Gender Focus: The Promise for Self-Reliance from a Transformed USAID

25897178921_13df6cb2b1_oThe DC community of civil society organizations (CSOs) has been buzzing, often in direct engagement with USAID, about the current USAID transformation. It seems promising and the timing could not be better, but given that the majority of the world’s poor are women living in patriarchal societies, will it deliver on gender?

The Agency has not undergone such an extensive transformation at all levels since the 90s, and this one could realize sustainable implementation that will be more efficient in cost, time and management. The new structure of USAID bureaus could also be more conducive to integrated solutions and adaptive programming, wherein local persons can take on greater leadership roles in their own development process.

The new Policy Framework for USAID (1. focusing on country progress, 2. seeking resilient, sustainable results, and; 3. partnering for impact) would purportedly preside others. There is concern among CSOs and USAID partners that without gender as a priority in the Policy Framework, USAID’s transformation will fall short in the transformation and implementation processes.

It is a fact that inequality undermines economic growth and development; gender inequality must be addressed as a key factor that pervades social and economic barriers. The Policy Framework is therefore the most promising “home base” for gender in order to build the self-reliance required for host countries to end their need for foreign assistance.

Gender analysis is good, but it is not enough.

The inclusion of the “economic gender gap” metric in USAID’s “Journey to Self-Reliance” does provide a valuable measure of the gender gap in salaries, work force participation, and professional leadership. It is in alignment with a 2015 McKinsey Global Institute study, which states that a “scenario in which women participate in the economy identically to men… would add up to $28 trillion, or 26%, to the annual GDP in 2025.”

Secondary metrics for gender in the areas of health and education offer space where USAID has a suite of indicators (see: USAID’s Child, Early and Forced Marriage Resource Guide) that can be “inserted” across silos. Women and girls’ health indicators, such as maternal mortality ratios and rates of HIV among adolescents, can help determine health and well-being as a key means to empowerment and gender equality. Sex- and age-disaggregated data should be collected across all sectors to show a holistic “picture” of the status of women and girls in society.

Finally, it will be beneficial for the Policy Framework and gender in secondary metrics for USAID to continue to use the standard foreign assistance indicators (F indicators). These measure country capacity and commitment, as they measure performance across multiple program categories and are structured to include both State and USAID spending.

Having gender roles is good, but it is not enough [if such are dual “hatted”].

Full-time staff – at any level – dedicated exclusively to gender would be ideal. The value of such could be well argued by the Gender Development team of USAID, which has extensive expertise and experience with gender-focus in USAID programming, monitoring and evaluation, and analysis.

It would be equally complimentary and useful for the Senior Coordinator on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment to maintain a full-time, whole-of-agency focus on strengthening gender integration while housed in the Office of the Administrator – with appropriate staffing to ensure relevant work can be done effectively.

Beyond staffing, embedding the Gender Development Office within the new Bureau for Development, Democracy, and Innovation (DDI) would help to ensure and foster strong gender mainstreaming throughout USAID: 1) support for [evidence-based] gender program design and technical assistance to Missions, and; 2) cutting-edge monitoring, evaluation and analysis of gender investments for applied learning.

Gender as a priority in the Policy Framework of a newly transformed USAID makes deeper impact in monitoring host country progress and achieving self-reliance promising.

An International Look at Women’s Rights

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Until recently, the human rights of half the world’s population – women – were not universally protected, nor accepted in most parts of the world. In 2014, the United Nations (UN) released a publication, “Women’s Rights are Human Rights,” to further the international understanding of women’s human rights. The framework outlines key areas of women’s rights that must be addressed by all states around the world.

In 1948, the UN established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that all human rights applied to both men and women, using inclusive wording that eliminated the question of human rights applying only to men. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966 and other human rights treaties followed suit to be more inclusive of women in both its wording and the rights it guarantees (i.e. marriage rights, maternity and child protection, etc.). An official declaration of women’s rights was officially adopted in 1967 by the UN titled the Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, proclaiming discrimination against women as a barrier to “the full development of the potentialities of women in the service of their countries and of humanity”.

Out of the fact that women’s rights are indeed human rights, women’s rights have become more widely understood as inalienable and of utmost priority for international development.

There are several key priorities toward the advancement and inclusion of women globally:

  • Identifying and citing private party violators of women’s rights, (i.e. individuals, small organizations, businesses, etc.)
  • Standardizing women’s rights – regardless of culture and traditional customs and practices
  • Ending discrimination that neglects women and prohibits their decision making influence, as well as their social and economic empowerment

Advocacy has a huge role to play in the achievement of gender equality. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5, which is to assure we “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”, specifically targets several ways in which we can end gender inequality. We must end discrimination against all women, eradicate violence against women, ensure the opportunity for women to be leaders and decision-makers, protect all women’s right to reproductive and sexual health, guarantee women’s economic rights, and certify that the legal systems in place can protect these rights. Below are eight human rights that must immediately be achieved in each country to ensure the achievement of gender equality internationally.

  1. Education – Barriers to universal education must be eliminated. This includes child marriage, teen pregnancy, child labor, discriminatory policies, poor access to schools, and cultural tendencies.
  2. Political Roles – Women should not only have the right to vote, but also be constitutionally allowed to run for government office. (See SDG 5.5)
  3. Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) – A women should be able to receive sexual and reproductive health care wherever she lives, including family planning and informative services. This care must also be provided by trained and safe providers. (See SDGs 3.7, 3.8, & 5.6)
  4. Adequate Standards of Living – Women must have access to basic resources such as food, clothing, and housing. These resources ultimately affect a woman’s economic prosperity, lifelong health, and her social capital. A food security system and economic opportunities must be in place to achieve adequate standards of living.
  5. Prevent and End Violence Against Women – Often occurring from entrenched patriarchy, violence against women further burdens vulnerable and impoverished populations. Victims of domestic abuse, female genital mutilations (FGM), and rape suffer severe psychological and health repercussions that can hinder development advancements. States must prioritize preventing violence against women and girls. (See SDG 5.2)
  6. Immigration and Displacement Protection – States involved in the origin, travel, and destination of migrant and displaced women should all be held accountable for protecting women against harm. Migrant and displaced women are at a higher risk of physical and sexual abuse, discrimination, depression, forced prostitution, and unacceptable working conditions due to their citizenship status.
  7. Protection in Conflict and Crises – Conflict can normalize and amplify the mistreatment of women, who are “often used as a tactic of war”. Woman are more vulnerable to rape, sexual violence, trafficking, and other human rights violations in these situations. Legal action and victim protection must be available and effective to protect women in these situations.
  8. Access to Legal Assistance and Justice – To achieve gender equality, we must have effective and accessible law and justice procedures to protect women at the local, national, and international level. Justice systems must be non-discriminatory, accessible to all women, and states must make it a priority to educate both women and law officials on the rights women are entitled to. (See SDG 5.c)

Women are capable of lifting their families, communities, and countries out of poverty. They have the ability to change the world if their human rights are recognized as not only important, but inalienable. We must ensure that humans rights are inclusive of women globally and that they enable women reach their full potential as agents of change.

To learn more about the SDGs, click here.

Image courtesy of UN News Centre.

Gender & Governance in rural India, Ghana, and Ethiopia

In 2010, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the World Bank (WB) conducted an analysis of agricultural extension and clean water access in rural areas in India, Ghana, and Ethiopia. The surveys were conducted in approximately 1,000 households in each country.

Access to agricultural extension varied across the three countries. There was reported moderate access in India and Ethiopia, and low access in Ghana. Agricultural extension services were reported as inconsistent in many areas and the quality of the service provided varied. Each country in the report had different apparent causes for the inadequate availability or poor quality of agricultural extension services. A common feature in every country was the gendered divide in access to agricultural extension services. Oftentimes, extension service workers did not talk to the women of the household and in some cases, there was a perception that women were not farmers and thus could not benefit from the extension services. Seemingly by default, the extension workers would speak only to the men of the household even if women were a part of the agricultural community in that region.

The IFPRI and WB report also investigated access to clean water in this study. India was reported to have high water access, Ghana had moderate access, and Ethiopia had low access to clean water. The decentralization of water access and maintenance in India most likely contributes to its high amount of clean water access. However, Ghana and Ethiopia do not report high disatisfaction rates even if water access is low. In addition to access, the survey also asked about maintenance and accountability to water systems. Regardless of rates of water access and happiness with water access, the share of households that reported dissatisfaction with their service (or lack thereof) to government officials or political representatives was low.

General recommendations for improving agricultural extension services and access to clean water address the gendered issues seen in every country. Some of suggestions are:

  • Looking at why rural services and solutions fail women: link gender-related efforts to general reform efforts and fix the perceptions that women are not farmers, or do not make agricultural decisions
  • There is a need to obtain gender-disaggregated data on access to services
  • Investigate the possibility of different kinds of community groups for services that are necessary for the entire population of the village or region: for instance, farmer-based organizations are good for targeting farmers but lack access to the entire population for promoting and ensuring clean water access=

IFPRI and the WB also recommended country-specific policy suggestions. There is an acknowledgement that agricultural extension services and clean water access are managed and maintained best by local actors. There have been efforts to decentralize these systems in all three countries, but there are recommendations to make the decentralization more effective.


India
To make decentralization as effective as possible, IFPRI recommends:

  • Creating structures to prevent elite capture of resources
  • Increasing gram panchayat administrative support
  • Making it easier for women to attend gram panchayat meetings

India has not hired new agricultural extension workers for more than a decade (in 2010) and capacity suffers because of this. Further recommendations include:

  • Hiring new extension workers as soon as possible will improve the quantity of farms an extension worker can visit and, hopefully with gender-sensitive training, can help bridge the gap between agricultural extension access between men and women
  • Re-establish the function of agricultural extension workers as a link between farmers and researchers.
  • Expanding extension workers roles even more- there is an opportunity for extension workers to organize inclusive farmer-based organizations and interest groups.

Suggestions for India’s clean water access focus mainly on making the water and sanitation systems more gender inclusive:

  • Getting more women involved in WASH committees
  • Including gender issues in WASH professionals’ training
  • Hiring more women
  • Focusing more on drainage

Ghana
Decentralization in Ghana has opportunities to be stronger. Some recommendations are gender focused:

  • Increasing the number of female district assembly members
  • Strengthening gender district focal points to ensure gender is a priority at the district level
  • Empowering district assembly members more
  • Strengthening the subdistrict structure, so as to aid district assembly members more effectively

Agricultural extension rates in Ghana are low. Improvements can be made by:

  • Better management practices
  • Focusing more on goals and outcomes of the agricultural extension workers
  • Increasing access to female farmers
  • Reconsidering the roles of farmer-based organizations to deliver agricultural extension services more effectively

Access to clean water is hindered by the misunderstanding around Ghana’s Water and Sanitation Committees (WATSANs). WATSANs have limited coverage, so expanding their capacity and strengthening their role in the accountability system is key for more effective implementation.

Ethiopia
Local government has a lot of potential in Ethiopia. The recommendations encapsulate the need for strengthening the capacity and skills of local government and supporting regional government as well. Additionally:

  • There are suggestions to better monitor local service delivery
  • Pay attention to the gender dimensions of service delivery and local leadership
  • Investigate the ruling party process and systems.

Currently agricultural extension services are narrowly focused and delivered from a very top-down approach. Promising strategies to make agricultural extension more effective are:

  • Giving extension workers more discretion
  • Extending coverage to where it is currently limited, like pastoral areas
  • Identifying innovative ways to bridge the gender gap in access to agricultural extension services

Ethiopia struggles with perceptions of clientelism in the delivery of public services. Effective delivery of gender-sensitive and inclusive water systems from water committees, and not political actors, will help make clean water more accessible and better maintained.

The book can be found in PDF form here.

Image courtesy of india.com

New Paper from Women Thrive Assesses USAID’s Gender Policy

Two years ago, USAID implemented a Gender Equality and Female Empowerment policy. Women Thrive recently released a paper examining the successes and shortcomings of the policy, entitled “The Path to Inclusive Development: Assessing the First Two Years of USAID’s Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy.”

The paper notes the importance of this policy, saying that it demonstrates USAID’s desire to lead the U.S. government into an era of inclusive participatory government. The gender policy works alongside and reinforces other USAID initiatives. In particular, the gender policy advances the USAID Forward aid reform agenda.

To determine whether the policy had a tangible effect, Women Thrive applied five qualitative indicators: implementation strategy and leadership, the amount and quality of resources, capacity building, the level of collaboration, and the success of monitoring and evaluation. The paper notes the successes of the policy, praising USAID for taking a flexible approach instead of a one-size-fits all model, its excellent design and implementation of gender resources, increase in local capacity building, strengthened collaboration with partners, and increase in sex-disaggregated data.

The report is not without its criticisms, however, saying that USAID must increase capacity building for mission and implementors as well as with men and women at the local level.

Women Thrive gives eight recommendations to USAID for the next stage of Gender Policy Implementation, which include translating annual estimations for gender programming into obligations and permanently filling gender leadership positions with experts at each mission.

  1. Translate annual estimates for gender programming contained in the Congressional Budget Justification into actual obligations.

  2. Permanently fill key gender leadership positions with qualified experts, including the Senior Gender Advisor in the Bureau of Policy, Planning and Learning and Gender Advisors at each mission.

  3. Improve collaboration with and capacity building of civil society, especially local grassroots, women’s and gender-focused organizations.

  4. Strengthen gender-focused reporting and disseminate country gender assessments and project gender analyses where appropriate. Mandate the collection and analysis of sex-disaggregated data for implementing partners and USAID. Regularly report results on the Foreign Assistance Dashboard.

  5. Require “Gender 101,” and “Gender 102” trainings for all USAID staff and “Gender 103” training for all gender advisors. Develop sector specific trainings and incentivize their use by all staff and implementing partners.

  6. Engage gender-focused economic development specialists to improve gender integration within economic growth program design, monitoring and evaluation. Create a clear strategy for how to address the issue of gender integration within economic development projects writ large.

  7. Work closely with other agencies and private sector partners to collaboratively lead gender integration in joint initiatives such as Feed the Future, Power Africa, Partnership for Growth and the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.

  8. Operationalize the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) for missions and implementing partners. Adapt WEAI for use within and across other bureaus and sectors, such as for economic growth writ large, to develop a more comprehensive understanding of women’s vs. men’s empowerment.

There are also three recommendations on how the U.S. Congress can support USAID’s Gender Policy Implementation, which include supporting the President’s 2015 budget request for USAID funding.

  1. Support the President’s FY15 budget request for USAID funding to ensure that the agency has the resources to fully implement its Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy.

  2. Codify the position of Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Female Empowerment to ensure that high-level gender leadership becomes a permanent function within USAID.

  3. Engage USAID more regularly in both public and private dialogue to understand gender policy implementation challenges, learn, and disseminate success stories. Support gender funding obligations.

The full study can be downloaded here.

Image courtesy of Women Thrive.

Gender Gap and Access to Productive Assets: A Conceptual Framework

GAAPHow can agricultural development programs help improve women’s access to assets, thus reducing gender gaps and leading to more well-being? The latest report “Learning from Eight Agricultural Development Interventions in Africa and South Asia” from The Gender, Agriculture, & and Assets Project (GAAP) focuses on that question. GAAP developed a conceptual framework for the evaluation of development projects and presents the results of eight agricultural programs.

GAAP is a gender focused project led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). It aims to reveal gender gaps with regards to the different distribution of productive assets between men and women of a household, and how agricultural development projects can improve the access to assets and thus diminish the gender gap (GAAP, 2013).

The report stresses the fact that “[a]ccess to, control over, and ownership of assets are critical components of well-being” (GAAP, 2013). Having productive assets can help  increase income as well as facilitate dealing with shocks (e.g. natural disasters or family health crises). Assets can be controlled separately by men and women or as joint assets. However, since assets and their control are unequally distributed in a household between man and woman, their bargaining power over resources is unequal as well, leading to a varying in well-being with regards to food security, nutrition, and education (GAAP, 2013). Therefore, development programs should rather focus on the improvement of access to assets and their control than just on the improvement of incomes.

For the outcome evaluation of agricultural development programs GAAP drafted a framework to ”offe[r] a starting point how gender and assets influence household and individual well-being” and “the way gender relations influence the different ways men and women experience constraints and opportunities when building their asset stock” (GAAP, 2013). The framework includes seven elements, which are all interconnected and gendered. The overall element to be aware of the context, since ecological, social, economic, and political conditions have different effects on women and men. The further components are now shortly presented (GAAP, 2013):

  • Assets: access to and control over assets are key determinants of individual agency
  • Livelihood strategies: the decisions about how to invest assets to generate returns, such as income or food, depend on contextual factors as well as assets which are available  
  • Shocks: shocks such as conflicts and diseases are experienced differently by men and women, also depending on their responsibilities; assets are differently used to respond to them
  • Full income: household members differ in their contribution to household income; women often spend more of their income on food, healthcare and children’s education
  • Consumption & savings: consumption and saving can affect asset accumulation or loss; income of women, men or the joint income can be used for different types of investment, however, women are not always able to invest in the same assets as men
  • Well-being: assets can impact well-being, e.g. by increasing status and empowerment through asset ownership or by providing a buffer against shocks  

This framework is a useful tool for project developers to analyze “how their interventions are gendered and likely to influence outcome and long-term asset accumulation” (GAAP 2013).

To download the report click here.

To read the project notes click here.

 

Gender Gap in Education Remains High in Low and Lower Middle Income Countries

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UNESCO, UNGEI

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in partnership with United Nations Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI), has launched a gender summary report called  Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report 2013/14 for this year’s International Women’s Day. According to the report, gender imbalance in global education has left over 100 million young women in low and lower middle income countries unable to read a single sentence (UNGEI, 2014). Following the adoption of  The Dakar Framework for Action at the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal in 2000, participants from around the world agreed to the achievement of education for all (EFA) goals and targets for every citizen and for every society. Almost 15 years after The Dakar Declaration and the launch of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), illiteracy especially among girls remain a big concern for lower and lower middle income countries. Despite the progresses towards achieving universal primary education and improving literacy, in 2011, only 60% of countries had achieved parity in primary education and only 38% of countries had achieved parity in secondary education.Girls living in the Arab States are at a greater disadvantage: the share of females in the out-of-school population is 60 %, compared with 57% in South and West Asia and 54 % in sub-Saharan Africa (UNGEI, 2014). The report stresses the need for supporting teachers, helping  the most vulnerable girls (poor, minority and those in remote geographic areas) and improving the quality of education as  we develop the post-2015 education goals. “Post-2015 education goals will only be achieved if they are accompanied by clear, measurable targets with indicators tracking disadvantaged to ensure that no one is left behind.” (EFA Global Report, 2013/14).

To download and read the EFA Global Report 2013/14, click here.

According to the report, among others  girls education:

  • helps reduce poverty and boosts jobs

    • education offers poor women a route to a better life, increases women’s chances of participating in the labour force and closes wage gaps

  • improves health for women and their children

    • educated mothers ensure their children are well fed and vaccinated, educated women have have better understanding of diseases and have knowledge to treat and prevent diseases, and they are more likely to seek health services during and after pregnancy

  • promotes healthy societies

    • girls education helps avert child marriage and reduces the chance of early birth

Key Messages of EFA Goals ( Adopted from EFA Global Monitoring Report 2013/14):

  • There were 31 million girls out of school in 2011, of whom 55% are expected never to enrol.

  • Reflecting years of poor education quality and unmet learning needs, 493 million women are illiterate, accounting for almost two-thirds of the world’s 774 million illiterate adults.

  • Only 60% of countries had achieved parity in primary education in 2011; only 38% of countries had achieved parity in secondary education. Among low income countries, just 20% had achieved gender parity at the primary level, 10% at the lower secondary level and 8% at the upper secondary level.

  • By 2015, many countries will still not have reached gender parity. On current trends, it is projected that 70% of countries will have achieved parity in primary education, and 56% of countries will have achieved parity in lower secondary education.

Check Millennium Development Goals 2 and 3

  • On average, if recent trends continue, universal primary completion in sub-Saharan Africa will only be achieved in 2069 for all poorest boys and in 2086 for all poorest girls.

  • Over 100 million young women living in low and lower middle income countries are unable to read a single sentence.

  • If all women in sub-Saharan Africa completed primary education, the maternal mortality ratio would fall by 70%, from 500 to 150 deaths per 100,000 births.

  • If all girls had secondary education in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia, child marriage would fall by 64%, from almost 2.9 million to just over 1 million.

For an Arabic, French and Spanish press release on the report, click here.