How to incorporate a gender lens in the evaluation of social programs

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How to incorporate a gender lens in the evaluation of social programs

A significant wage gap, unpaid domestic work, feminization of poverty, gender violence, objectification of women, abuse, human trafficking, discrimination, stereotypes, inequality, and more. The debate around these issues is now right at the heart of the public agenda, and everyone is talking about them. Still today, unfortunately, women continue to face inequalities of different kinds, traced back centuries in time. These inequalities continue to be perpetuated, hindering women’s development and stopping them from freely exercising their rights. Although many people agree these are actual problems, there is little consensus as to how to tackle them.

In ZIGLA, we’ve started facing these challenges, incorporating different perspectives and methodologies to help us at least lower these gender-based inequalities in the projects we work in. Incorporating a gender lens is not only needed in the evaluation of social programs which aim specifically to empower women. It’s a comprehensive perspective that is relevant for any kind of social program.

There are two concepts, sometimes used interchangeably, which are useful in understanding this issue: gender equity and gender equality. According to the Multilateral Investment Fund, gender equality refers to women and men sharing the same conditions and opportunities to exercise their rights and accomplish their social, economic, political and cultural goals. Achieving equality in this sense requires actions directed towards gender equity, distributing resources to reduce existing gaps, recognizing that they can ultimately affect both women and men.


The difference between these concepts helps understand that just pushing for equal access for both women and men is not enough; social programs should carry out actions actively promoting gender equity. Doing that requires measuring and quantifying the extent to which the actions of any social program help promote gender equity, and to identify the results that these actions have in women and in society as a whole.

The need for a gender lens is immediately derived from the push toward gender equity, and it aims directly at analyzing the degree to which a social intervention has generated benefits for women and how it has changed existing relations of power in a way that promotes women empowerment. It also looks into creating enough evidence for organizations to be accountable for their actions. Furthermore, there’s great public value in incorporating a gender lens in an evaluation:

  1. It avoids perpetuating or reinforcing gender inequalities.
  2. Helping to overcome the barriers towards full participation of women in social programs.
  • Making sure that the program results promote equality between women and men.
  1. Incorporating specific activities to treat gender inequalities and give answers to gender-specific needs.
  2. Encouraging the use of both impact and results indicators that are gender-specific.

So, what concrete actions does a gender lens add to the evaluation of a social program?

In order to incorporate a gender lens in our evaluations, ZIGLA has been establishing all the conditions needed to comprehensively analyze the dimension of gender, including, among others, the following:

  • Forming a team that is experienced in gender issues.
  • Equal use of feminine and masculine sources of information during the data collection process.
  • Asking evaluation questions aimed at gender equity.
  • Using adequate methodologies to collect and analyze data, measuring the results of the intervention for both women and men.
  • Using indicators that can measure results in gender equity, both qualitative and quantitative, in every level of the results chain.
  • Collecting data by sex and searching for evidence of the benefits generated for women as a result of the intervention, as well as changes in the power relations that can promote women empowerment.
  • Analyzing results aimed at gender equity.
  • Writing conclusions and recommendations that can contribute to improvements in gender equity for the program, considering future adjustments in the intervention.

All in all, these actions require that a gender lens is considered through all the main stages of the evaluation. Although they might sound complicated, putting these recommendations in action is simpler than it seems. It’s actually as simple (and as hard) as getting used to a new habit; in this case, the habit of always having the dimension of gender in mind when evaluating any given social program. We believe this new habit will be quickly incorporated. When the time comes, all the effort will be worth it.

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