Monitoring women’s engagement in governance and peace building

Jane Carter, 04 August 2016
Monitoring women’s engagement in governance and peace building

The first scheduled meeting back in the office after the holidays: What to do about the apparently low engagement of women in our projects supporting governance and peace-building (internally known as GOP)? The meeting was prompted by a review of our Performance Indicators, those standardised indicators on which all country programmes have to report annually, and which are particularly used by our communication and fund-raising department in describing our work. As also remarked before, the Performance Indicators give a “broad brush” picture of the outputs of our activities, rather than the longer term outcomes. They are one way of measuring what we achieve, but certainly not the only one.

GOP activities are particularly challenging to measure as they relate to rather qualitative aspects such as greater accountability, transparency, inclusiveness, effectiveness and efficiency in local governance, and improved capacities to resolve conflicts. Since the Performance Indicators have to be easily quantifiable and applicable to all projects and country programmes, rather inevitably they focus on counting the numbers of women and men who have received training. Specifically, they are:

  • The number of people who attended a course on governance, decentralisation/democratisation or local administration
  • The number of people who have attended an event or course on peace building, conflict management/transformation, trauma and stress management
  • The number of people who have attended an event or course on their civic rights and duties
  • The number of migrants who attended an information or training session or were supported on safe migration as part of projects in the migration field.

When these indicators are disaggregated by gender, it turns out that our programmes have trained significantly more men than women. This is fairly consistent across all regions; furthermore, over the last few years, the trend is marginally worsening. In 2013, 38% of all those trained under GOP projects were women; in 2015, it was 32%. Clearly this is not what we hope to see.

The reason for the gender discrepancy seems fairly obvious: most of our projects focus on training elected representatives or civil servants, and in most of our partner countries, such individuals tend to be men. Regular migrants in most of the countries in which we have migration projects, with the exception of Sri Lanka, also tend to be men. (For those wondering why migration is considered a GOP issue, that’s another discussion, but there is a clear link with human rights.)

Of course men can be encouraged to give more space to women and to listen to women’s opinions, but that alone is likely to have limited effect. As the GOP team reflected, many of our projects do in fact actively encourage women’s engagement in political spaces. Examples documented in other blog postings include the Women in Politics network in Albania; training women in leadership in Guatemala; raising awareness of women’s rights in Mozambique; and empowering women in Bangladesh. However, with the exception of the training in Guatemala, this does not show up in the Performance Indicators. Whilst it is tempting to suggest changing the Performance Indicators, this is easier said than done. Not only would doing so entail a major upheaval in our monitoring system, but there are no obviously better, simple indicators that would neatly capture at organisational level the various ways in which we work with women in GOP activities. There is not to say that we cannot do so at project level; in a previous blog this issue was discussed, and we are trying to focus more on qualitative aspects of  women’s empowerment in project monitoring systems. Yet there is an inherent tension between indicators that can be widely applied, and ones that capture complex social and political changes.

The conclusion of the meeting, then, was that it is important to supplement, from other sources, the information that the Performance Indicators provide. It was agreed that, as a start, it would be helpful to foster greater project–to–project exchange and learning on different experiences in promoting gender balanced engagement in local governance and peace-building. Relevant project leaders are being alerted; and maybe this is a topic for a workshop next year…

Jane Carter
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Jane Carter

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