Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) on a Dutch funded “Girl Power programme” on gender equality. The gentleman in question (and I used the term ‘gentleman’ loosely), was a Director at one of the NGOs that would be implementing the programme in that particular region.

On one hand, it is good that he was a participant at this workshop. After all, persons who held similar views to his stood to derive the most benefit from this workshop on gender equality and women empowerment.

However, on the other hand,it was a bit disconcerting that a high ranking official at a NGO that is the partner in a gender equality programme, could not only have this opinion, but also felt comfortable to express them in the workshop setting.

His comment and subsequent action made me alter the format of the workshop for the remaining days. I decided to assign the women and men to separate groups. The change was immediate.

Women who were silent on Day 1 of the workshop were more vocal and actively participated when placed in groups by themselves. Before the  workshop, I would have been resistant to the segregation of groups based on sex. I felt this was not inclusive and could potentially marginalise persons. However, with the power dynamic at play in the workshop, the division of men and women was necessary to encourage true participation of everyone.

The point of this article is to underscore the importance of having gender considerations in programme design, as well as the need for gender-responsive evaluations.

 What is Gender responsive evaluation?

This is an evaluation that ‘incorporates principles of gender equality, women’s rights and the empowerment of women.  It is a systematic and impartial assessment that provides credible and reliable evidence based information about the extent to which an intervention has resulted in progress (or lack thereof) towards intended results regarding gender equality and the empowerment of women’ – UN Women, Independent Evaluation Office, 2015

It should be stressed that gender responsive evaluation is applicable to all types of development programmes, not just gender specific work.  Gender responsive evaluation looks at how development programmes are affecting men and women differently.

 Tips for planning gender responsive evaluations



1. Use methods that facilitate participation and inclusion

These are participatory methodologies that allow all stake­holders to not only submit data and information, but also actively participate in the definition of what data should be collected. This is important for empowering rights-holders (or beneficiaries) and getting the voice vulnerable groups in the evaluation process.

 I am a big fan of the Most Significant Change (MSC) techniqueIt is a truly participatory method that involve stakeholders in the data collection as well as the analysis of this data. I would go as far as to say that every gender responsive or human rights evaluation should try and have this technique as part of the evaluation design. Another useful approach is Appreciative Inquiry.

2. Ensure collection of sex disaggregated data

 I have covered this extensively in my other article on indicator development.  Disaggregation of data is basic to any gender or human rights evaluation. All data gathered should identify the sex of the respondent and other basic data about the respondents that may prove relevant to the evaluation, including age, ethnicity, nationality, marital status, occupation. Be warned that this type of disaggregation may be politically sensitive and controversial in some contexts.


3. Employ a flexible methodological approach

 Some methods of data collection may be appropriate for certain groups of beneficiaries but may actually place others at a disadvantage. Thus, the methods identified need to be carefully targeted and weighed against the potential risks.


4. Inclusion of vulnerable populations

The evaluator should be aware of potential biases that may arise in the selection of methods and avoid this through the inclusion of the full range of stakeholder groups.

Biases may involve gender, power (sources able to contribute freely because privacy and confidentiality issues are addressed), class or caste, and distance (favouring the more accessible).

Additionally, the choice of location, timing and language used of the evaluator may all have a bearing on the capacity of particular respondents to participate. Some groups may not be able to express themselves freely because of social pressure or they may not be allowed to speak or be represented in public meetings or community consultations. This last point became clear during my workshop on the ‘Girl Power’ programme.

5. Probe gender roles

The data collection tools should address the gender issues of the initiative or project, and must probe into broader gender issues.

 For example, in assessing the effect of an income generation initiative for women, it is not only important to look into what the trainees have learned but also how this will affect the power dynamic at home.

In order to assess this, it is essential to probe into the gender roles within the trainees’ home environment and look at how they are able (or unable) to practice their newly-acquired skills. Will the trainees’ husbands or male relatives respond positively to the women earning more than the men or becoming a breadwinner?

 6. Use mixed qualitative and quantitative methods

A mixed methods approach increases the reliability and validity of the evaluation findings, and helps to explore whether or not different stakeholders groups benefited differently and why.



7. Development of precise indicators

These indicators should be able to measure the gender equalities and the difference in power relations. 

Going back to my Girl Power workshop example, an indicator that simply assessed the number of men and women attending in the workshop would not have captured that the women had no voice in the workshop. An indicator that sought to measure the levels of participation by women during the workshop would be a better formulated indicator than that of ‘number of men and women trained’ .

A good overview of examples of gender indicators and how to develop them is given in this OECD document.

The following excerpt also gives a nice summary of the points in this article. It is taken from UN Women, How to Manage Gender Responsive Evaluation: Evaluation Handbook.

Hope the article was useful in helping you to design gender responsive evaluations.

Please share your own experiences on the issue of gender within your own programme in the 'Comments Section' below.

Publications consulted for this article:

UN Women, 2015. How to Manage Gender Responsive Evaluation: Evaluation Handbook.

Integrating Human Rights and Gender Equality in Evaluation – Toward..., 2011

Additional Resource

Council of Europe gender indicators 

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Comment by Ann-Murray Brown on November 26, 2015 at 0:32

Hi All, 

Thanks for the feedback and sharing your own experiences.

@Blake, well I did manage to negotiate an alternative setting for the women who did not have a voice initially. This was by soliciting their opinions privately,'1-on-1' during the coffee breaks and of course dividing the groups by sex.

Though to be honest, I was a bit disenchanted that our efforts in the 'gender equality' workshop may not have had any meaningful impact on people's lives . In other words, I was able to artificially create a 'safe space' for women during those 5 days, but I questioned what happened when there was no one to fill this role in their everyday lives.

This is why it is so important to have men play a role and be a part of the discourse on gender equality. Whether we like it or not, men already occupy positions of power relative to women and if we are going to achieve equity, we have to have champions from within the 'men ranks' to advocate for women. These men can help to create safe spaces for women.

Rituu, you are so right in your observation that 'women' is not a homogenous group. Even in the 'women only' workshop group, you could detect the power dynamic at play between the younger and the more senior women and between the women in managerial positions versus those in administrative.

You cannot eliminate this totally, but you can manage it by using different facilitation techniques to bring out the participation of everyone. I personally like the use of Anonymous Notes in groups where I suspect that there is too much power imbalance and censorship at play.

@ Bhabatosh, I agree with you 100%. The importance of setting indicators and developing study tools cannot be underscored enough.

@Catherine, it is nice to to see we share similar views on this topic as well as whether 'knowledge after a training is an output" ;-) (See the other discussion on LinkedIn)

@Mayie and Minal, glad to know you found the article useful.

Comment by Blake A. Gentry on November 17, 2015 at 10:01

Ann-Murray Brown thank you very for this concise but constructive blog on incorporating gender into evaluation approaches. I am interested in the related issue of inclusion of vulnerable groups and your experience with the "Girl Power" program; whether you were able to negotiate an alternative setting or opportunity for those shut out of public discussion? 

Also if Gender and Evaluation would like to re-post this in Spanish?  Rittuu, is their guidance on that possibility? Do you need a translator?

Comment by Bhabatosh Nath on November 16, 2015 at 21:34

Many thanks for sharing the Topic. The 'Tips' for planning gender responsive evaluation are very  useful and learning issues for the development practitioners, especially for the evaluators. Measuring the gender equality/ equity depends on indicator setting and facilitation skills of the evaluator. Before starting discussions with the respondents, 'rapport building is a must. If needed, the methodology could also be changed on the spot as Ann-Murray did it during her discussion with women and men.

Usually we set the indicators to measure the gender equality/equity by ourselves,  following the project goals, objectives and reviewing secondary documents etc. We develop the study tools in that way. But if we think about 'participation', 'inclusion' of stakeholders, especially of the women, how many of us identify 'indicators' through sharing the ideas with the stakeholders? I am sure if we discuss with the grassroots level stakeholders, we could have more sensible indicators to develop the study tools. Sometimes these indicators vary from area to area, culture to culture and community to community. For identifying indicators it is also interesting to have ideas both from women and men separately. I think to ensure gender responsive evaluation, setting indicators and developing study tools are very vital to consider.     

Comment by Catherine JUra Sentamu on November 16, 2015 at 13:28

This was a perfect entry point to illustrate the difference between Stereotypes and facts on gender and how facilitating stereotypes limit the advancement and opportunities for women to all those present. 

Comment by MAYIE BANYENZAKI on November 16, 2015 at 13:03

Thanks a lot for sharing with us. Systematically following the seven tips highlighted, will aid in all types of evaluation to generate credible results.

Comment by Din Mohammad on November 16, 2015 at 12:19

Thanks for Sharing ,,, but I think if we still making separate groups for male and female so that also effects the gender equality what if we provide advise and our suggestion to such kind of people in order to convince them during the training or workshop about the importance of Every one participation.
Because I have learned from my experience during such kind of events that female which have high level managerial position provides the opportunity others to talk but male with high managerial position never provide this opportunity to others they act like man of the event.

Comment by Rituu B Nanda on November 4, 2015 at 10:26

Thank you for sharing the valuable tips. Apart from creating seperate groups for men and women, what are the other ways in your experience of creating a safe space where women can share openly? We all know that women are not an homogeneous group.

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