Actors, partners, beneficiaries
The first on-the-ground effects of mainstreaming
gender into AFD projects brought to light
by the evaluations
Chair of the Reference Group on Gender Evaluation
«Engaging in this discussion on gender is highly useful in view of further advancing its institutionalisation, much beyond the precise formulation of the recommendations.»
In societies across the globe, gender relations are unequal and disadvantage women. The countries in which AFD operates are not immune to this reality. Women do not always benefit from donor-funded projects and, sometimes, these projects may even unintentionally deepen these inequalities!
Can this trend be turned around?
Yes! By integrating gender right from the project design phase and throughout project implementation.
a journey full of learning
Given the gender inequalities undergirding relations between men and women in AFD’s intervention countries, women often benefit less than men from the opportunities offered by development projects. In 2014, AFD committed to systematically querying gender issues in the projects it funds, in its Strategic Intervention Framework for “Gender and the Reduction of gender inequalities” (Gender CIF).
The Gender CIF specifically called for all funded projects to be scored using the OECD’s gender equality markers (DAC 0, 1 and 2), and for AFD-funded projects to be evaluated on the gender dimension, like any other development objective, for the purpose of accountability, learning and knowledge production.
AFD’s Evaluation and Learning Division produced a granular analysis of 118 AFD project evaluations completed between 2015 and 2019. The aim was to find out the extent to which gender was incorporated into evaluations and understand what the drivers were, as well as to identify inspiring practices and blockages. On top of these objectives, the main concern was to grasp the potential positive and negative effects of integrating gender when setting up and/or implementing a project.
A remarkable advance in evaluating the gender dimension of projects
The study revealed that proportion of gender-responsive evaluations along with those interested in how projects affected women beneficiaries had increased from 14% to 50% between 2015 and 2019.
An increasing number of projects classified as DAC 1 (gender equality objective mainstreamed) are being evaluated. But more importantly, many evaluations take gender or gender inequality reduction into account, even though this was not one of the projects initial objectives (DAC 0). This helped to identify different good practices or, contrariwise, some design errors.
The degree of precision in the commissioning of an evaluation, as well as the gender-responsiveness of the team in charge of the evaluation, are two factors that determine the extent to which gender is taken into account in the evaluation.
The efforts to mainstream gender issues into evaluations are beginning to bear fruit, but still need to be reinforced
The evaluations do in fact delve more deeply into the impact projects have on beneficiary women or girls, but barely drill down into the societal aspect of gender relations. The dynamics of power relations between men and women are still hardly touched on, even though we have seen a qualitative improvement on this point in evaluations since 2019.
The study also brought to light the fact that evaluation of a project’s gender component is often hobbled by the absence of available data disaggregated by gender. When these resources do not exist, the evaluations then have to mobilise more technical and financial resources to compensate for this lack (quantitative and qualitative surveys, focus groups, etc.).
Evaluation, a space for dialogue
to drive mainstreaming gender in projects
In Vietnam, the evaluation of a project to support vocational training shows how integrating a gender approach at the time of evaluation helps to open up a space for dialogue between AFD and its partner on the gender question, in view of continuing support for this sector. The project had been launched in 2009 and aimed to respond to the country’s needs for qualified persons through the restructuring of several vocational training centres. However, it had not included a gender approach given that this had not yet been deployed at AFD.
The proactive approach adopted by the end-of-programme evaluation pointed up the low number of female students in the five training centres. The evaluators thus made recommendations to integrate more young women.
This finding was shared with the partner and triggered a dialogue on the need to include a greater number of women in streams that had been all-male at project start-up. The aim was to propose improvements to reinforce the impacts over time. At the Vinh Phuc training centre, for example, the number of female students in the supported streams rose from 142 at project completion in 2019 to 325 two years later. Over 10 years, the proportion of women increased from 1% to 34%.
This dialogue also revealed that many women were involved in the project and benefited from it at various levels (teachers, managers, executives in the training centres and partner companies). For example, one of the five centres supported is headed by a women who had been able to upskill during the course of the project and who is now promoting opening up the training to more young women.
The evaluation enabled both AFD and its Vietnamese partners to develop their respective gender strategies. AFD now conducts a systematic dialogue on gender with its partners in all its vocational training projects, including via promoting an higher number of women in what are traditionally male training streams.
Focus on Lebanon:
Promote the employability of women refugees
The mid-term evaluation of the project “Training and employability of vulnerable populations affected by the Syrian crisis in Lebanon” is an example of good practice in improving women’s living conditions. The project targets access to employment for young people and women, mainly refugees, through short training courses leading to a qualification and long courses with a technical Baccalaureate level, offering outlets on the local labour market.
A study of the labour market was conducted within the framework of the project to identify employment-friendly sectors for young refugees, both women and men. It concluded that the IT sector is one of the best-suited for young women’s employment as it requires no heavy investment in equipment and favours self-employment and home-working.
Moreover, mobile units were deployed to make it easier for women to attend the training and to move around.
The evaluation shows that in 2019, 53% of graduates were women (out of 742 trainees). Among the 196 women graduates interviewed, only 45 had a salaried job. This is nonetheless an encouraging result given that, in Lebanon, the labour market participation rate for women is only 22% compared to a world average of 48%.
Four of the young women interviewed reported that they were satisfied with the efforts of the local partner to convince their families to let them follow a course and work. Some of them managed to set up their business at home and say that they feel more self-confident.
«Evaluation has fostered the emergence of a broader community of practice and brought together the Agency’s gender focal points.»
Operations Gender Support Officer,
Social Link Unit,
AFD Operations Department
Focus on Morocco:
Women on Moroccan tramways
The ex-post evaluation of the tramways in Rabat-Salé and Casablanca brought to light unexpected gender benefits. At the project appraisal phase in 2008, AFD did not yet have a gender strategy, so the project did not include this dimension as such. Yet, half of tram passengers are women, although on average women are less mobile than men. They use the tramways more often as this transport mode is considered more reliable, safer and more comfortable than the alternatives – bus or private vehicles.
What the women particularly appreciate is having greater access to new neighbourhoods, a peaceful environment and the feeling of safety thanks to the presence of staff both in the stations and in the carriages, during the day and in the evening.
Some also prefer to take the “tramway roads” when walking, as this route is more enjoyable and less exposed to risks of aggression thanks to the urban facilities integrated into the project, especially the street lighting in the vicinity of the tramway.
Progress and challenges
when integrating gender
into AFD projects
Launched in June 2019 to help improve AFD’s operational practices in the area of Gender and to combat gender inequality, the evaluation of the place given to gender in AFD projects (2014-2018) is on the point of completion.
This evaluation aims to report on the effects of rolling out the cross-cutting theme of gender equality in line with the cross-cutting intervention framework strategy, “Gender and Reduction of Gender Inequality” (Gender CIF) adopted early 2014. The strategy focuses both on the portfolio of AFD-funded gender projects across all of its intervention sectors, on the development of its operational strategies, and the effectiveness of the inhouse organisation deployed to implement the Gender CIF.
Purposefully participatory, the evaluation is being conducted by external consultants and is supported by a reference group with 30 members, for the most part the gender focal points from all of AFD’s operational structures. The co-building of various analytical tools, evaluative observations and recommendations, along with regular discussions on the work, have helped to consolidate the inhouse dialogue and provided input for AFD’s learning process on gender mainstreaming.
The evaluation concludes that the implementation of the Gender CIF has certainly modified the attention paid to gender in AFD practices. The tools developed, the activities to build the teams’ capacities, and the advocacy role played by the organisation in charge of providing environmental and social support, have all helped to heighten an awareness of the importance of gender in projects. At the same time, the related knowledge and skills acquired by the operational teams at headquarters have progressed.
The evaluation points up the significant rise of gender mainstreaming in the portfolio of AFD-funded projects: 34% of the projects were classified as DAC 1 (secondary gender equality objective) et CAD 2 (principal gender equality objective) in 2014, whereas this stood at 49% in 2018.
The key objective of the Gender CIF (50% of gender projects in 2017) was almost on track, mainly thanks to financing for projects led by civil society organisations, who are often already gender-aware and play a crucial role in the take-up of gender, but also thanks to projects with a secondary gender objective (86% of gender projects over the period 2014–2018).
The challenges ahead
Implementing the gender strategy has required inhouse restructuring to ensure an efficient roll-out. Its management and coordination, the development of methodological tools and training, as well as steering and coordinating the network of gender focal points in the various operational entities, have required reinforcing governance and the initial level of institutional resources. Human resources, in particular, had to be scaled up given the needs for support.
Moreover, while gender is indeed one of AFD’s major strategic objectives, this issue – which has found its way onto the agenda of many international donors more recently than the climate issue – is gradually gaining momentum and needs to be appropriated at all levels of the Agency.
The evaluation also notes that the AFD agencies have found it very difficult in the field to engage a dialogue with partners during the project design phase. As a result, integrating gender is often initiated later on, during project appraisal. However, a qualitative analysis of the portfolio shows that, in order to optimise the achievement of objectives, the gender dimension needs to be effectively integrated right from the project design phase, together with a dialogue with partners during the entire project cycle.
Initial weaknesses and strategic transformations
Since 2019, AFD has been committed to being a “feminist” agency by aligning with France’s feminist diplomacy. This involves a transformative commitment to a radical integration of gender in development projects, partnerships, communication and in-house, in a fundamental way. In practical terms, this has been reflected in an internal restructuring, the creation of the Gender Unit with dedicated staff (6 members and consultants) in charge of implementing the strategic gender initiatives, structuring and deploying a support services and training offer, and promoting a human resources policy encompassing gender equality at work.
of gender-responsive evaluations
Integrating gender: ©Rodrig MBOCK
Vietnam: ©NguyenLanAnh / AFD
Rabat: ©Ambrosius Baanders
Chair of the Reference Group on Gender Evaluation
You chair the Gender Evaluation Reference Group. What surprised or interested you most during this evaluation?
My initial motivation was to observe a process of preparing and steering an evaluation so as to understand the discussions that AFD is engaged in regarding the cross-cutting gender intervention framework, and hence a policy of institutionalisation.
I was pleasantly surprised by the size of this reference group, the number of meetings and, especially, by the involvement of a very signification number of its members. The discussions were highly constructive and dynamic. I think that the active evaluation process is at least as interesting as the report that will come out of it and that it will greatly help to bolster ownership of all this evaluation work. Engaging in this discussion on gender is highly useful in view of further advancing its institutionalisation, much beyond the precise formulation of the recommendations.
Do you think that gender-responsive evaluation of development projects has a role to play in integrating these issues more effectively into donor practices? Why is it important to integrate gender questions into projects?
For some years now, AFD has been creating a strong impetus to encourage NGOs – via the FISONG scheme, for example – to integrate gender into the projects they submit for AFD co-financing. To my mind, such encouragement can produce an effect if the organisation is “mature” enough to embark on this process, particularly if its teams include pro-gender and gender-competent members who know how to make the most of the opportunities that incentives offer.
It’s crucial that a gender perspective be included in the evaluation, so that what has been done can be documented, promoted, produce recommendations, and drive change. With its retrospective and prospective dimensions, evaluation helps to build greater take-up and improve skills within NGOs on the subject of gender. It is also crucial that AFD mobilise further to mainstream gender into projects other than those that are led by civil society, as the financial volumes involved are far bigger.
For projects with the classification DAC 0 (no gender objective) or DAC 1 (gender as a secondary objective), a gender-responsive evaluation is still relevant to check what differentiated effects the project has on women and men and whether the opportunities it brings have been taken up equitably by men and by women, or to know whether the project has unintentionally deepened inequalities. It also helps to identify possible missed opportunities to produce a positive impact on gender relations in the context of a given project.
The ambition to systematically carry out this type of evaluation cannot be sustained without providing for adequate financial resources, and without checking that teams have the necessary gender skills and experience. In addition, AFD and the partners involved need to use the conclusions and recommendations on gender for future projects.
Based on the lessons learnt from gender evaluations and, more broadly, from your own experience, do you have any recommendations that could help the gender aspect to be more systematically mainstreamed into projects?
In my view, it’s important to provide assistance on gender when a project is being set up so that this optic can be incorporated into the agenda as soon as the project is identified and designed. During these stages, this assistance could be combined with action–training processes: short periods of operationalisation in tandem with training, for AFD employees and partner institutes.
Gender focal points should be ramped up not only by doubling their numbers and encouraging male-female duos, but also by enhancing their role (in share of work time allocation, when promotions are made, etc.). Stronger networking between these focal points, with moments dedicated to exchanges, could also render this arrangement more meaningful and more effective.
It seems crucial to me that gender be institutionalised at AFD (this aspect is not covered by current evaluation) to enable progress in integrating gender into projects. This will also create more consistency between what is preached to partners, to NGOs, and what is practised.
Operations Gender Support Officer,
Social Link Unit,
AFD Operations Department
In what way has your participation in the Reference Group for Gender Evaluation proved useful?
As it brings together some thirty participants at different stages of evaluation, the Reference Group afforded us moments when we could take a distance, exchange and share. This was an initial exercise in capitalising internally on the implementation of the Gender strategy.
The teams were made aware of the major internal stakes raised by the operationalisation of this strategy and were able to see the qualitative leaps achieved – for example, the creation of a dedicated team in the Social Link Unit. Of course, there is still room for improvement but the progress made has guided us in assessing the success factors and defining recommendations.
Evaluation has fostered the emergence of a broader community of practice (on top of the teams working on gender in a support or advisory capacity) and brought together the Agency’s gender focal points. It has served as an important meeting point in terms of capitalising on practices and thus responded to the needs expressed by operational staff.