MEASURING GENDER-TRANSFORMATIVE CHANGE: A REVIEW OF LITERATURE AND PROMISING PRACTICES

This paper from CARE, World Fish, and the CGIAR Research Program on Aquatic Agricultural Systems explores ways to measure gender transformative change.

What do we mean by gender-transformative  change?

Gender-transformative approaches aim to move beyond individual  self-improvement among women and toward transforming the power dynamics and structures that serve to reinforce gendered inequalities.  As defined by the CGIAR Research Program on Aquatic Agricultural Systems (AAS), a gender-transformative  approach to development goes beyond the “symptoms” of gender inequality to address “the social norms, attitudes,  behaviors, and social systems that underlie them” (AAS 2012, 3). This approach entails engaging groups in critically examining, challenging and questioning gender norms and power relations (Rottach et al. 2009) that underlie visible gender gaps. 

Transformative change can be measured by examining three broad domains of empowerment:

• agency: individual  and collective  capacities (knowledge and skills), attitudes, critical reflection,  assets, actions, and access to services
• relations: the expectations and cooperative or negotiation dynamics embedded within relationships between people in the home, market, community, and groups and organizations
• structures: the informal and formal institutional rules that govern collective, individual and institutional practices, such as environment, social norms, recognition  and status (Martinez and Wu 2009; Morgan 2014).

Considering all three of these dimensions helps reframe the discourse of empowerment—and the burden of change—from a focus on women’s individual  agency to collective responsibility and political engagement and action.

Gender-transformative measurement, evaluation and learning systems
Gender-transformative change questions internalized  belief systems and closely held identities, challenges entrenched institutionalized structures, and deals with everyday habits and relationships that may be caring as well as unequal. Such change is often emergent rather than linear; it is multidimensional and sensitive to diverse actors’ experiences of change (Kantor and Apgar 2013). Chapter 2 describes how measuring such change is an inherently  complex and holistic endeavor and explains that 
gender-transformative measurement systems must be equipped to embrace complexity and context-  specificity,  as well as the halting and often unpredictable nature of social change. 

Applying a feminist evaluation lens to gender-transformative measurement systems can provide epistemological  guidelines for embracing complexity and capturing the critical intersections of gender, race, class and sexuality  in the power dimensions of agency, relations and structures (Mertens 2005). Feminist evaluation is not prescriptive but rather offers a lens and framework for thinking about evaluation and unpacking the deeper systems and beliefs beneath surface-level differences in gender roles, relations and outcomes. It also acknowledges that the process of evaluation itself can reinforce or challenge power relations —there are different ways of knowing, and power relations and social norms may privilege the perspectives of certain actors over marginalized others (McRobbie 1982; Hirsch and Keller 1990; Beardsley and Hughes Miller 2002; Hughes 2002; Podems 2010).  Thus, the systems used for monitoring, evaluating and learning about gender- transformative  change are as important as the indicators themselves.

Indicators of gender-transformative change
Gender-equitable transformation  grows more cooperative forms of power and relationships (power with) that affirm diverse people’s critical awareness and dignity (power within) and their capabilities and aspirations (power to; Freire 1970; Hooks 2004; Miller et al. 2006). Chapter 3 of this report examines existing indicators of gender-transformative change in agriculture  and aquaculture systems from the lens of these four critical dimensions of power, and across the domains of agency, relations and structures. While 
there are many rigorously tested indicators of the first two dimensions of power (capacities and access to resources) from the individual  agency level, this framing elevates the focus from individual to systems-level change. The indicator  review demonstrates that while there are fewer standardized indicators for the other dimensions of power, there is a wealth of promising processes and practices for measuring meaningful relational  change, social norm change or change in the less tangible aspects of recognition.  Examining indicators of power within and power with brings back into focus feminist theory and its understanding of gender equality  as a political project, drawing renewed attention to the importance of consciousness-raising and women’s collective  action as indispensable ingredients of sustainable, meaningful social change (Cornwall 2014).

Read More