Gender mainstreaming in research – from design to measurement – made easy

Ever wonder how to integrate gender into your research? In this blog, Alliance gender researchers covers the ABC’s of gender mainstreaming with new videos, recommendations and further reading suggestions. Gender mainstreaming is a strategy that takes into account the interest and concerns of men and women in all policies, program and project.

The importance of gender mainstreaming in research programs and projects cannot be overemphasized. Some funders highly value funding proposals that integrate gender either fully or partially. Global Affairs Canada (GAC), for example, has a gender equality as core criteria for funding, and has a useful criteria guide for deciding whether a project adequately integrates gender (see Table 1). The level of integration is also expected to reflect in the levels of change in GAC’s Results Based Management logic model. Gender is also critical to Canada’s international development goals:

“GAC’s Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP) commits that by 2021-22, no less than 95 percent of Canada’s bilateral international development assistance initiatives will target or integrate gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls,” the agency explains. “This includes 15 percent of investments specifically targeting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, with the remaining 80 percent integrating these goals across all international assistance efforts.”

Other funders – such as Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation,   International Development Research Centre, Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research and the United States Agency for International Development – have varying degrees of expectations when it comes to including different roles of women and men in research projects and design. Knowing these guidelines could be essential for successful project proposals at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT.

But if I’m a researcher and I’ve not included gender considerations into my proposals and projects, where do I begin? There’s no easy answer. While gender considerations come naturally to some research projects like Improving food security, nutrition, incomes, natural resource base and gender equity for better livelihoods of smallholder households in Sub-Saharan Africa it’s perhaps less obvious in other projects. (Even the medical research community, where gender has been a key part of research questions for a long time, has difficulty integrating the practice.) Fortunately, guidelines such as those issued by GAC in Table 1 can help:

Table 1: GAC’s internal Gender Equality Assessment Form
Gender equality code Explanation of GE coding
GE – 3 Targeted – Gender equality is the principal objective of the initiative: The initiative was designed specifically to address gender inequalities and would not otherwise be undertaken. All outcomes in the logic model are gender equality outcomes.
GE – 2 Fully integrated -There is at least one intermediate gender equality outcome which will achieve observable changes in behavior, practice, or performance that will contribute to gender equality.
GE – 1 Partially integrated – There is at least one gender equality outcome at the immediate outcome level which will achieve a change in skills, awareness, or knowledge that contributes to gender equality.
GE – 0 None – There are no gender equality outcomes.


How to integrate gender

When the project team is clear on how they will integrate gender in their respective project, monitoring, evaluation and reporting becomes easier. First, activities that respond to gender gaps or needs highlighted in the project need to be developed. The Reach-Benefit-Empower-Transform (RBET) framework is an appropriate tool that can be used to help define the activities and highlight the possible outputs and outcomes for men, women and youth in the project.

The Reach-Benefit-Empower-Transform (RBET) framework helps researchers align their activities with the level of gender integration aimed at in their projects. If the project wants to partially integrate gender, the focus should be on reaching women, youth, men with technologies, resources and information, while making sure they benefit from the access and use of these resources through increased productivity, income, etc. If the project is looking at fully integrating gender, this involves reach, benefit, empower and transform approaches. Targeted gender projects can selectively focus only on the empowerment and transformation or the whole framework. A breakdown of this concept is better explained in the video below.

“And don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for guidance from gender specialist from the gender nexus enabler of the Alliance and OneCGIAR,” said Marlène

Some of the indicators that can guide what can be measured at the different stages of the framework are presented below in Figure 1.

Figure 1: The Reach-Benefit-Empower framework indicators

The Reach-Benefit-Empower framework was developed by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the CGIAR Research Program on Fish Agri-Food Systems further developed it to include “Transform”.