Webinar: Addressing Gender Through Integrated Population, Health, and Environment Approaches

Collecting, analyzing, and using gender-related indicators in projects is critical to addressing many of the underlying challenges that communities around the world face, particularly in integrated Population, Health, and Environment (PHE) projects. PHE projects are often located in rural areas where development challenges can be pronounced. Still, implementers of field-based projects do not always understand how gender affects their project communities and outcomes, or how to go about addressing the impacts of gender dynamics.

This Africa PHE webinar was hosted by Smita Gaith (policy analyst, PRB), who was joined by guest speakers Kathryn Farley (research associate, International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)), Craig Leisher (director of monitoring and evaluation, The Nature Conservancy), and Dorah Taranta (project manager, Health of People and Environment—Lake Victoria Basin Project (HoPE-LBV), Pathfinder International). The guest speakers discussed the importance of measuring and addressing gender in field-based projects, and gave successful examples.

Gaith introduced viewers to the PHE approach, which addresses family planning/reproductive health (FP/RH) and primary health care services alongside a variety of environmental interventions, such as conservation or livelihoods. Evaluations of some projects have found that they improve health and well-being of women in a variety of ways.

Following this introduction, Kathryn Farley introduced viewers to the concept of gender-responsive monitoring and evaluation (M&E). Farley described how identifying differences between men and women in ideas, attitudes, needs, and opportunities at a project’s outset; tracking how project interventions affect men and women differently; and exploring whether the program leads to changes in gender relations all support gender-responsive M&E. Farley reiterated the importance of thinking about gender early and often and explained that even if a project did not consider gender fully at the outset, it is never too late. Thinking about gender at each stage of the project, she said, ensures gender-responsive program design and robust data. Using indicators from the Social Impact Measurement System—which was created by ICRW and the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves—Farley also introduced listeners to innovative ways to measure social and economic empowerment. Drawing upon a case study of a social enterprise, listeners were able to see how Farley’s presentation applied to a real intervention.

Craig Leisher emphasized promoting mixed-gender decisionmaking and collecting sex-disaggregated data. According to Leisher, every PHE project should aspire to do both. Using examples from business, Leisher described a wide body of research examining gender diversity in the private sector and in conservation. For example, locally managed forests in India had an average 10 percent greater forest cover when two or more women were on the management board, compared to those with one or no women on the board. These studies were part of the impetus for Leisher’s own research, which examines how the gender composition of forestry and fishery groups affect resource governance and conservation outcomes. According to Leisher, gender diversity improves conflict resolution, reduces high-risk strategies, balances leadership skills, and improves the pool of talent.

Finally, Dorah Taranta presented a before-and-after case study of the HoPE-LVB project community in Kenya and Uganda. While the goals of HoPE-LVB were related to biodiversity conservation and access to FP and sexual and RH services, the project recognized that gender disparities would affect the project’s success. For example, at baseline, men and women were not participating equally in community or household decisions, including decisions about RH/FP and governance of local natural resources. Taranta explained that gender-sensitive interventions were woven throughout various health and environmental interventions to solve these challenges, such as drawing parallels between healthy spacing of children and healthy farming practices, and targeting women and couples with those messages. Now, more women are in leadership roles and engaged in environmentally friendly income-generating activities; men are more involved in health decisions; girls have more educational opportunities; and household dynamics and relationships are improved.

A brief question and answer session followed the presentations. Viewers were interested in cross-cultural norms: for example, whether measurements of empowerment and women’s agency are cross-cultural, and how to respect cultural norms while also trying to change gender norms. People new to PHE were also curious about why the PHE approach might be ideal for addressing gender. According to Leisher and Taranta, integrated projects address multiple aspects of people’s daily lives, providing more opportunities to impact gender indicators, and offering more entry points to talk about gender with a wider variety of people (for example, with groups of fishermen).

This webinar is part of the Africa PHE quarterly webinar series implemented under the Policy, Advocacy, and Communication Enhanced for Population and Reproductive Health (PACE) Project. For regular updates about PHE news, opportunities, resources, and other events, subscribe to the monthly Africa PHE Updates newsletter online and follow @AfricaPHE on Twitter.