Testing GEM


Testing GEM

In 2002, the APC WNSP regional networks, partners and other selected organisations began testing GEM to enrich the methodology and customize it to their own ICT networking contexts and social spheres. The GEM project team has been working with 27 organisations in evaluating a variety of initiatives spread over 20 countries. Initiatives include:

  • community telecentres
  • education and training initiatives for women
  • employment and e-commerce projects
  • networking and community building projects
  • e-governance progammes
  • advancement of women's rights through women's information activities and advocacy campaigns on a range of women's issues

Table 2: GEM Testers Profile

Region

No. of Testers

Number of Countries

Regional Initiatives

Latin America

6

5

1

Asia

7

5

1

Africa

7

4

2

Central/Eastern Europe

6

6

1

Total

26

20

5

 

GEM regional coordinators are working directly with testers from all regions in developing evaluation plans and conducting evaluation activities. This is being done through means as well as face-to-face meetings. Field visits were carried out in 8 locations in 7 countries. During field visits regional coordinators met with evaluation teams to finalise evaluation plans (i.e., setting indicators, methodologies, stakeholders, and evaluation activities). In some cases they participated in evaluation activities like interviews and focus group discussions.

Network of GEM Practitioners

A total of 192 participants (157 women and 35 men) from 30 countries have been trained in the use of the GEM Toolkit through regional and local workshops. Some of these workshops focused on raising awareness about gender and ICT issues. Participants represented projects that are field testing GEM, members of the regional WNSP networks and partners who intend to use GEM in their organisations outside the testing environment.

APC WNSP planned a programme of testing and interpretation work in 4 regions: Latin America, Asia, Africa (Anglophone) and Central and Eastern Europe. Participants in the regional training workshop learned about concepts of gender analysis as they relate to ICT projects and went through the whole process of developing an evaluation plan using the GEM Toolkit. The training equipped them with enough knowledge to lead the evaluation of their organisations/initiatives with the support of the GEM project team.
At the same time, the GEM project team honed their skills as GEM trainers as they developed modules, exercises and materials to best respond to participant feedback. The team's methodology evolved through facilitation and consistent evaluation of each workshop.

Lessons in Testing

The GEM testing experience has been a very instructive process for conducting gender evaluation of ICT initiatives. The process of clarifying the objectives of an evaluation and identifying gender indicators are occasions for learning about what constitutes a gender perspective and how a gender analytical framework can be applied in projects using ICT.

GEM's conceptual documents on learning and evaluation and a social change framework for ICT use, steered testing organisations onto a solid evaluation track. Participants began to analyse their own learning experiences and the way their views and perspectives have been influenced by their context, culture, religion and various aspects of society. This understanding about gender and its relationship to ICT is one of the most significant outcomes from GEM tool use in all the regions.

For example, testers from Bulgaria, Croatia, Slovakia, Poland, Lithuania and Romania gave feedback reports that using GEM helped them to understand what role ICT can play in women's empowerment. Generally they also felt that they have become more aware about the gender and ICT issues in their context. This growing awareness is critical especially in Central and Eastern Europe where there is almost an absence of gender advocacy in the ICT policy arena and most of women advocates and organisations in the region are not familiar with the information society policies and debates nor are they connected with the existing gender and ICT advocacy networks.

The most immediate result of the testing is the discovery that most of the organisations did not have plans for evaluating their projects nor any clearly defined indicators, whether gender or general indicators, to measure the effectiveness of their interventions. After developing their evaluation plans, all of the GEM testers affirmed the usefulness of this exercise in reviewing their project plans and most of them realized the significance of their evaluation results for institutional and project planning.

In addition, the participatory approach espoused by GEM values encouraged organisations to be inclusive of all stakeholders. From the very beginning the GEM team emphasized that the GEM tool was to be used by a group or team of people ready to work on equal terms and share responsibilities and results.


Lessons from the Field

The final evaluation results of GEM testers are still to be completed; however, our findings from the testing so far have yielded a number of lessons:

Gender Sensitivity Sessions

In most cases, it is necessary to conduct gender and ICT sensitisation workshops before starting to develop a gender evaluation plan. From our GEM testers' experience, these workshops could be customized depending on the needs of the organisation. This could be a half- or whole-day session that will provide participants with an understanding of the basic concepts of gender, gender equality, women's empowerment and the intersections of gender, social transformation and ICT. Our experience has shown that while most organisations grasped the issues of gender and ICT separately, analysing the relationship between these two issues was new terrain for them.

This preparatory step is even more relevant in gender evaluation of telecentres because these initiatives are usually based in grassroots communities where traditional values and beliefs about gender roles and relations are still the norm. In all of the telecentres that tested the GEM tool, the evaluation teams consciously set in place gender sensitisation strategies promoting reflection and opening opportunities for dialogue to avoid antagonistic confrontations.

For example, in two communities in Ecuador, the GEM team was told that the community (i.e., men leaders who make decisions) wouldn't allow workshops on "feminism", because they had had problems with women's groups coming to their place to "put women against men". The GEM team decided to use another starting point: "communication, equity and ICTs". In the case of the indigenous groups, another argument is that racial discrimination comes first and to overcome racial discrimination and work in favour of cultural and racial diversity should be on top of their aims. In this case, the concept of "equity" was used with a broad meaning, including racial, gender, age, cultural and social discrimination.

From: daphne@uolsinectis.com.ar
To: gem-team@apcwomen.org
Subject: [Gem-team] Workshop in Colinas del Norte
Reply-To: gem-team@apcwomen.org
X-Reply-To: daphne@uolsinectis.com.ar
Date: Thu, 14 Aug 2003 13:37:38 -0300 (GMT+3)


Hello GEM team,

Today I met with Marcelo, Florencio and Givanna Tipan,who will be working with me in the workshop we’ll have tomorrow in Colinas del Norte, up in the mountains outside Quito. Giovanna is in charge of the manual on gender issues for telecentres.

The workshop will take place with the young people’s community organisation. It will be centred in the work they are doing for their community journal, that comes out once a month and it’s run by them. They are also in charge of the local telecentre, where the journal is produced.

It is interesting to see Gem’s development so far. Foundation ERPE will use it for planning their work in the telecentres from the very start and they think the tool will help them to address equity, which for them includes not only gender issues, but also class and racial issues. Discrimination of indigenous people in Riobamba is rampant. I had never seen it so clearly. Colleagues told me that not so many years ago indigenous people were not even allowed to take the local buses. It’s interesting to see how GEM can widen its outreach in local use. I think it’s very challenging!!!

As for Colinas del Norte, as it is a poor neighbourhood outside Quito, people there also feel discriminated because of class issues, so gender issues will also be considered within a wider perspective. They are planning to use GEM to sensitise on gender issues first, then to evaluate what they are doing in their local newspaper and as a third step, to plan their work in the very new telecentre that they are starting to run.

Remember I told you about "The Queens" group? Today, Chasquinet colleagues told me that the full name is "Queens Association" and it is not a name the girls choose for themselves, but that the community gave them because the community created that group for the girls that have been candidates or have won beauty awards in the community. So in a way from the beginning their image has been very much attached to sexism. Girls complain that they are treated as "empty heads" or "decorative objects" and that they want their community to understand their real interests and commitments. So they are very excited about taking part in the workshop. They also plan to work with the group of older women who have their small business of arts and crafts in the community. They want to show that they can do other things and not only be there to be invited to community events as pretty faces. And, of course, they also want to take more active part in the local newspaper, not only in the photographs, but in the content.

As always, I think that GEM is opening more fields for work than expected.

Cordially,

Dafne

 

Setting Gender and ICT Indicators

Identifying gender indicators in ICT initiatives, whether in policies, strategies, programs, projects and activities can be an effective way of ensuring that women's particular needs are considered in planning processes. Gender-sensitive indicators are useful tools in measuring or evaluating the impact of development initiatives in general and can be applied in the ICT field. While there is a rich body of gender indicators that have been developed in areas like health, education, human rights and political empowerment, development of gender indicators or even general development and social change indicators for ICT initiatives is only just beginning.

One important section of the GEM tool deals with identifying gender and ICT indicators for projects that are being evaluated. This exercise has been the most challenging step for most GEM testers when preparing evaluation plans. At the same time, it has been the key component in determining how and why specific ICT initiatives lead to changing women's conditions, gender roles or gender relations. Identifying quantitative indicators of access and participation has been straightforward for most of the GEM testers. What have been more complicated to track are qualitative indicators. Yet, as we know from other gender evaluation methodologies, these indicators have more vividly illustrated the relationship of ICT interventions and women's empowerment.

"Given the dimensions of a gender issue, and their obvious embeddedness within a patriarchal system, it becomes obvious that interventions on gender issues cannot be dictated by 'top-down' planners. On the contrary, women's advancement involves the process of empowerment, which we may give the preliminary definition of the process by which women achieve increased control over public decision making. Such empowerment is women's route to changing the practices and laws that discriminate against them, and achieving an equitable gender division of labour and allocation of resources. Clearly, therefore, we need a lens to see the process of empowerment, as the sequence of women's action by which a gender issue can be tackled."

"Spectacles for Seeing Gender in Project Evaluation"
Written by Sara Hlupekile Longwe for the Africa GEM Workshop held in Zanzibar in November 2002. Sara Longwe participated in this workshop as the gender evaluation specialist.

For example, five of our testers are telecentres mostly operating in rural communities in Ecuador, Colombia, Philippines and Nigeria.  Before the GEM evaluation, the telecentres simply disaggregated their user data by sex. After much probing about gender and ICT indicators, data differentiated by sex on participation in decision-making bodies, roles of volunteers and staff, activities of users in telecentres, training received and several more were identified as additional qualitative indicators. These could be classified as indicators of access, participation and use which reflect different levels of empowerment.

One lesson to be learned from the GEM testing process is that ICTs and ICT-based projects do not exist in a vacuum and that they operate within existing gendered social structures such as laws and traditional cultural beliefs and practices. The gender issues in ICTs do not only exist in the gender disaggregation of data but, more importantly, they exist in the reasons for the disaggregation. While the numbers may sometimes show that there is hardly any gender disparity in the usage and benefits of ICTs, the stories and reasons behind the numbers may reveal different realities. In planning and developing ICT policies and programmes, this framework is crucial if ICTs are to be used for social development and gender equality.

ICT for Information Sharing and Advocacy

One of the most valuable uses of ICT within the women's movement is the advancement of women's rights through women's information activities and advocacy campaigns on a range of women's issues. As such, GEM selected several projects from various regions to learn how effectively ICT tools have been used. Projects evaluated included specific e-bulletins, radio programmes and e-lists by women's information centers like Modemmujer in Mexico, Karat Coalition based in Poland, Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) and regional AMARC networks in Africa and Latin America.

All of these organisations designed and conducted surveys among their audience to gauge the effectiveness of their medium as well as content. For many of them, the GEM evaluation gave them their first opportunity to systematically ask for feedback from their public. Overall, the survey results were encouraging in validating the significance of the information to women in their localities or region.

An excerpt from Karat Coalition's GEM report illustrates how women-focussed information resources contribute to women's empowerment:

95,5% of the respondents of Karat's questionnaire think that Karat News helps to promote women's issues in the region and the same percentage thinks that newsletter helps to show Central and Eastern Europe/CIS perspective on gender issues. Only some of the readers share information from Karat News outside of their organisations by reprinting them in their own publications, putting them on the websites or translating them to the local language. The others use them mostly for their own needs as applying for grants, attending conferences/training they find in the news and learning about gender issues in the European Union.

As a Karat News reader puts it:

'It is the only space where regional info is accessible in one place. Every other newsgroup claims to focus on one area or region, but rarely does this happen. I rarely read those because it is supposed to be about Central and Eastern Europe and then I get everything else about Asia and Africa and what kind of conference is happening in New York. I read Karat News to follow what is really happening with women in the region, and because I know it is relevant and coming directly from the region'.

For example, Karat Coalition received feedback that information from the region and local social movement  groups are generally difficult to collect. A lot of women's activists mentioned their e-bulletin as a very important component of their daily work, keeping them informed about the main initiatives, trends in the region and helping them to learn new experiences, shape objectives for their future activities, find new partners and give them ideas for the development of their NGOs. Most of the women activists, especially those from the European Union candidate countries, are also looking for information about the EU enlargement process that directly impacts on the economic and political situation in that region.

A common limitation noted in many instances is the need for more content translated into major regional languages or local languages.  Most regions are not linguistically homogenous, therefore language should be a key indicator that measures accessibility of information. 

In an evaluation of a Ugandan information network, respondents said that WOUGNET's website and mailing lists contributed to the visibility of Ugandan women's issues and had promoted women's causes in Uganda. Information provided were repackaged for further dissemination by alternative means such as radio and print publications. The need for more local content and information in local languages was emphasized. In addition, it was noted that while WOUGNET is very beneficial to all its members, active participation is limited to a few and therefore more work is needed to enable more members to fully engage in the network. Respondents also called for ICT awareness and training sessions, greater networking among members, consideration of other modes of information sharing/dissemination - targeting rural access in particular, and support in acquiring ICT equipment and internet services.

GEM Raises Awareness about the Significance of ICTs on Women's Lives and Society

While the objective of the GEM evaluation is to zero in on examining specific projects, the process to get to this point has led the GEM team and GEM testers to comprehend critical trends and issues connected with the so-called information or knowledge society. Depending where the testers are from, the issues that have been tackled in GEM workshops and reports range from the digital divide, privacy and security, democracy and governance, employment and economic opportunities and many more.

A clear recommendation emerging from testing is the need to document and promote models of strategic use of ICTs among women, as well as other disadvantaged groups. Of equal importance is building awareness among gender advocates and women's organisations with the strategic aim of making them more familiar with gender issues in ICT and to support the development of pro-active gender advocacy in ICT policies.

Through the GEM testing, we have deepened our understanding of many critical gender and ICT issues. Some of these are elaborated on through the case studies that are presented in this report. We would like to highlight three significant issues resulting from our regional testing.

  • Women and Teleworking

ICTs are being touted as opening new opportunities for employment. They are presented as a novel employment model with employees working from the comfort of their homes. In many cases, teleworking is seen as an option among those who want to be employed but prefer or need to stay home for reasons such as disabilities, chronic illness or caring for the children. Women, who are mostly responsible for child caring, domestic work or caregiving for old and chronically ill members of family, are seen to be one of the groups that could move into this new organisation of work. In many parts of the world, teleworking is becoming more widespread as a way of home-based work. However, there is a general lack of information regarding the potential problematic aspects of teleworking (such as social security of teleworkers) and its real impact on the life and empowerment of women. There is a need to examine and open the discussion about the impact of teleworking on women's multiple roles in the family. A teleworking case study is presented in this report to shed light on this significant ICT development. While the findings about how teleworking challenges traditional male and female roles in the home are not conclusive, the report points out that indicators and benchmarks in terms of changes in gender roles and relations as a result of teleworking will be critical in determining the long term impact of work arrangement.

  • ICT Training for Women

Five ICT training initiatives are participating as GEM testers and are evaluating their projects. These initiatives vary from basic training for rural women in South Africa to  employment skills training in Croatia to web-based information management and e-commerce for women's organisations in Asia-Pacific. In most cases, these training opportunities have been positive for the women trained. Indicators of various levels of empowerment include the reinforcement of their self-esteem as women found themselves able to learn a new and more advanced communications technology,

ICT facilitated networking that in turn has allowed expanded participation in decision-making and strengthened internal democracy, led to improving one's chances of finding a job and provided people with renewed confidence in themselves.

Many more women can benefit from appropriately designed training programmes in all regions. There is need for more resources to support training initiatives that have demonstrated a developmental and empowering impact.

  • Universal Access Issues

Access to ICT infrastructure and basic ICT skills continue as the most common gender and ICT issues identified by all our GEM testers. The digital divide is mostly linked to developing countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America, but it is also an important issue in Central East Europe, considering the low access of traditionally marginalized groups. It is crucial to focus especially on the women  who are disadvantaged by several social factors, such as single mothers, disabled women, older women, women living in rural areas, unemployed women or women from low-income groups, women refugees and women from ethnic minorities.

Despite statements that universal access is a priority in most ICT national policies for the majority of the countries included in the testing, the use of ICT remains difficult because of the low levels of access. Given these limitations, promoting good practice on strategic use of ICTs for women's empowerment and gender equality becomes more critical.