Ahead of International Women’s Day, I argue that in order to realize the Bank’s twin goals we need to internalize gender equality into our solutions and our evaluations.
Eradicate poverty and boost shared prosperity? There’s no chance of reaching these ambitious goals unless gender equality is an integral part of the agenda. The World Bank Group has recognized this by introducing gender as one of five cross-cutting solutions areas.
What does this mean for independent evaluation?
IEG, like many other groups, has occasionally evaluated the Bank’s gender policies on a large scale. These evaluations generated useful lessons and recommendations that are important to shaping the future agenda and they’ve been welcomed, especially by shareholders. But the track record of implementing our recommendations makes me wonder if we should do more to support this cause and help the World Bank Group achieve its goals.
When I look back at our last evaluation on Gender and Development in 2010 and at what’s happened since then, a number of questions remain.
Gender mainstreaming as a way of deprioritizing?
The intentions are good. Mainstreaming an issue that cuts across the development challenge is important to ensuring it’s internalized. But is gender-mainstreaming the panacea for addressing gender in country policies and programs? Clearly not.
An assessment of the country context is crucial when deciding whether a targeted approach to gender is more appropriate than a mainstreaming approach. For the evaluation of country strategies, this means the relevance of gender in the country context should be assessed case by case, and followed up in country operations and analytical work accordingly. For example, in multi-country thematic evaluation contexts of Bank support to Fragile and Conflict-Affected States, the urgency of responding to targeted gender-based violence as a war tactic emerged as a very specific priority theme that wasn’t addressed by the Bank.
Connecting broader goals with gender equality?
Instead of rethinking how business is done, the substantive integration of gender equality often falls victim to the momentary attention the subject receives. We can start internalizing gender equality in our solutions if we understand poverty eradication and shared prosperity from the perspective of who’s gaining and who’s losing because of World Bank Group interventions at the household and intra-household level. Our improved ability to assess distributional impacts demanded by the Bank Group’s twin goals of eradicating poverty and boosting shared prosperity is a formidable entry point for a systematic assessment of what’s happening to gender equality.
Not enough data?
Three years after completing our evaluation, we find that the availability of household-level and intra-household data remains a serious gap. Impact evaluations and M&E aren’t designed to collect and process data, let alone use it for making informed decisions about mid-course corrections or future designs. Data is essential for developing and implementing meaningful solutions.
As evaluators, we will continuously generate evidence and evaluation insights for all these issues by integrating relevant questions into our ongoing work. For instance, we will evaluate inclusive growth, poverty eradication, and boosting shared prosperity from a perspective of gender equality. We will ask difficult questions, look for evidence of when the playing field is not level for both genders, or if interventions have positively or negatively affected the relationship between genders—and meaningfully build these insights into our evaluations. Also, we will move from calling out data gaps to creating demand for data that should incentivize data collection systems to adapt and collect relevant information.
But first, we need to generate a better understanding within IEG about the relevance of gender equality to our evaluations and how that affects our methodologies. We’ve started to get a better sense of how to gauge understanding and raise awareness, and are developing guidance for IEG evaluations to adopt. We’re also developing an IEG Award for outstanding performance on gender equality projects.
Are there other actions we should take? Please share your thoughts.