March 2005

Gender Evaluation Methodology (GEM)

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Background
Gender Evaluation Methodology (GEM) is an online guide for conducting gender evaluations of initiatives that use Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for social change. The tool helps to assess if ICTs really improve women's lives and gender relations as well as promote positive social change. As more and more projects on ICTs are being supported the world over, it becomes imperative to examine if they are indeed benefiting or accentuating existing gender biases and stereotyping of women.

APC's Women's Networking Support Programme The Association of Progressive Communication's Women's Networking Support Programme (APC WNSP) offers the GEM Tool as part of its work in Gender and ICT learning and advocacy. The APC WNSP is an international network of individual women and women's organisations promoting gender equality in the design, implementation, access and use of ICTs (Information and Communications Technologies) and in the policy decisions and frameworks that regulate them. The programme was initiated in 1995. Four years later, they initiated a two year research, training, resources and documentation project called 'Lessons Learned.'

The goals of the programme are:

  • to promote the consideration and incorporation of gender in ICT policy-making bodies and forums
  • to initiate and implement research activities in the field of gender and ICTs
  • to advance the body of knowledge, understanding, and skills in the field of gender and ICTs by implementing training activities
  • to facilitate access to information resources in the field of gender and ICTs

Navigating the GEM online tool and resource
Created under the creative commons license, the http://www.apcwomen.org/gem/ is a free online and downloadable guide (provided due credits are given for use and adapting the learning resource) provides users with an overview of the evaluation process, explores gender and ICT issues, and outlines suggested strategies and methodologies for incorporating a gender analysis throughout the evaluation process. The programme has received support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada, United National Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and UK Department for International Development (DFID, UK). The entire guide can be downloaded, and thus can become off-line tool for people who do not have continued or broadband connectivity.

Once you have obtained the training, an online network linking up with the GEM Practitioner's Network enables regular exchange of methodologies and ideas with other GEM for ICTs. Understanding GEM is the next section that one must familiarise oneself with to understand the philosophy, and the critical issues before beginning to use the GEM tool itself. The tool is a step-by-step guide to the methodology.

GEM is not simply an evaluation tool. While it is a guide to integrate gender analysis and frameworks into evaluation of ICTs for social change projects, it can be a useful tool for project planning as well. It aims to promote positive change at the individual, organisational, community and broader social levels. It is an evolving tool. With experiences of the practitioners constantly providing inputs and feedback, and case stories, the dynamic tool enables the users to walk through different experiences throughout the process of learning and orienting themselves.

For women, the accessibility of ICTs requires adequate equipment, information, financing, organisation, training and time.

GEM provides a number of services. Since they have trained a number of people and institutions around the world, a pool of facilitators and consultants are able to provide a number of GEM services. They include:

  • Training for organisation members on the use of GEM and carrying out gender evaluation of ICT projects
  • Introductory workshops on gender and ICTs
  • Introductory workshops on gender evaluation of ICTs
  • On-site or online consultancy for on-going evaluations using GEM
  • Application of the GEM framework in planning, research, and assessment of development initiatives

GEM has been used as a framework in:

  • Mainstreaming gender in national ICT policy development plans
  • Integrating a gender perspective in e-Governance and political participation programs
  • Developing a framework for gender and ICT research

GEM tool underwent a 14 months long process of evaluation among the partners, and began in October 2002. The parameters that the partners tested were some common issues among all projects and they asked these basic questions:

  • How are women using ICTs?
  • What are the barriers they encounter?
  • What are the benefits they reap from ICTs? How are these different from the use, barriers and benefits gained of the men?

The issues that emerged from these were discussed in a workshop held in The Philippines. The feedback and experiences are presented under three themes: ICT and traditional gender roles; Gender roles in ICT development; and ICTs and women's movements.

An extensive bibliography that has been put together for further reading have been well classified into four different sub-themes:

  • defining the problem;
  • situation analysis and emerging trends;
  • WNSP gender and ICT analysis framework;
  • WNSP gender evaluation approach.

This is a huge, well organised repository of knowledge.
Another section that provides navigation assistance is the site map. The FAQ segment (frequently asked questions) clears doubts about a number of issues as the learner walks through the learning process, using this online tool. To help understand commonly used terminology, the glossary section provides a valuable resource. We have published selection from this glossary segment in this issue (see pages 30-32)

The GEM evaluation methodology is seven-steps guide which can be implemented in three phases.

Advancing women's rights
One of the most valuable uses of ICT within the women's movement is in advancing of women's rights through women's information activities and advocacy campaigns on a range of women's issues. As such, GEM selected several projects from various regions to learn how effectively ICT tools have been used. Projects evaluated included specific e-Bulletins, radio programmes and e-Lists by women's information centers like ModemMujer in Mexico, Karat Coalition based in Poland, Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) and regional AMARC networks in Africa and Latin America.

All of these organisations designed and conducted surveys among their audience to gauge the effectiveness of their medium as well as content. For many of them, the GEM evaluation gave them their first opportunity to systematically ask for feedback from their public. Overall, the survey results were encouraging in validating the value of the information to women in their localities or region.

For example, Karat Coalition received feedback that information from the region and local social movement groups are generally difficult to collect. A lot of women's activists mentioned their e-Bulletin as a very important component of their daily work, keeping them informed about the main initiatives, trends in the region and helping them to learn new experiences, shape objectives for their future activities, find new partners and give them ideas for the development of their NGOs. Most of the women activists, especially those from the European Union candidate countries, are also looking for information about the EU enlargement process that directly impacts on the economic and political situation in that region.

A common limitation noted in many instances is the need for more content translated into major regional languages or local languages. Most regions are not linguistically homogeneous; therefore language should be a key indicator that measures accessibility of information.

These and other examples, and worksheets guide the learners and practitioners to adapt the generic methodology to suit their own project or locale-specific needs.

GEM is organising a training workshop in May 7 – 8, 2005 in conjunction with the GKP international forum on advancing ICT solutions for development through cross-sector partnership and GKP annual general meeting in Cairo, Egypt. Applications closed on April 4, 2005. Write to chat@apcwomen.org for further details and sending your applications.

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