3 easy ways to add gender to your project

Closing gender gaps, we’ve all been told, is the key to development. USAID, DfID, the World Bank Group, and other development organizations all require a gender component in every project.

Gender “mainstreaming” doesn’t imply just mentioning women in a paragraph cut and pasted from another project. It doesn’t mean just focus on women and have all women beneficiaries. Rather, it means targeting your work to address the specific needs of both men and women within your project. It means identifying gaps between the genders and systematically addressing the constraints that cause them. But if you’re short on time, here are 3 easy ways to add gender to your project.

1) Sex-disaggregate your indicators. All population-level indicators should be sex-disaggregated. Try to go beyond just measuring the number of beneficiaries as well – get down into the details. Are both men and women receiving job training? How about land titling? Doctor visits? There is a dearth of gender data – help close the gap! If you are counting people, it’s not that much of a stretch to count how many of those people are women and how many are men.

2) Look at what other projects have done. Find a project done by someone else in your sector, either within your organization or another. Don’t cut and paste their gender paragraph, but use their work as a point of inspiration. Google the name of your sector + “gender impact evaluation” or go to the World Bank Group’s enGENDER Impact for more. Finding what worked for others in a similar context can help. The impact evaluations can tell you if a strategy is successful and help you to design an effective intervention.

3) Talk to a gender expert. Since there is such an emphasis on gender equality in development now, someone within your organization is likely to be able to help you. There are more gender champions than you might expect. It might take a bit of digging, but a good place to start is by reaching out to whoever wrote that project or impact evaluation you looked at in step 2. Try LinkedIn or one of the large international organisations – often someone there can point you in the right direction.

Of course, this is all assuming you have already talked to men and women and girls and boys benefitting from your project and understand the ways that it affects them. That’s really the most important step in any project in any sector. If you haven’t talked to your target population, but only their leaders, representatives, or the few people who happened to be around when you did a survey on a Tuesday afternoon, go back. Find out what the women in the area think is the best way to get electricity into their homes. Ask the girls if they feel safe taking the bus to school and if not, what they think needs to be done to change that. Your best ideas will probably come from the grassroots, not the office.

Are there population-level indicators that you think cannot be sex-disaggregated? Let me know in the comments.

Is female employment correlated with corruption?

I’m taking “Data Management and Visualization” on Coursera this winter. Instead of the usual submission on the website, they require submission via blog post. I’ll be using this space for those assignments (as a bonus, I’m externally accountable for finishing the course!)

For the course, I’m using Gapminder data to explore the relationship between women’s employment and corruption. I hypothesize that countries with more female workers have less corruption. I will breakdown women’s employment into female labor force participation rate, female employment rate, female salaried workers, and female self-employed. For corruption, I will be using Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index.

Using the search terms “female” “employment” and “corruption,” a quick literature review shows many studies on the relationships between gender and corruption. Dollar, Fisman, and Gatti (2001) and  Swamy, Knack, Lee, & Azfar (2001), determine that women are less likely to take bribes and that corruption is lower in countries where women are more active in economic and political activities. Sung (2003) and Alatas, Vivi, et al. (2009), however, find that attitude differences towards corruption by gender may be culturally dependent.  Goets (2007) attacks the myth that women are less corrupt than men.

The literature focuses primarily on the relationship between women in politics and corruption perception. There is no agreement as to whether there is a relationship between numbers of women in politics and low corruption. However, I suspect that countries that allow women to work are also less corrupt, not because there are more women in the workforce, but because the society itself is more open and inclusive, so there is less need for bribes.



No place is less safe than home

When you think “home,” visions of a comfortable, relaxing, safe space pop into your mind. Your favorite spaces, your favorite books, and your favorite people are there.

1 in 3 women has experienced or will experience sexual assault or violence in her lifetime. Much of that is perpetrated by what is known as an intimate partner – a husband, wife, boyfriend, or girlfriend. In fact, the WHO reports that 30% of ever-partnered women have experienced intimate partner violence (IPV). In the United States, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men have faced violence from a partner.

However, when asked to picture a rapist, most will picture a stranger attack. This leads to women and girls being told to walk in pairs or groups, to not go out at night, or to not talk to strangers. This is a dangerous myth.

Around the world, no place is less safe for a woman than her own home – Voice and Agency

The truth is that most assaults are by someone the victim knows and trusts. But many people don’t consider forced sex by a known person to be rape. The “enthusiastic consent” conversation being held on many US college campuses is trying to change the conversation, but it is limited in scope. Instead most of the response to gender-based violence is around support for victims and prevention of stranger assaults. For example, encouraging well-lit cities, telling women not to walk alone, and setting up victim services.

These are important interventions. But the onus of prevention should not be on the victim. The myth of stranger rape leads to women and men overlooking forced sex or abuse by an acquaintance or partner. Those who do report sexual assault by an acquaintance can be told that it’s not really a problem because they knew their

This builds into the discussion about consent that US colleges are having. It’s not enough to teach a small group of people about consent. Especially when their lives have already been impacted. Enthusiastic consent needs to be taught to everyone, everywhere starting at a young age. Teach your infants that they do not have to be held by someone if they don’t want. Teach your children that “stop” means “stop” and “no” means “no.”

If we teach consent to everyone, not just a few college students, then there will be no question if a woman or man tells their partner or friend “no.” This is not a solution to IPV. It won’t prevent people from beating their partner, killing their partner, or abusing their partner emotionally and financially. But it will increase awareness of what sexual assault is and hopefully make people think twice about forced sex by a partner or acquaintance. It will mean that the police or other authority take someone seriously when they report forced sex or assault. Teaching consent is a step in the right direction.

Reeva Steenkamp and Intimate Partner Violence

Thousands if women are killed each year by their intimate partner. Millions more are beaten, emotionally abused, and generally treated as inferior by the person who they are supposed to be in a close relationship with. We know Reeva Steinkamp because her murderer is an internationally known athlete. Would we know her otherwise? Do we know the names of all the women killed by their partners that day?

Reeva’s death was a tragedy, and her murderer’s lenient sentence is too. We should use this day, when he has been released from prison to house arrest to remember her and the other victims murdered by their intimate partners.

For more information on integrating prevention of and response to violence against women and girls in projects, visit the Violence Against Women and Girls Resource Guide.

6 charts to show anyone who thinks women’s soccer is treated equally to men’s


As World Cup confetti swirled around the heads of the victorious US women’s soccer team on July 5, it was clear to anyone watching that this was a win for the history books. But while Abby Wambach and company will return home heroes, they will leave Vancouver with considerably less prize money than even the worst men’s World Cup competitors. Indeed, men’s soccer teams who were eliminated in the first round of the 2014 FIFA World Cup collected $8 million each, while the winners of this year’s entire women’s World Cup collected just $2 million.


And that’s just where the inequalities begin between men’s and women’s international soccer.

Men’s soccer players are paid more than their female counterparts. A lot more. The differences are apparent in the US and in Europe, where the oldest, most prestigious soccer leagues still thrive—American women can earn more in Europe (paywall) than they would in…

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Women Don’t Make Up Half the Population, Actually

Over and over, we’ve heard arguments similar to this:

“Women make up half the population so we need to include them so we can [increase economic productivity, increase food supply, send children to school, etc.].”

But the thing is – women don’t make up half the population. Sure, worldwide it’s about 50/50 (49.6% women to 50.4% men). But in so many places the gender balance skews heavily male or female. It’s not just in obvious places that are known for sex-selective abortion and femicide (I’m looking at you, China). In some parts of the world, a village, town, or region could be closer to 40% or more women as a result of economic migration, war, or disease.

Let’s start with birth statistics. The sex ratio at birth – that is the number of boys born for every girl- is biologically 1.02 to 1.06 (UNFPA). However, that varies wildly by country – the result of sex selection through abortion and infant femicide. In the United States, for example, the ratio is actually 1.05, while in China and Croatia it is 1.16. See the map below for more.


Right away, then, women are less than half the world population. The under-5 mortality rate favors those who do make it to birth however – 43% of girls die by age 5 compared to 47% of boys (HNP statistics).

The gender ratio in China continues to be skewed throughout age cohort – between ages 5 and 9 the ratio is 1.17 (HNP statistics). By ages 20-24, the ratio is 1.11, while it is as high as 4.36 in Qatar!  A few countries trend the other way – for example Burundi has an age 20-24 sex ratio of 0.94, significantly lower than the birth ratio of 1.03 (the cohort birth ratio, from approximately 1993, is not available, which is a whole other problem). Women continue to outlive men as they age, so that by the 65-69 age group, the world sex ratio is .90. In China, it is still 1.01. (Again, birth ratios for this cohort are not available). There are are whole host of biological, cultural, and environmental reasons why women have an overall lower mortality rate, but I won’t get into that here.

Although China has overall one of the most skewed sex ratios at birth, the Arab world has the most overall male-dominated populations. Qatar, as mentioned above, has the dubious honor of having the lowest female population percentage at 23.47%. This is interesting because the sex ratio at birth is a fairly average 1.05. By the age 20-24 cohort, it is a whopping 4.36, and while it comes down by 65-69, it is still 1.32. Why is this? Migration. Immigrant workers, mostly young and male, make up 76.95% of the Qatari population. While it’s difficult to tell precisely where these workers are coming from, it’s suggested that most come from India and Pakistan.

The tiny Caribbean island of Curacao has the largest female population, at 54.68%. The reason for their skewed sex ratio is less clear. Again, they have a fairly average sex ratio at birth of 1.05, but by the 20-24 age group, it is .89. A quick Google search suggests that sex trafficking may be a factor in the higher female population. Even so, this female-majority country is not as heavily skewed towards women as the Arab world is towards men. There are 6 countries in the world that have more than 54.68% men – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, UAE, Qatar.

Intra-country and lower-level data are much harder to come by. Anecdotally, rural Southern Africa is considered to be heavily female, while urban areas are primarily male. This may or may not be true, but rural to urban migration is usually men searching for work while their families remain home. This stereotype is not completely accurate, of course. In many Chinese factories, for example, young women are preferred because they are considered more detail-oriented and less likely to fight, but even that demographic is changing fast.

Women may be half the world in aggregate, but we can’t make assumptions. The point? When you head off to do a development project, start an NGO, or suggest policy, find out who your population is. Don’t just take the latest census data, divide by 2 and assume that is your gender ratio (and, yes, I’ve seen this used in development project evaluations. Taking the provincial population and dividing by 2 does not give an accurate representation of female and male beneficiaries!). Do some digging, talk to people, and strengthen data collection capacity where needed.

Emma Watson is great, but…

I’ve watched Emma Watson’s speech at the UN to launch HeForShe campaign more than once since Saturday. I think it’s really wonderful – she specifically addresses men who are afraid of feminism and rallies them to become supporters of gender equality. The immediate backlash from the depths of the internet against her just reinforced the need for her message.


Why is a young, wealthy, white woman spreading this message? Mind you, as a young, well-off, white woman, I’m not saying she can’t do a great job spreading this message (as indeed she has). I understand the reasons she was chosen – she’s UN Women’s ambassador, she has millions of fans who grew up with her as Hermione Granger, yes.

Basically, the UN knew that if Hermione – I mean Emma Watson, was speaking, people would tune in – Julia Zulver


This is a message for men to be partners in feminism. This is a message for men who think feminism is dangerous, who think feminism is a threat to them. Men who know what feminism is and are comfortable with it are already on board. Men who are threatened by feminism, or think it is a movement to disenfranchise them, are the target of this campaign.

So why isn’t a man spreading this message? A man who is recognized as stereotypically “masculine.” A man that the opponents of women’s equality cannot call “pussy” or “weak.” A man who speaks their language, but can explain why gender equality benefits everyone. A man who says that oppressing women and girls is not “manly.” A man who is willing to understand his position of power in the world and is willing to learn to share it.

I admit, this has been buzzing around in my head for a few days now, following a conversation with a coworker who explained why she wants a man as the main speaker for a Violence Against Women event she is coordinating. Then, I read Julia Zulver’s piece and Mia McKenzie’s critique. Although they come at it from slightly different angles, their message is the same: Emma Watson is great,  but…

We need to pull the calls for feminist solidarity away from privileged white feminists.  Emma Watson as the voice of feminism just reinforces the exclusion of all of the other feminist voices out there: the voices that are not white, Western, cisgender, heterosexual, or wealthy. Does that mean if you are white, Wester, cis, hetro, and/or wealthy, you cannot be oppressed or fight for equal rights? Of course not. But it’s time to give the spotlight to those other voices. It’s time to listen to other perspectives, other ideas.

The people with the most privilege are centered in the discussion, while the people who are the most oppressed are an afterthought, at best. De-centralizing women in conversations about gender inequality isn’t good. – Mia McKenzie

So who should the UN have asked? If the campaign needed to be launched by a woman, why not the head of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka herself? As a black South African woman, she certainly has an interesting point of view on this topic. If they wanted a man, how about Archbishop Desmond Tutu? Or in keeping with the Harry Potter theme, Daniel Radcliffe? There are plenty of well-known men who consider themselves feminists.

Let’s let the lesser-known voices of feminism tell their stories. Let’s let feminist men, trans* feminists, non-white feminists have their say in a wider forum. Let’s have #HeForShe pave the way for a greater conversation around gender equality, racial equality, human equality. Let’s talk about breaking down the power structures that so many people do not even realize exist. Let’s make equal rights for everyone a priority.

Climate Change Most Impacts Women and Girls

On November 19, the World Bank published an alarming report about the effects of a 4 degree Celsius increase in temperature on every country in the world, but particularly those that are already poor and vulnerable.  Jim Yong Kim, the Bank’s president, is hoping it will shock the world into action to prevent further global climate change.  However, the report glosses over the gender differentiated impacts of climate change: women and girls are by far the hardest hit by environmental changes. Climate change most greatly impacts the most vulnerable, who are primarily women and girls.  In addition, the nature of gender roles around the world means that women’s work is impacted by drought and inconsistent rainfall, flooding, and extreme weather events.  Because they are marginalized, they also do not have a voice in the discussions about alleviating or addressing climate change.

Why are women and girls so much more vulnerable to climate change? Consider a common example of the impact of climate change on a task that usually falls to women and girls: collecting water. As the climate in an already semi-arid region heats, streams, rivers, and wells near a village or town dry up or become more scarce.  As a result, women and girls must travel further to get water, increasing their risk of assault, taking more time that could go to studying,  creating wealth, or participating in other empowering activities.  There are also health consequences that will hit women and children the hardest, such as malnutrition from food shortage, heat-related mortality, and sanitation-related diseases.  Natural disasters, increased in intensity by climate change, kill women at a higher rate then men, frequently because women do not have the communications resources to learn about an impending disaster, or the skills to survive such a disaster or its aftermath.

The primary reason women and girls are so hard-hit by climate change, however, is because they are already marginalized in much of the world.  They are not a part of grassroots or top-level decision making processes about any issue, from farming techniques that might be environmentally friendly to community disaster response.  This is caused by many gendered cultural and community barriers that inhibit gender equality in all areas.

Research on the gendered impact of climate change is spotty, although growing as awareness of the situation comes to light. DFID and Gender CC are both sponsors of research and education to raise awareness of the gendered consequences of climate change, and how women and girls are being left out of the conversation about prevention and solutions.  It’s a shame that the World Bank couldn’t add the gender issues to their report.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity – Part II

Trigger warnings: sexual abuse and rape.

The second part of Half the Sky is much grimmer than the first.  Partway through the first segment, my other half requested that I stop watching the documentary in the main room, as it was getting to be too much for him.

That segment, on maternal mortality in Somaliland,  is much more about female genital mutilation (FGM).  FGM prevents women from being able to give birth in a normal way, leading to preventable complications in pregnancy and labor.  While the actual cutting procedure is not shown, it is described in great detail.  Although FGM poses enormous risks to both girls as they are growing up and then to women as they have children, it is deeply ingrained in many cultures.  A “cutter” interviewed explained that FGM is intended to keep girls “pure” and ensure that they are not “wild” – i.e. sexually active before marriage.  Happily, a hospital started by Edna Adan, a former United Nations employee and midwife, is fighting back.  Adan’s hospital is training midwives to work throughout rural Somaliland, combating both maternal mortality from unskilled births and difficult labor and FGM through education of women and girls about the risks and effects.

The film moves to Kolkata, India, where Urmi Basu works with women in the prostitute sub-caste in the red light district.  She is trying to educate girls so they do not follow their mothers and grandmothers into prostitution.  Basu explains that girls follow the trade of their mothers because neither can see another alternative for the girl.  The caste system has so entrenched their way of life that there is no reason to leave it, or so many of the women think.  Even if a girl is going to school, like Monisha, the young woman Kristof and America Fererra meet, there is still a strong chance she will be forced into prostitution to earn money for her family.  Although Basu is trying to provide for new opportunities for girls in the red-light district, it is an uphill battle.

Meanwhile, in Kenya, a former prostitute, Jane, shares with Olivia Wilde her dressmaking business funded by microloans. With the income from her business, she is able to send her children to school and buy a house out of the slums she used to live in.  Economic empowerment is important to her, and the millions of women like her, to lift out of poverty and sexual abuse caused by a lack of opportunity and financial security.  Unfortunately, while Jane’s story encompasses the successes of microfinance and similar programs, millions of women still do not have access to credit, fair wages, or property ownership – all important parts of economic empowerment. The documentary also does not go into detail on the criticisms of microfinance.

Overall, the Half the Sky documentary is fantastic. I highly recommend it to anyone who has read and loved the book. Be aware that watching this movie and reading this book will change your life.  It will make you uncomfortably aware of your privilege  and will motivate you to find a way to use that privilege to change women’s lives around the world. The explicit details of FGM may make you squirm, but hopefully they will also inspire you.   There are so many interlinked ways that women are oppressed and exploited.  As the film says, even helping one girl (or woman) can make a big difference.

The film is no longer available free on PBS but can be bought or rented on iTunes.  DVDs are coming out soon. Visit http://www.halftheskymovement.org for more information.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity – Part I

Trigger warning: Discussions of rape, sexual abuse, and human trafficking.

On Monday, October 1, Half the Sky, the companion documentary to the book of the same title by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, premiered on PBS.  It starts with George Clooney, Meg Ryan, and other celebrities talking about the women and girls they met around the world, and learning about the issues they face. The film immediately explains it’s reasoning for using celebrities: they are more recognizable than journalists, and thus any project with them attached will automatically get more attention. As Kristof explains the background and situation of each country and issue to the celebrity in each segment, he educates the viewer as well.

If you have not read the book, you should stop here, go get it, read it, and then come back.  Of course, the documentary is stand-alone, but the book is a powerful introduction to women’s issues around the world, and to some of the major players featured in the documentary.

The documentary is a powerful visual complement to the book.  It’s one thing to read about the difficulties raiding a brothel to rescue girls enslaved there – it’s another to watch the raid as it unfolds and see the faces of the victims and their abusers, hear victim’s voices as they tell their stories.

Gender-based violence (GBV) is highlighted in the first segment by introducing women in Sierra Leone, where rape is a culturally accepted practice. It’s more effective for change to come from inside a culture, rather than people from the outside telling them everything they do is wrong, Kristof notes. Amie Kandeh, an International Rescue Committee director of several shelters for sexually abused women is Leonese herself, and therefore is effective to some extent, because she is a member of the culture and community.  She supports those who have been raped and assaulted and reassures them despite the stigma of being a victim. The  social and family consequences of victims are hard – loss of home, educational opportunity, and the ability to marry. Although the police may arrest a suspect, there is very little prosecution or conviction of rapists.

The story continues with Somaly Mam, who rescues and teaches sex slaves in Cambodia.  Her goal is to educate, find employment for, and empower the girls to “say no, if they want to say no.”  Meg Ryan joins Kristof in Cambodia for this segment, which highlights Mam’s mentees and the challenges they face as they recover from the abuse and trauma they faced daily in the brothel.  The segment features a daring raid on a brothel near the Thai border involving Mam, Kristof, and police. What is great about Mam’s story, and the stories of her girls is that they have come from nightmares and now can run, laugh, and play.  They are able to give and receive love and affection.

The episode concludes with a less traumatic segment about educating girls in Vietnam with Room to Read. Educating girls around the world is challenging, but in Southeast Asia, as much of East Asia and India, girls are not valued the way boys are.  Many families do not see the point of educating a girl, yet educating girls is one of the strongest correlations to improved livelihood for both genders. Although girls face opposition to their education, they will do whatever it takes to go to school – bike 17 miles each day or rise at 3AM to do housework before school.

Each segment highlights a particular story, drawing in the viewer to be an intensely personal part of the challenges women face around the world. Gender-based violence, sexual slavery and trafficking, and education are issues everywhere, not just in the countries used as examples.  Raising awareness through the documentary and the book is only the first step.  Shining the light on these issues will hopefully spur others to action against the cultural, structural, economic, and legal opposition to women’s empowerment and women’s rights.

What I like about the structure of the film is that international “experts” like Hillary Clinton, Gloria Steinem  and Melanne Verveer speak about each issue following the personal stories.  They bring it from the personal to the high level, linking an individual’s situation to the international situation and what a person from the United States can do, whether celebrity or just ordinary citizen.

Come back next week for an overview of Part II!