G’day and Saludos! Welcome to our new blog that will bring you along with us on an academic and practitioner journey of collaboration, exploration, and creation of a new United Nations Women guidance publication that seeks to support current and future evaluation efforts. Drs. Anne Stephens from the Cairns Institute at James Cook University in North Queensland, Australia) and Ellen D. Lewis from the University of Hull’s Center for Systems Science have partnered with Shravanti Reddy, Evaluation Specialist with the UN Women’s Independent Office of Evaluation.
So what is our intention for our work and this blog? We would like to create a conversation and platform where we can discuss our emerging ideas, reflect with you on our field pilots and contribute to the ever growing discourse and body of knowledge in the fields of systems science, evaluation, gender and development and feminist theories.
Why is this still a topic worth exploring? To date, not one country has achieved gender equality (United Nations Development Program, 2013a). On the day he was elected in 2015, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked the following question by a reporter: “…you said it was important to you to have a cabinet that was gender-balanced, why was that so important…?” He responded, “Because its 2015” (CBC Radio Canada, 2015).
As some background, Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (GEEW) has been promoted by the UN Women Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) since its inception. However, guidance and practice on how to implement such an approach in evaluation has been a key gap in the evaluative literature. In the past, the IEO has partnered with the United Nations Evaluation Group (UNEG) and other groups to develop methodological guidance in this area for practitioners that has resulted in useful resources for not only UN Women, but also the larger evaluation community.
As interest and understanding of the need to integrate GEEW in evaluation is growing, practice is also improving. This is further strengthened by the centrality of GEEW within the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda and a more concerted focus on the role of evaluation in assessing equitable progress towards these global targets, including prevention or reduction of gender inequalities.
Week 1 in New York City
What an amazing and exciting first week in NYC. The weather has been perfect (although for the Australian from the tropics, it is a bit chilly).
Day one (the day we arrived) we attended a launch event “No one left behind: Evaluation SDGs with an equity-focused and gender-responsive lens” of the UN SDGs hosted by multiple organizing agencies (i.e. UN Women, UNICEF). It was a diverse group of maybe 50-60 practitioners, Non-Governmental Agencies (NGOs, aka non-profits/charities) staff, evaluators, academics, and parliamentarians (aka politicians). It was a sponge afternoon, as we absorbed a whole new culture full of acronyms, faces, accents, organizations and global realities. We were grateful for the short two-hour length of the launch event, it gave us time to catch up with the rotation of the earth as compared to the speed of our spinning minds! The room was alive with activists who earnestly hoped to contribute to a better world that works for everyone.
Days two and three were Technical Seminars: “Towards an Equity-focused and Gender-responsive framework to evaluate the SDGs”, which included panels of experts and break out sessions to deepen the conversations. We captured some of the comments from the panelists (apologies for typos and grammatical faux pas I was using a cell phone to post) and posted them on Ellen’s Twitter and Anne’s Twitter . What really became profoundly evident, was that Anne’s Feminist Systems Thinking theoretical framework she created for her PhD dissertation back in 2009, was now poised to support the SDGs ideals of leaving ‘no one left behind’. The conversations and presentations we listened to that afternoon indicated an increased focus (and hopefully action) on dealing with complexity and using a systems approach to tackle the worlds must pernicious problems. Ideals of using both quantitative and qualitative data to tell the story (select appropriate method/ologies), prioritize the inclusion of marginalized populations (voices from the margins), the obligation of every country to fight climate change (incorporate the environment within research/actions), insist on gender equality as a clear means to mitigate social and economic inequality worldwide (adopt a gender sensitive approach) to achieve the SDGs by 2030 through sustainable social change (undertake research/action that promotes plurally desirable and sustainable social change) (Stephens, 2015). This first week of seminars and discussions also reinforced that Ellen’s doctoral research (which used Anne’s theoretical framework and operationalized it into a method/tool in a development context in Nicaragua) had an opportunity to support the SDGs in building local capacity to significantly contribute to the evaluation process and allow for emergence of new information, indicators and data.
Our goal is to keep you informed as we progress and link this blog to our accompanying discussion forum at Feminist Evaluation (you will need to register to contribute). We welcome and actively seek your voice too.
Stephens, A. (2015). Ecofeminism and Systems Thinking. Routledge. New York.
*All our comments and opinions are our own and not of UN Women, University of Hull or James Cook University.