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Measuring in different contexts

How might specific contexts require tailored approaches to measuring gender equality and development? As manifestations of gender inequality are context specific, international indicators based on global standards do not always translate usefully to the local or regional context. Some countries have taken global goals such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and adapted them to increase their usefulness and relevance. For example, Cambodia added a new target to MDG 3 on reducing all forms of violence against women and children. Regionally, there have been efforts to evolve and implement shared goals. In 2013, the African Union launched Agenda 2063, a rolling development strategy with a fifty year vision laid out in a series of aspirations that shows a clear focus on women and youth. The Agenda 2063 milestones and targets will be integrated into member states’ national planning frameworks, with regular reports given to national assemblies or governments.

At the national level there is great variance in the ways that change around gender inequality is measured. Often work is required to build and strengthen the environment in which measuring change takes place; for example dedicated gender machineries, and programme and project processes on monitoring and evaluation that are gender transformative.

It is also vital for policymakers, practitioners and others to have access to data and approaches that are tailored to specific sectors and issues. Different sectors have particular niches and focal points that would be impractical to collect data on all together. In addition some contexts require greater levels of sensitivity and care in their approaches; for example violence against women, conflict situations, and reproductive health, where more focus needs to be placed on the well-being and/or confidentiality of participants. Some examples of context specific measuring are listed below.

Conflict and peacekeeping
Women suffer disproportionately from the impacts of armed conflict. Ten years after passing resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security, a lack of progress inspired the development of a comprehensive and detailed set of 26 indicators to measure the implementation of the resolution. The indicators that were developed are a mix of quantitative and qualitative indicators, and reflect a broad selection of goals including the prevention of all forms of violence against women, increased representation and meaningful participation of women in formal and informal peace negotiations and peace building processes, and the safety, physical and mental health of women and girls.

In 2012, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) produced the Gender-Sensitive Indicators for Media (GSIM) to contribute to gender equality and women’s empowerment in and through media of all forms, irrespective of the technology used. The two perspectives central to these indicators are equality between women and men working in the media, and equality in news reporting on women and men.

Clean water and sanitation is of vital importance to human well-being, and has an inherent gender dimension, as women and girls disproportionately take the burden of water collection and the increased vulnerability this brings. This is encapsulated in a gender and WASH monitoring tool developed by PLAN Australia and PLAN Vietnam in 2014, which provides a participatory approach aimed at transforming gender issues in WASH. Included is information on implementing the measurement of four key indicators: the level of shared WASH workload in the household; participation in WASH activities in the community; shared WASH decision making in the household; and women’s leadership in the community around WASH.

Violence against women and girls

One example of a tool to measure change in the area of violence against women and girls (VAWG) is the compendium of monitoring and evaluation indicators developed by MEASURE Evaluation in 2008. The indicators cover four main areas: magnitude and characteristics of different forms of VAWG; programmes addressing VAWG by sector; under-documented forms of VAWG; and the prevention of VAWG in youth, through community mobilisation and engagement with men and boys. This last point acts as an example of how the inclusion of social norms and behaviours - a more transformative, qualitative approach - is now regarded as key in targeting and measuring the issue of VAWG.

Reproductive health and family planning
One key advance in the area of gender indicators within the context of family planning and reproductive health has been the completion of the MEASURE Evaluation Population and Reproductive Health (PRH) project. This project includes the development of the Family Planning and Reproductive Health Indicators Database, development of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) tools for emerging areas in family planning, and collaboration with the International Planned Parenthood Federation to strengthen and support M&E initiatives at country, regional and central levels. The indicators database provides a comprehensive listing of the most widely used indicators for evaluating family planning and reproductive health programs in developing countries, complete with definitions, data requirements, and data sources.

Unpaid care work
Measuring around unpaid care work has historically been a neglected area, because women and girls not participating in the formal economy are not usually counted in official statistics. Time use surveys are one way that this challenge can be addressed, because they make visible the ways that women and men spend their time; not just in paid activity but also in activities such as looking after children or other family members, preparing food, collecting water, and other domestic tasks. Globally there are still significant disparities and weaknesses around collection and disaggregation of data, and the surveys are not usually conducted regularly enough to allow meaningful tracking over time. If done well however, time use surveys can make a significant contribution to efforts to highlight and reduce the burden of unpaid care work for women and girls.

Many barriers continue to impact on women in agriculture, with rural women farmers constituting one of the poorest and most at risk segments of the global population. In 2012, the International Food and Policy Research Institute published the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index; the first comprehensive and standardised measure to directly capture women’s empowerment and inclusion in the agricultural sector. Spanning 13 countries from Latin America, Africa, and Asia, the index is drawn from baseline data obtained through USAID’s Feed the Future programme. The index is comprised of two sub-indexes. First, ten indicators are split across five themes deemed central to women’s empowerment in agriculture: production decision making, access to productive resources, control over use of income, community leadership, and time allocation. Second, there is a gender parity index measuring women’s empowerment relative to that of men.

Disasters and emergencies
Women and girls continue to be disproportionately impacted in post-disaster contexts, finding themselves extremely vulnerable to sexual violence and human trafficking. Additionally, post-disaster contexts are by their nature chaotic, and difficult to manage. In 2014 Oxfam published a set of minimum standards for gender in emergencies. The standards cover four themes: promoting gender equality through internal practices; gender analysis throughout the project cycle; participation, dignity and empowerment; and addressing gender based violence and the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse.

Economic empowerment
Interventions seeking to increase the economic empowerment of women and girls can be difficult to measure, given that empowerment involves changes in the attitudes, norms, and behaviours of recipients, their families, and the wider community. For this reason, it is important to include qualitative approaches, and to disaggregate all data by age as well as gender.

Key Resources

Women and peace and security: report of the Secretary-General
United Nations Security Council 2010
This report of the Secretary-General of the United Nations Security Council (UNSRC) concerns women, peace and security, and the difficulty of highlighting significant achievements ten years after the adoption of Resolution 1325 (Octob...
Gender and WASH monitoring tool
D. Elkington; E. Hogan; L. Leong / Plan International 2014
Plan Vietnam and Plan Australia have been piloting a participatory Gender and Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Monitoring Tool (GWMT) since 2011, after staff recognised the gaps and challenges of measuring progress towards gender...
Gender-sensitive indicators for media: framework of indicators to gauge gender sensitivity in media operations and content
A. Grizzle (ed) / United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization 2012
Produced by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the aim of the Gender-Sensitive Indicators for Media (GSIM) is to contribute to gender equality and women’s empowerment in and through me...
Review of evaluation approaches and methods for interventions related to violence against women and girls (VAWG)
M. Raab; W. Stuppert / Department for International Development, UK 2014
Commissioned by DFID, this review of approaches and methods used to evaluate violence against women and girls (VAWG) interventions assesses their strengths, weaknesses, and appropriateness. Conducted with a focus on understanding what...
Oxfam minimum standards for gender in emergencies
Oxfam 2014
These minimum standards were originally developed for Oxfam staff to ensure a consistent approach to promoting gender equality in humanitarian preparedness and response programming. They are provided here as a tool for humanitarian pr...
Violence against women and girls: a compendium of monitoring and evaluation indicators
S.S. Bloom / MEASURE Evaluation 2008
Over the past two decades violence against women and girls (VAW/G) has been put on the map as a critical issue to be addressed in the international arena. While many VAW/G programmatic initiatives are or have taken place around the wo...
Measuring progress toward empowerment Women's Empowerment in Agriculture Index: baseline report
H. J. Malapit / International Food Policy Research Institute 2014
This report provides a comprehensive analysis of the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) baseline survey results, summarising both findings from the WEAI survey and the relationships between the WEAI and various outc...
Valuing time: time use survey, the capability approach, and gender analysis
J. Walkera; N. Berekashvilib; N. Lomidze / Taylor and Francis Group 2013
Time use surveys are one of the fundamental, and most widely employed, research tools used to bring a gender perspective to project planning. However, narrow interpretations of time use data can distort the understanding of how projec...
Measuring unpaid care work with public policy in mind
V. Esquivel / UN Women 2013
Prepared for a UN Women expert group meeting on structural and policy constraints in achieving the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls, this paper by Valeria Esquivel concerns measuring unpaid care work with public polici...
Gender-equitable public investment: how time-use surveys can help
M. Fontana / Institute of Development Studies UK 2014
This briefing argues that macroeconomic policy often fails to recognise the disproportionate burden of unpaid care work on women, and as a result reinforces both gender and income inequalities. The author argues that by providing deta...