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Bring Feminist Evaluation to the forefront

- Banele Masilela, Researcher, CLEAR-AA

Feminist theories are concerned with the dire consequences of gender inequality. Similarly,  feminist evaluation is no different from all other evaluation approaches that continue to measure, solve problems, design, conduct evaluations, and examine data to bring about change. Feminist evaluations help us to bring attention to gender issues, the needs of women within an evaluation project or programme and bring transformative change. It describes a way of thinking about and doing an evaluation. Gender issues tend to be present in all interventions such as in capacity building, education, and health amongst others. Feminist evaluation places attention not only on gender differences but also on issues of race, class, and abilities.  Whilst gender-responsive evaluation according to UN women is viewed as a systematic and impartial assessment that provides credible and reliable evidence-based information about the extent to which an intervention has resulted in progress (or the lack thereof) towards intended and/or unintended results.  The main difference between feminist evaluation and gender-responsive evaluation is that; gender-responsive approaches map out and record women’s position in society whilst feminist approaches challenge women’s position, the reinforcement of gender roles and inequalities and highlights the role of patriarchy in maintaining the oppression of women. There should be attention on how evaluations are conducted; who is included in the evaluation process and the type of questions that should be asked when dealing with gender issues and inequalities for evaluations to be inclusive of everyone. To bring about societal change, evaluation findings should translate to feminist values.

In a time where the world has been faced with a COVID-19 pandemic, gender issues and inequities are at the forefront and across the world, gender-based violence (GBV) is the prevailing challenge facing women in times of national lockdowns. Countries such as South Africa are implementing interventions in addressing the escalating numbers of GBV, that will later transcend in conducting impact evaluations in assessing whether a change has occurred as a result of the initiated intervention. Through feminist evaluation, narratives of men and women should be valued as equal to lead to social change. Feminist evaluation theorist such as Sielbeck-Bowen (2002) lists the following basic tenets as the fundamental elements of a feminist evaluation:

  • Feminist evaluation places focus on gender inequalities
  • Discrimination and inequality based on gender is structural
  • Evaluation is a political activity and certain personal experiences that evaluators bring will lead to a political stance
  • There are multiple ways of knowing; some ways are privileged over others.

How can we as CLEAR-AA incorporate feminist evaluation in the ways we do work, the way we collect data, and conduct evaluations?