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Gender and the Evidence Functions in Social Development

An Online Learning Road Trip
(Past event)

Event type: Training

Related research: Gender-responsive and age-sensitive social protection

events30 April - 4 June 2020



This online learning series hosted by UNICEF's Regional Office for South Asia aims to address several constraints and questions about gender and evidence:

1. Have you ever known what you wanted to do but just didn’t have the tools?

2. Have you known something is true but just can’t prove it?

3. Have you committed yourself to a long study but wished you had companions to share it with?

4. Have you been certain there was a lot of relevant material but needed help to find the best items?

If you answered Yes, Yes, Yes, and Yes to these questions - this is why UNICEF is offering a road trip to address these issues and more.

In the road trip UNICEF aims to create an informal atmosphere of free exchange under the guidance of peers who are themselves probing and working to solve gender and evidence issues. They have agreed to share their works in progress, their great ideas, their newly finalized tools and the results of recently completed evaluations and research. They are going to speak to unresolved gender issues where we struggle over how to overcome discrimination or social resistance or stereotypes or fear or inequitable laws and resource distribution or the hellish disruption of emergencies. They will engage with us about the core conceptual and evidence issues in gender, about cooperating wisely and completely across disciplines and agencies, and about breaking out of our silos to share and support one another.

UNICEF Innocenti will present Session 9 (5/28/2020): Using Implementation Science for Gender Impact: Case studies from the UNICEF Office of Research programs in stopping Violence against Women and Girls and in Gender responsive Social Protection

This online Road Trip is a collaboration between: UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia, UNICEF Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia, UNICEF Office of Research- Innocenti, UNICEF South Asia Country Offices, and UN Women.


Alessandra Guedes

UNICEF Innocenti

Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed

UNICEF Innocenti


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Gender-responsive and age-sensitive social protection

Gender-responsive and age-sensitive social protection

Gender and age play a disproportionately large role in how people experience risks, vulnerabilities, and opportunities. A new four-year research programme to understand the intersections of gender inequalities and norms with ages and stages in the life course mean women and girls are at a heightened risk of poverty.
Can social protection be a driver of gender equality?
Blog Post

Can social protection be a driver of gender equality?

Social protection programmes have proven to be effective in fighting poverty in various dimensions, but the question remains as to how these same instruments can address other drivers of vulnerability, like gender inequality. Girls and women living in poverty face additional barriers which men and boys do not, driven by conservative social and gender norms and limited access to education and the workforce. As UNICEF Innocenti embarks on its new five-year research programme to begin to answer questions on gender-responsive and age sensitive social protection (GRASSP), we asked researchers and practitioners in the fields of gender and social protection to weigh in on research priorities. We received survey responses from 76 experts around the globe, from both the academic and policy-making spheres. They emphasized key evidence gaps and challenges relating to the gender-responsiveness of different types of social protection. Below, we highlight some of the key takeaways from the survey. "Measure impact by sex and age” While there is limited evidence on the topic, respondents praised the rigour and quality of emerging research and initiatives. A crucial challenge to building the evidence base is the lack of sex- and age-disaggregated data from programmes. Without this, identifying the social protection policies that aid women’s empowerment and lead to gender-equality is no more than an educated guess. "Optimise evaluations to pinpoint key mechanisms of change”Respondents mentioned the lack of a well-constructed and detailed theory of change. Conducting more complex evaluations can aid learning, while using qualitative methods can better contextualise and help bridge gaps, particularly as results on gender-related outcomes are often mixed. Holding her young child in her arms, a woman uses jerrycans to collect filtered chlorinated water for drinking purpose from a UNICEF supported water point outside village Sami Mahmood Hamid in Rosaries Locality on the bank of the River Nile in the Blue Nile State in Sudan"Consensus on what is meant by ‘gender’” Respondents noted a lack of consensus on what gender and gender-responsiveness entail, with some being critical of the field for having a narrow view of gender as a ‘women-only’ issue, undermining the crucial relational aspect of gender inequality. "Political buy-in is crucial but lacking”A lack of commitment from policy makers and officials across all levels of government limits much-needed resources for evidence building. This lack of buy-in may be due to a narrow view of social protection as aimed exclusively at poverty-reduction and correlated outdated views of poverty. Others see this as a lack of commitment to gender equality itself, with decision-makers prioritising more short-term objectives and their own traditional values—or those of their community—instead. "Better understanding of the role of gender norms is the number one evidence generation priority” Addressing gender norms and practices is high priority for 61% of respondents. While this goal must be placed at the centre of the gender-responsive agenda, we also need to better understand the limitations that this may place on ongoing social protection interventions. Women’s role within the household and their families, their limited access to the labour market (both formal and informal), and the need for contextual specificity were listed as priorities for easing a change in restrictive practices. "Measure empowerment properly”Empowerment was the second highest priority for respondents (59.3%). Some urged for the field to move beyond purely economic measures of empowerment and others emphasised the need to adequately balance empowerment with protection needs. "Labour & childcare policies top social protection policy priorities”Labour policies that help people find work (45.8%) and the availability of affordable childcare (40.7%) are the policy types that experts most believe we should better understand. These results underline the need to economically empower women, rather than reproduce current social conditions that bind many to unpaid care. "Tailor design to context and integrate with existing services”When asked about design features, ‘gender responsive work arrangements’ (e.g. adequate maternity leave) was the top evidence generation priority (67.8% high priority), followed by ‘prioritisation of linkages to productive, protective, and health services’ (57.6%). These results reflect the value placed on integrating social protection into broader government provision systems to improve efficacy and secure sustainability. The importance of context was reiterated, with some highlighting the need to better anticipate and minimise unintended consequences, such as conditionalities that may limit people’s capacity to work. Priorities to address evidence gaps in gender outcomes.What next? Together with a think piece series by leading experts in the field and an experts’ workshop, this survey has helped refine the GRASSP research programme. In better understanding gender inequality as a driver of vulnerability and poverty for women, we can explore whether particular social protection features can be finetuned to achieve gender-transformative goals. This survey of experts reveals that we need to better understand local gender norms and how labour and childcare policies improve women’s access to the workforce and overall empowerment. To do so, we must disaggregate impact by sex, use qualitative research to illuminate change, and focus our evidence generation efforts on gender norms and empowerment.   Alessandra Ipince is now a research consultant working on adolescence, internet use, research methods at UNICEF Innocenti. UNICEF Innocenti’s new research programme on gender-responsive and age sensitive social protection (GRASSP) is funded by DFID, the Italian government, and other core UNICEF partners.