60 Seconds with…Itad’s Gender and Empowerment theme

Our ‘60 Seconds with…’ blogs are designed to provide a quick run down of what our staff do here at Itad. To celebrate their launch, we’re talking to Itad’s new Gender and Empowerment theme about what they do…

Who makes up the Gender and Empowerment theme?

We’re Itad’s smallest (and newest!) theme, so a very select group.  Claire Hughes, one of Itad’s principal consultants leads the theme.  She joined Itad 4 years ago to build up her expertise in measuring results from gender and governance interventions, a particularly challenging area when results can be so hard to measure.  Abdulkareem Lawal is another principal consultant in the theme.  He’s particularly skilled in designing and supporting M&E systems for complex gender and governance projects.  We have two other consultants in the Gender and Empowerment theme: Julia Hamaus and Kelsy Nelson.  Julia has been involved in a number of evaluations where she has applied qualitative approaches, such as outcome harvesting, contribution analysis and systematic cross-case synthesis methods.  Kelsy‘s work focuses on multi-year evaluations of programmes in the areas of gender, social inclusion, youth and adolescent girls.  She has particular expertise in the prevention of violence against women and girls in conflict and post-conflict settings.

How has the Gender and Empowerment theme evolved?

Until very recently, Itad’s gender projects were part of our governance work, however, as the gender portfolio grows, we’ve decided to establish a theme focused exclusively on gender. This is an important step in our evolution and means we have dedicated resources to drive growth in this area.  We have a Gender and Empowerment theme workplan, which sets out what we want to achieve over the next year, and the theme group is looking forward to exciting times ahead!

Who else does the Gender and Empowerment theme work with in Itad?  

We work most closely with the Governance theme (where there are lots of crossovers and synergies between our respective work) and with the Private Sector Development (PSD) theme.  Our PSD theme has massive experience of monitoring and evaluating markets for the poor approaches and we’re looking at how we can bring a stronger gender lens to this work to promote women’s economic empowerment.  We’re also discussing the Gender and Empowerment theme’s experience of measuring social norm change and how that relates to PSD thinking on systemic change in economic development.

Going forward, we’re expecting to work with a number of other Itad themes – we will launch a pilot later this year with four of our other themes to strengthen capacity in promoting gender equality in their work.  After this pilot, we hope to be able to extend the initiative across all of Itad’s themes.

What is the Gender and Empowerment theme working on right now?

At the moment, Itad’s gender work clusters around two main areas: measuring changes in social norms underpinning gender inequalities, harmful and discriminatory practices; and quantifying the value for money and cost effectiveness offered by different interventions intended to empower women and girls.

We’ve been very lucky to have the opportunity to play a leading role on the innovative DFID Voices for Change project in Nigeria.  This project aims to strengthen the enabling environment for girls and women’s empowerment by changing public attitudes and practices in relation to violence against women and girls, women’s decision-making in the home and women’s leadership.  Itad leads on results measurement on the project.  We’ve led the design of one of the first (globally) population representative surveys to track changes in public attitudes and practices in these 3 areas.  We’ve now done 3 rounds of data collection and we’re starting to get some really interesting findings.  We’ll be publishing some of the findings shortly, so watch this space.  In the area of measuring social norm change, we’re also currently working with the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C) to help them strengthen their results measurement.  This includes the development of a results framework for routine measurement of progress towards social norm change relating to FGM/C, but also ways in which the Joint Programme could evaluate the effectiveness of interventions to strengthen the global evidence base on what works.

We’re also seeing an increasing demand for our services in measuring the value for money offered by girls and women’s empowerment projects, and the cost-effectiveness of different interventions to empower girls and women.  Measuring value for money of development programmes has been one of Itad’s core services for a long time, but applying this thinking to ‘empowerment’ interventions is especially tricky.  We’re currently working on a couple of projects in this area: Gender and Adolescence Global Evidence Programme and the Adolescent Girls Initiative in Kenya.

How would you categorise your evaluations?

Very diverse! Itad has a strong track record in evaluating multi- and bilateral donor efforts to promote girls and women’s empowerment and gender equality in their own organisations and programmes.  For example, we’ve evaluated the EU’s support to women’s empowerment and gender equality and the implementation of DFID’s Strategic Vision for Girls and Women.  These types of evaluations use organisational effectiveness frameworks and often apply the OECD-DAC evaluation criteria of relevance, efficiency, effectiveness, impact, sustainability and co-ordination.

Many of our evaluations are theory based, designed to test the extent to which programmes’ theories of change hold true, what has worked, what has not, and to contribute to building theory for gender equality and girls and women’s empowerment.  These kinds of evaluations don’t usually have a set of predetermined methods to use so we get to create the toolbox ourselves, which is always exciting.  The evaluation of UNFPA’s work on Gender Based Violence is one example of a theory-based evaluation we’re currently conducting.

With an increasing focus on behaviour change within the gender arena, we’re getting the opportunity to apply evaluation methods well suited to measuring behaviour change.  On Voices for Change, we use quantitative methods such as Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices surveys and qualitative methods such as outcome harvesting to capture behaviour change results and the programme’s specific contribution to them.

What innovations are you excited about in your sector?

The focus on social norms in the gender arena is really exciting and this experience is now filtering out to other sectors.  Social norms thinking places behaviour change centre stage in development interventions by recognising that people are social animals who are influenced by the behaviour of others, particularly others within their social networks. There isn’t a lot of evidence available about how to change social norms effectively, especially in developing countries, so the programmes that are attempting to do it are breaking new ground.  Of course, this means that the measurement of results and conducting evaluations to understand what works and why is all the more important.  It’s great that Itad is a part of this and has the opportunity to drive thinking in in this field. 

What has been a recent highlight for the Gender and Empowerment theme?

We’ve already mentioned quite a few! Itad’s recent commitments to strengthen its gender focus, both in our projects and internally, was a highlight.  The agreements we reached far surpassed our expectations.  They’re important because they mark Itad’s formal recognition that promoting gender equality is a fundamental part of us delivering on our organisational purpose. They also reflect an understanding that promoting gender equality isn’t just something that we do in our project work, we also need to do it in-house.  We hope that this means Itad will become an increasingly attractive employer for women and men and that all staff feel able to make a full contribution to the work that we do.

Itad’s Gender and Empowerment theme, March 2017

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Carousel image © Escaping child marriage. Photo Credit: Sheena Ariyapala/Department for International Development

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