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Engendering Evaluations: Evidence from a systematic review of evaluations of gender-integrated health programs in low and middle-income countries

by on January 22, 2015

By Arundati Muralidharan, DrPH, Senior Research Fellow, Public Health Foundation of India

DELHI, India—A group of organizations working with the Government of India to ensure greater transparency in monitoring and evaluating health programs – ways to determine whether they are working to improve the health of people and communities – is participating in “India Evaluation Week.” The week-long meeting, held January 18-22 in Delhi, aims to build support for activities that strengthen professionalism among the evaluation community in India, and build national capacity in policies and practices related to monitoring and evaluation.

2015 is the International Year of Evaluation. As part of this year’s focus, the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) contributed to India Evaluation Week by presenting findings from a joint review by PHFI, the MEASURE Evaluation Project, the Health Policy Project, and the International Center for Research on Women on evaluations of gender-integrated programs.

India Evaluation Week is providing a fertile platform to learn about evaluation practices at the national and global levels. Key sessions during the meeting include evidence-informed decision making, gender-responsive evaluations, evidence synthesis, and participatory evaluations.

UN Women, in collaboration with NITI Aayog, the Government of India, and the Institute of Applied Manpower Research, organized a roundtable on “Equity-Focused and Gender-Responsive Evaluation” on 21 January 2015 at the India Habitat Centre. Dr A. K. Shiva Kumar, director of the International Centre for Human Development, UNDP, chaired a roundtable discussion that mapped examples of equity focused and gender responsive evaluations. At this roundtable, Arundati Muralidharan from PHFI presented findings specific to evaluation designs from the large-scale systematic review on gender-integrated health programs in low-and-middle-income countries.

The presentation focused on exploring three issues:

  • What kinds of designs are being used in evaluations of gender-integrated health programs?
  • What additional evaluation components are needed to assess gender-integrated programs?
  • What types of gender measures are used in these evaluations?

The analysis examined 99 peer-reviewed articles on evaluations of gender-integrated health programs in terms of their theory of change, study design, gender integration in data collection, analysis, and gender measures used. The presentation concluded by emphasizing the need for a well thought out theory of change, specifying the gender component(s); the use of mixed methods (i.e., complementing quantitative design with a qualitative component to understand why the intervention had the desired effects); the inclusion of gender measures; conducting multiple endlines to ascertain the sustainability of program outcomes; and allocating sufficient funds and time for the design, implementation, and evaluation of gender-integrated health programs.

The study findings were well received by the audience, comprising mainly of people conducting evaluations of development programs in India. A key question raised was on the type and quality of qualitative evaluation methods, and suggestions for how the qualitative component can be strengthened in mixed-methods studies. Questions were also posed about whether any evaluations reported adverse consequences and unintentional effects, and whether any shared the time and money allocated for the evaluations. Key study recommendations, including the use of a TOC to guide evaluations, were echoed and shared by other roundtable participants.

For information on related research, see Transforming Gender Norms, Roles, and Powers for Better Health: Evidence from a Systematic Review of Gender-Integrated Health Programs in Low-and Middle-Income Countries.

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