GEM sparkles among IT4D practitioners in Cairo
By APC WNSP
24 May 2005
GEM — an acronym for Gender Evaluation Methodology for Internet and ICTs — aims to allow its users to get a better idea of whether ICTs can really improve women’s lives and gender relations as well as promote positive social change. It was developed by APC’s Women Networking Support Programme.
Photo alongside shows members of the WSIS GC in Africa with WomensNet’s Lauren Fok navigating their way through the GEM CD.
Accessibility of ICTs requires adequate equipment, information, financing, organization, training and time. As more and more of today’s development work and money is channelled into projects that employ ICTs, it’s becoming more important to evaluate the differentiated impacts it has on men, women, girls and boys.
To understand GEM better, thirty-six ICT-for-development practitioners came together in the land of the pyramids — Cairo, Egypt. From the mid-thirteenth century, incidentally, Cairo became the leading intellectual and artistic centre in the Middle East, and perhaps in the world, for at least two-and-half centuries.
This group’s intense two-day workshop was organised by the APC Women’s Programme. Sponsored by the Global Knowledge Partnership, it followed on the heels of GKP’s international forum on ‘Advancing ICT Solutions for Development through Cross-Sector Partnerships’.
Interestingly, in all, as many as 163 ICT-for-development projects were keen to learn how they could address gender issues in their internet work, and applied to take part. Participants finally selected came from across the
globe: Bangladesh, Bosnia, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Switzerland, Bolivia,
Costa Rica, Egypt, Jordan, Kenya, Uganda, And Togo.
The common thread was ICT4D work — whether with indigenous communities, rural communities, women’s organisations, media, or in regional networks. Many participants were members of the Global Knowledge Partnership. But membership was not a requirement; instead, a willingness to challenge gender preconceptions was.
“This workshop came out of GKP’s commitment to GEM and to incorporating gender in their work and within their membership,” said Cheekay Cinco, APC WNSP Regional Co-Coordinator in Asia Pacific.
GKP had already asked the APC WNSP to accompany seven recipients of GKP ‘seed grants’ in applying the Gender Evaluation Methodology for Internet and ICTs (GEM). Three of them were present in Cairo to share their experience.
GEM is an on-line guide developed by the APC WNSP to evaluate and inform it’s own and other ICT for social change work. Cairo’s workshop used the GEM framework to help participants examine their evaluation principles, and get hands-on practice in building evaluation questions and indicators.
From this link http://www.apcwomen.org/gem/home.htm users get an overview of the evaluation process, and explores gender and ICT issues. It also outlines suggested means to incorporate a gender analysis throughout the evaluation process.
Understanding and identifying gender and ICT issues in ICT4D work was also a key objective.
South Africa Women’s Net director Natasha Primo, a GEM practitioner herself, helped participants recognise gender issues. Frequently gender issues are confused with general development needs, which affect men and women equally, or women’s special needs, which stem from biological or sex differences.
With workshop participants, Primo detailed examples of gender concerns and inequality.
“Gender issues arise when people recognise that a particular instance of
inequality is wrong, unacceptable and unjust. This realisation is more likely where the gender gap is large, and where women are aware of their democratic and human rights,” Primo said. She noted that it is often difficult in political practice to make an issue of gender inequality if there isn’t wide perception of this inequality being unjust.
A development project may adjust to gender concerns. But gender issues need to be addressed, Primo noted.
Primo challenged participants to check if development initiatives are truly
transforming gender roles. She said: “There is a difference between practical and strategic gender needs. Does an intervention challenge existing gender role definitions in a community? Some initiatives might respond only to women’s reproductive role and don’t necessarily challenge unequal gender roles.”
Theory and Practice
Being ICT4D practitioners, participants opted to focus on the gender and ICT issues emerging in three areas: policy, content and rural access.
Taking their GEM framework in hand, breakout-groups debated evaluation questions and indicators.
Participants rapidly connected theory to practice. “I sat in on the rural access small group and they came up with a lot of good indicators that look into the gender dimensions of access beyond the number of male and female users,” Cinco told APCNews. She has served as a consultant on over a dozen GEM initiatives in Asia,
Developer feminist valentina mamager pellizer — that’s how she prefers her
name spelt, without capitalisation — who has worked for 10 years in relief
and development in the Balkans, was impressed by how participants grappled with theory and practice.
Said valentina: “While we were trying to name the abstract idea of an indicator… it was the materialization of developers’ demon: the dualistic
division between theory and practise. Group exercises offered the opportunity to combine these two elements in a dynamic and learning set,
making us change our role and perspectives, participating in a synergy where the time and the right to think are given to everybody.”
(valentina explains her choice of orthography: “Small letter … are a reminder on our multiples roles and that the line between private and public space is just as false as impracticable…. keeping my name in small letters means to have an all inclusive gender perception on an ICT, content production, project.)
Back in Cairo, workshop participants were also reminded that Evaluation and policy need to go hand in hand.
“As we engage with gender and ICT policy advocacy, it is very important that we have the gender analysis skills and to actively and centrally participate in policy making,” said Juliet Were. Were is a member of the World Summit on the Information Society’s African Gender Caucus, and participated in the policy working group.
Were added, “During the workshop, different ICT policy documents were used to help participants identify gender concerns. That gender was still lacking was an awakening. There is a need to train and involve more actors in gender and ICT policy analysis and the GEM approach.”
The important role of evaluation in policy advocacy work was emphasised
throughout the Cairo workshop. Primo’s presentation called for policy, as
well as project, evaluation. She put it like this: “The development and
implementation of ICT policies could be evaluated by asking the following
questions: Do these policies address gender needs? Will they lead to the
transformation of gender relations and gender roles?”
GEM evaluators tell it like it is
Learning from GEM evaluators’ experiences were a highlight at Cairo.
“Instead of focusing on academic and theoretical resource persons, organizers banked on the individual knowledge and experience of participants, who were mostly practitioners. I thought this was a particularly innovative approach,” said Mridul Chowdhury from D-net in Bangladesh.
Bosnia’s Foundation for Creative Development (FKR) executive director Osmanagic Jesenko, confided, “When FKR got the requirement from the funding partner to incorporate GEM in the project… there was some confusion and panic inside FKR staff. GEM was something new for the FKR staff, despite their good experience in different civil society fields.”
Yet the application of GEM in FKR’s ‘Youth stay in BiH’ — a project to improve local youth’s skills in video, to advocate their needs and rights better — bore fruit. “Equal opportunity to participate in the project for young women and men, stronger utilization of ICT by women as well as development of new female youth leaders were some of the achievements that the GEM approach produced in the project,” Josenko added.
Bangladesh’s Mridul Chowdhury, an ICT4D practitioner and policy analyst, offered Cairo participants tips from D.net’s use of GEM with its Pallitathya Help-Line project. “Start using GEM during planning and designing a project,” emphasised Mridul in his presentation.
GEM’s first steps include identifying intended users of evaluation results, an aspect D.net found was determinant not only to the evaluation, but to project strategising.
One of GEM’s contribution to their work was “identifying at the beginning of the project that one of the most important intended users of our evaluation would be our future partners, particularly mobile telecom operators and certain wings of the government, who will be very much needed for expansion”.
Mridul also focused on the importance of taking time on indicators. On the
one hand, indicators can be ‘tremendously helpful’ to justify project expansion, monitor fulfillment of objectives or call for re-strategising, and in later advocacy. In D.net’s case, they were also vital for building a questionnaire used in every stage of project development.
Try GEM, you’ll like it
APC’s Women’s Programme has found that when projects have more contact with GEM, they see more facets for it’s use. Participants in the Cairo workshop, meeting for just two days, couldn’t cover GEM in depth due to paucity of time. But they did get a taste to know how it would be useful in the work back home.
The best test, however, comes from GEM evaluators at the workshop, who are now incorporating GEM into their organisational practice.
Juliet Were, whose organisation — ISIS-Wicce — participated in an initial GEM workshop for the Africa region when the tool was being pilot-tested in 2002, underlines GEM’s importance.
Were says: “GEM has become an approach that ISIS-Wicce continues to use in our ICT projects.” She reflects, “GEM is now in its fourth version, which means that it is a tool that acknowledges changes and takes on lessons learnt as it progresses. It also acknowledges the diversity of realities and the changes in the environment within which the tool is used which makes it applicable in different settings.”
GEM’s development has been supported by the International Development
Research Centre http://www.idrc.ca, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (Unifem) http://www.unifem.undp.org, and the UK Department for International Development http://www.dfid.gov.uk (Photo alongside shows GEM Cairo participants group photo.)
The guide provides users with an overview of the evaluation process — including links to general evaluation resources — and outlines suggested strategies and methodologies for incorporating a gender analysis throughout the evaluation process. GEM can also be used to ensure that a gender concerns are integrated into a project planning process.
Jesenko’s enthusiasm for GEM in Bosnia is contagious: ~“And what is next FKR staff have a powerful tool which we can use in development and implementation of new projects. The network of youth organisations that FKR is maintaining as well as future partners will be provided with GEM. Gender has to be one of FKR’s approaches to make our country more open and create a more responsible society.”
Gender Evaluation Methodology for Internet and ICTs
Global Knowledge Partnership
D.net in Bangladesh
Foundation for Creative Development, Bosnia and Herzegovina