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Gender Analysis

Table of Contents

What is gender analysis?

© ACDI-CIDA/Greg Kinch
Casimira walked for nearly 3 hours to reach a training session/meeting, Bolivia.

Gender analysis refers to the variety of methods used to understand the relationships between men and women, their access to resources, their activities, and the constraints they face relative to each other. Gender analysis provides information that recognizes that gender, and its relationship with race, ethnicity, culture, class, age, disability, and/or other status, is important in understanding the different patterns of involvement, behaviour and activities that women and men have in economic, social and legal structures.

Gender analysis is an essential element of socio-economic analysis. A comprehensive socio-economic analysis would take into account gender relations, as gender is a factor in all social and economic relations. An analysis of gender relations provides information on the different conditions that women and men face, and the different effects that policies and programs may have on them because of their situations. Such information can inform and improve policies and programs, and is essential in ensuring that the different needs of both women and men are met.

At the local level, gender analysis makes visible the varied roles women, men, girls and boys play in the family, in the community, and in economic, legal and political structures. A gender perspective focuses on the reasons for the current division of responsibilities and benefits and their effect on the distribution of rewards and incentives.

Gender Analysis in Development Cooperation

An understanding of socio-economic relations, and with it gender relations, is an integral part of policy analysis, and is essential in creating and implementing effective development co-operation initiatives. Analysis of the different situations of men and women can provide an understanding of the different impacts that legislation, cultural practices, policies, and programs can have on women and men.

Gender analysis offers information to understand women's and men's access to and control over resources that can be used to address disparities, challenge systemic inequalities (most often faced by women), and build efficient and equitable solutions. The information gathered during the research stage of the analysis should make the differences between women and men explicit (using sex-disaggregated data) so that policies, programs and projects can build effective actions that promote equality. Since gender relations will change in each context and over time, a gender analysis should be done within each development initiative.

Gender analysis can also provide insights on how gender equality can be promoted within efforts for sustainable development to ensure maximum efficiency in pursuing development goals. To be most effective, it must be part of each step of a development initiative: from conception and design to implementation and evaluation. By being part of this process, gender analysis has already led to changes in strategies for development cooperation that previously did not meet the needs of women.

CIDA's Policy on Gender Equality section entitled Gender Analysis as a Tool outlines some important considerations.

What can gender analysis tell us?

An analysis of gender relations can tell us who has access, who has control, who is likely to benefit from a new initiative, and who is likely to lose. Gender analysis asks questions that can lead us in a search for information to understand why a situation has developed the way it has. It can also lead us to explore assumptions about issues such as the distribution of resources and the impact of culture and traditions. It can provide information on the potential direct or indirect benefit of a development initiative on women and men, on some appropriate entry points for measures that promote equality within a particular context, and on how a particular development initiative may challenge or maintain the existing gender division of labour. With this information measures of equity can be created to address the disparities and promote equality.

In the case of primary education, gender analysis can tell us that a gender gap exists in most countries; that is, there is a gap between girls' and boys' enrolment and retention in school. In the majority of countries where there is a gender gap, the gap works against girls, but in others, it works against boys. In India, an average six year-old girl can expect to spend six years in school, three years less than a boy of the same age. Girls in rural areas are at even greater disadvantage: their risk of dropping out of school is three times that of a boy. In Jamaica, however, it is boys who are at higher risk of missing out on education. Boys are often pulled out of school and sent to work to boost family income, and thus, their drop-out rate is higher than that of girls'. In their efforts to balance the need to meet the needs of both girls and boys, governments are increasingly using gender analysis to investigate the source of the gap and what measures can be adopted to reduce the distortions in the educational system.

Where is gender analysis used?

Development cooperation always involves people. Within CIDA, a gender analysis that addresses the connections of gender with factors such as race, ethnicity, culture, class, age, disability, and/or other status, among others, is required for all policies, programs and projects. While it is easy to see the people involved in more practical and tangible initiatives, such as capacity building for local authorities, any policy or project will ultimately have an effect on people, and must work to promote the equal status of women and men.

For example, the development of a country's environmental policy, should involve a holistic socio-economic analysis that addresses gender relations to fully understand the situation and ensure that the policy and its directives promote equality. This might involve understanding the perceptions of women and men of the environment, a sex-disaggregated account of activities performed and their affect on the environment, and the uses men and women make of natural resources, such as land and water.

Many of women's contributions to the economy continue to go unrecognized because their work is not easily counted within the conventional structures. Women do a majority of the work within the informal sector and the home and as a result, much of their work is not counted or is underrepresented in official statistics. The lack of a gender analysis in economic policies can result in women's perspectives and priorities being left out of strategies for development.

When in the process is gender analysis applied?

Gender analysis takes place throughout the entire development process, throughout research, to problem definition, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. By examining basic assumptions each step of the way, the interrelationships between social context and economic factors can be understood and initiatives that respond to those needs can be designed. CIDA-led initiatives must undertake gender analysis at the planning stage and integrate the findings and recommendations at each step of the way, from planning through to evaluation.

For example, the Servico Nacional de Aprendizagem Industrial (SENAI) or National Industrial Apprenticeship Program in Brazil, a technical training program, built in gender analysis from the beginning and responded to the under-representation of female students. Consequently, a portion of the program focused on a sensitization campaign geared towards students and industry. In it, promotional materials showcased female role-models in non-traditional jobs, such as posters with women involved in construction. As a result of undertaking and following through on the gender analysis, the number of women in technical courses jumped from 13.5% to 31.3% in seven years.

Who undertakes gender analysis?

It is the task of analysts, policy-makers and program managers located in both donor and partner countries, in both government and civil society, to work in partnership with women and men involved to advance gender equality. This participatory process provides the context for the creation, implementation and evaluation of development initiatives to promote gender equality. Additionally, a gender analysis should identify local and national initiatives undertaken by both governments and civil society in order to strengthen and complement these efforts.

Individuals, groups and communities affected by development initiatives must be involved from the beginning of the process in order to determine the gender dimensions of the issue at hand. Without local knowledge and expertise, some of the intricacies of the gender roles and social relationships may not be easily understood.

© ACDI-CIDA/Nancy Durrell McKenna
A traditional birth assistant counsels 13 to 15-year-olds, Bangladesh.

In the case of the organizations delivering food aid to vulnerable members of the Dinka people of South Sudan there was a puzzling issue. When Dinka mothers began voluntarily to remove malnourished children from therapeutic feeding programs, the organizations involved were surprised. They questioned their own assumptions of the vulnerability of people and the way that food aid was being distributed. They then set-up discussions between members of aid organisations and women and men involved in decision-making about food in the local communities. During the discussions it became clear that each group had different definitions of need and different ideas of how aid should be distributed. For example, both Dinka people and organisations identified widows and people with disabilities as vulnerable. Dinka people, however, also identified male and female farmers and fishers with no livestock or fish, and men and women without daughters. The donor strategy often called for the provision of food aid to one child within a family, but the Dinka explained that gifts are to be distributed within the clan and the family. This exchange has led to devising methods to better account for local definitions of social assets, and to establishing a more appropriate manner of distributing aid that takes into account local practices.

Elements of Gender Analysis

For a good gender analysis, resources and commitment to implement the results of the analysis are necessary. Consider three important points:

  • it requires skilled professionals with adequate resources
  • it benefits from the use of local expertise
  • the findings must be used to actually shape the design of policies, programs and projects

Undertaking gender analysis begins with examining the issue so that the broad reality of gender roles and relationships is taken into account. Gathering information to enrich the understanding of the gender roles and relations in a specific context means asking difficult questions. When doing research, consider if you are challenging the existing gender division of labour, tasks, responsibilities and opportunities. Who are the intended recipients of the benefits of the proposed policy, program or project, and who could potentially lose? Both women and men must be consulted on the issue at hand, and have the opportunity to contribute to the definition of the solution. At the same time, it is important to keep in mind the long term impact of a policy, program or project in terms of women's equality with men. How will these enable women to have increased control over their lives?

Take, for example, the case of maternal mortality. Every year at least 585,000 women die of pregnancy or childbirth related causes around the world (WHO, 2000). A medical approach to maternal mortality can only partly address this tragic and complex problem. Broadening the focus and giving attention to equality issues such as child marriage, limited access to reproductive health services and family planning, female genital mutilation, and women and girls eating last and least can reduce and transform the recurring nature of maternal mortality. Reconsidering an issue using gender analysis expands the understanding of the challenges women face and the range of solutions available.

Tools for Gender Analysis

There are a variety of tools that have been developed to assist people in asking these questions. Each tool is different, with some advantages and disadvantages, some account for other social characteristics and factors better, while others are more participatory. Following are some examples.

The Harvard Analytical Framework is a tool to collect data at the community and household level. It has three main components: an activity profile ('who does what?'), an access and control profile ('who has access and who controls what?'), and an analysis of influencing factors ('how does gender influence the profiles?').

Module 1 of the ILO/SEAPAT's Online Gender Learning & Information, entitled Some Gender Planning Approaches and Strategies offers descriptions of the Harvard Analytical Framework, Moser's Gender Planning Framework, the Women's Empowerment Framework and the Social Relations Framework.

Regardless of the tool or method used, information should account for differences between men and women, boys and girls, and should ask questions for the reasons behind these differences. Without this, development initiatives will come short in their efforts to support sustainable development.

CIDA's Policy on Gender Equality Gender Analysis Guidelines provides some thoughts on what to ask and what to do when carrying out gender analysis.

Related Sites

Navigating Gender: a Framework and a Tool for Participatory Development is a manual to help apply the often theoretical understanding of gender issues in practical work through concepts, definitions, case studies and examples. The manual was published by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Department for International Development Cooperation, Finland.

Gender Based Analysis, A Guide for Policy-Making, published by Status of Women Canada, describes the methodology involved in undertaking gender analysis.

The Gender Based Analysis Backgrounder of the Bureau of Women's Health and Gender Analysis of Health Canada describes the importance of Gender Based Analysis in the development of health policy programs and legislation.

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada's Gender Equality Analysis Policy provides a useful guide of questions to ask. (PDF, 877 kb, 12 pages)

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