Recommendations for integrating gender at NIPN implementation
To provide a profound foundation for GTA in NIPN, the project team should ensure gender equality and raise awareness on gender inequalities and bias throughout the process. The working environment should have measures in place to ensure the prevention of discrimination, whether in relation to financial or other benefits, career opportunities or access to training and strengthening skills and knowledge. Mitigation and prevention measures must be established for any form of abuse of authority or power and harassment, and safe channels must be available at any time to report incidents.
The recruitment of the NIPN staff, while complying with standard recruitment processes, should ensure gender parity with equal opportunities for women and men to access positions of responsibility. Although it is not mandatory to have an equal share of women and men, ensuring that there is an optimal number of female staff would benefit interactions with communities and stakeholders, as well as setting a positive example.
Having a balanced gender ratio in a team will facilitate the exchange of views, increase the diversity of opinions and perspectives that might otherwise be biased.
Although in most countries, NIPN has already been set up, adding a representative of the gender or women’s affairs Ministry (if it exists) or a women’s organisation to the Multisectoral Advisory Committee (MAC) could help bring a gender focus to committee recommendations. Including gender in the internal NIPN Capacity Development Plan will further strengthen NIPN teams’ knowledge and skills, strengthening the application of GTA.
The NIPN workplan, objectives and activities should be designed with gender sensitivity, contributing to gender transformation. Gender-sensitive and responsive approaches should be advocated in meetings and other forums when discussing the creation of outputs, such as data collection and analysis, policy advice and communication. Whenever NIPN is organising events or meetings to formulate policy questions (PQF - see Fig 2 below), gender experts and representatives of relevant ministries and organisations should be invited. If possible, also include gender-relevant topics on the agenda, representing various perspectives through diverse speakers.
Finally, the Gender continuum (Fig. 1 see previous chapter) should be considered at all stages of NIPN’s specific activities and outputs, from planning and design to implementation, as well as monitoring and evaluation. The following sections present options and opportunities to apply Gender sensitive and responsive actions in NIPN core activities.
The NIPN project is committed to gender transformative approaches and should apply a methodological approach to integrate gender dimension throughout the policy questions formulation process. This will also stimulate the broader national multisector and multistakeholder policy dialogue in relation to the National Action Plans for Nutrition (NAPN).
Planning and implementing the PQF process should involve consultations with relevant representatives of women’s organisations and civil society. The question formulation process can be broken down into four steps:
1. identifying nutrition policy demand and initial questions, in order to ensure alignment with the national decision-making priorities and calendar;
2. formulating policy-relevant questions;
3. refining questions to be answered with available data and capacity, to ensure technical feasibility;
4. finalising and validating questions, to ensure that all previous criteria are being met.
1) Identifying nutrition policy demand and initial questions, in order to ensure alignment with the national decision-making priorities and calendar.
This step usually involves a mapping of key strategic opportunities to influence policy, programming and investment decisions. It may include policy mapping, in which case existing and relevant gender policies (or lack thereof) should also be covered. As this step has been already conducted in most NIPN countries, an additional review of gender-related policies (in addition to policies of sectors that might not have been covered before) could be conducted by NIPN, leading to an update of the previous policy mapping. Additional information about the availability or lack of policies with regards to gender equity could be also presented for broader discussion in the country.
2) Formulating policy-relevant questions.
The development of a first list of questions is followed by a consultative process including workshops. These could be an opportunity to ensure that gender sensitivity and responsive approaches are integrated at the stage of question formulation. Including civil society (CSO), women organisations, relevant government ministries and gender experts from UN Agencies (UN Women, UNICEF, WHO, WFP, FAO, UNDP etc.) might also contribute to integrate gender views. At sub-national level, inputs from local branches can also be valuable to be considered in discussions at national level.
Working groups or workstreams to explore gender-relevant policy needs and gaps to propose specific questions may be considered. More importantly, each question selected should be assessed in terms of its potential gender inclusion. Question formulation also provides an opportunity to collect and analyse relevant evidence and identify gaps in data availability and ways to collect the missing information.
3) Refining questions according to available data and capacity, to ensure technical feasibility.
The third step of the PQF process identifies the data and capacities required to answer the prioritized question, as well as exploring the processes and opportunities or bottlenecks to gathering the data.
In this step, a specific gender-sensitive question should be formulated identifying data sources outside the usual management information systems used by food and nutrition security professionals will provide richer information to decision makers and data analysts.
The question analysis framework, as set out in the technical guidelines for the PQF process, should be applied according to the following criteria:
• the availability and accessibility of data, its source and quality, noting data gaps (and gender relevance or additional gender-related data for the particular question);
• the analysis methods to be used and the estimated time to conduct the analysis (including specific gender-sensitive methods required and which could enable the analysis of additional gender data or analysis of other data with a focus on gender implications);
• the required tools and software;
• the required human resources and capacities (including specific gender-related constraints, needs and opportunities to add specific gender capacities and resources).
4) Finalising and validating questions, to ensure that all previous criteria are being met
Formulating policy questions with gender inclusion will ensure that the selected policy questions meet an additional fifth condition, namely that they:
1. respond to a relevant policy need or decision maker’s interest;
2. can be answered using existing quantitative data and available capacity;
3. provide timely output for policy use or decision-making;
4. provide answers that lead to actionable recommendations and decisions, and
5. ensure that specific gender-based considerations are included.
The final set of selected policy questions should include at least one gender-focused question and ensure that the rest of the questions have been assessed with a gender lens. A formal agreement about the final list of priority policy questions by the Multisectoral Advisory Committee (MAC) should support the above process for data collection and analysis applying GTA. MAC should systematically explore relevant gender issues in all meetings, raising the significance of gender aspects for food and nutrition security and increasing awareness about these issues within the committee.
When gender data gaps persist, it is difficult to monitor the gender-based inequalities that affect women and girls as well as progress in these areas. These gaps will persist unless gender is mainstreamed into international statistical strategies and gender data collection and analysis are prioritised.
Our ability to monitor actions from a gender equality perspective is constrained by three main challenges:
1. irregular and limited coverage of gender-specific indicators;
2. women and girls experience multiple and intersecting inequalities, which are difficult to measure;
3. the available and quality of data across countries is very variable.
There are two broad or systematic ways to analyse data with a gender lens:
1. Disaggregation of data: Analyse differences according to sex (and preferably age too). Disaggregated output and outcome indicators by sex such as the number/percentage of malnourished/admissions of children in nutrition programs by sex provide a big picture overview of which gender is more affected by a circumstance.
This approach can be applied more systematically and is quite generalised in data collection and analysis tools. It does not, however, offer reasons for such differences in a given population or group.
Fig 3: Global underweight trends by sex between 2000 and 2015. Source: Global Nutrition Report
2. Including a gender perspective in the data management and study design process: Ensuring that NIPN policy questions include a gender perspective will enable further analysis. For instance, more information can be captured on the linkages between gender and nutrition outcomes (for example, prioritising question on how the household decision-making processes influences nutrition outcomes).
However, this approach can be more challenging due to the following reasons:
a) according to Kabeer10: ‘gender issues’ cover three dimensions: resources (material, human and institutional), agency (decision-making process) and achievements (well-being outcome), each measured by several, non-standardised, quantitative indicators; and
b) there are complex and multiple gender-related issues affecting or favouring undernutrition and other forms of malnutrition and these are often very context-specific.
Considering these factors, measuring gender issues solely with quantitative indicators can be challenging. It is therefore crucial to include and integrate qualitative information (including feedback loops) in the data analysis to capture a more holistic overview of gender issues in a given context. A good example of the power of qualitative methods in analysing gender-based needs is available11 12.
GTA and Data Management
Most NIPN platforms have conducted a nutrition data mapping exercise. To better anchor GTA, NIPN countries might review whether this exercise took account of gender-related indicators and whether datasets can provide information that describe gender inequalities as well as disaggregation of the data.
“Data 2X” is an initiative13 to “make gender data central to global efforts to achieve gender equality”. The initiative has conducted an analysis of data gaps on gender relevant indicators for most of the NIPN countries looking at national and international datasets. It identified a list of 104 ‘gender-relevant indicators’14 (combining those of UN Women and the SDGs). The indicators are mainly related to the health, economy and education domains. Although some may not be applicable for a NIPN analysis, the list offers a useful view of gender issues in a particular context.
According to the Data 2X studies, more work is needed to obtain data on gender-based needs, constrains and inequities. Interestingly, there is more gender-relevant information on the health sector than elsewhere due to specific issues affecting women such as pregnancy, anaemia and menstruation. Health data is thus better informed and more systematically disaggregated by sex and age.
The EU-Rome-based agencies’ joint Programme on Gender Transformative Approaches for Food Security and Nutrition (JP GTA) has developed guidance on how to formulate indicators to measure changes in gendered social norms in the context of food security and nutrition15. However, there is no standard or validated set of social norms indicators, and there is a general lack of clear and practical guidance or examples of social norms indicators for these sectors.
NIPN platforms should evaluate and identify if gender-related information and indicators are available at national and sub-national level. Did the NIPN data mapping exercise look at the common gender-relevant indicators listed by Data2X? What indicators are endorsed by your country government to measure progress in gender inequalities? Are there any gaps? Can NIPN platforms complete the data analysis including gender-relevant information and data?
NIPN teams are recommended to describe, analyse and communicate the gaps in gender data (missing indicators or inability to disaggregate by sex) to inform decision makers.
Fig 4: Availability of data (104 gender relevant indicators) in 15 Sub-Saharan African Countries. Copied from Data2X, Africa report16.
10 Kabeer, N. (1999). "Resources, Agency, Achievements: Reflections on the Measurement of Women’s Empowerment." Development and Change 30(3): 435-464.
11 Muraya, K. W., C. Jones, J. A. Berkley and S. Molyneux (2017). "“If it’s issues to do with nutrition…I can decide…”: gendered decision-making in joining community-based child nutrition interventions within rural coastal Kenya." Health Policy and Planning 32(suppl_5): v31-v39
12 Action Against Hunger: https://linknca.org/etudes.htm
13 Data 2X initiative: https://data2x.org/what-we-do/
14 “Bridging the Gap:Mapping Gender Data Availability in Africa” TECHNICAL REPORT. MARCH 2019. DATA2X. Link: https://data2x.org/resource-center/bridging-the-gap-mapping-gender-data-availability-in-africa/
16 Bridging-the-Gap-Technical-Report-Web-Ready.pdf (data2x.org)
NIPN, as an information management platform, can be used to give a voice to the most marginalised groups, disseminating information in a way that promotes their interests, for example gender equality. NIPN can thus serve to influence, capturing, consolidating and analysing existing data, identifying gaps on gender issues and highlighting relevant messages.
Civil society can use this window for communities to express gender discrepancies in data collection and analysis, as well as in the implementation of actions and policies. Raising the voices of women and girls will highlight the gender-specific needs to be captured in data collection and dissemination. However, gender-based discrimination affects all sexes, so it’s important not to assume that it only affects women. The ‘do no harm’ principle is key and must be considered throughout the process.
Communicating data should show evidence of gender inequalities or of the need for targeted interventions to avoid stigma or discrimination of targeted groups.
NIPN platforms should strive to communicate findings in a way that convinces audiences about the realities of gender inequality with regard to nutrition, keeping in mind that the potential benefits of gender-transformative changes affect society as a whole.
Data is a powerful tool to show that gender inequality is a real and ongoing issue.
NIPN’s goal with respect to gender-inclusive data communication is to select language and methods that can promote gender equality in NIPN’s written and audio-visual communications, as well as orally when meeting authorities or counterparts.
Language reflects attitude in communication.
Word choice has a key role to play in achieving greater gender equality. The language should not infantilise women (e.g., by talking about girls instead of women), identify them by their role (mother/wife instead of woman) or assume that certain roles or jobs are performed by one gender (e.g., referring to policeman rather than police officer). In communication about nutrition, messages are often directed at ‘mothers’ rather than families, assuming that it is the mother who cares for the babies.
Ensuring fair visibility for men and women serves to eliminate the use of inaccurate representations and stereotypes, providing equitable visibility through diversity of experience and including different perspectives of women and men who face gender stereotypes in the same field of expertise. The same happens when vulnerabilities are identified: women and girls are labelled as vulnerable by default, without analysis as to whether men in that community may also be vulnerable, or whether women or girls are not. Messages should be carefully examined based on the following rules:
• Ensure that both women and men are represented: all sexes have equal responsibilities in eliminating or reducing gender inequalities and harmful gender stereotypes, especially in thematic areas such as nutrition.
One action that contributes to promoting women’s empowerment is to promote gender parity in the panels and moderation of meetings, conferences and workshops, taking into account the needs, exposure and experiences of women and men.
Avoid exclusionary forms and favour the use of equal forms: Word choice when writing a report or document to share with the public is a powerful tool for neutralising or perpetuating gender stereotypes and can prevent or reinforce assumptions about values, functions, roles and capabilities. : ‘Forms such as “he or she” when referring to a specific profession or a role may perpetuate gender stereotypes. In English, ‘they/them’ can often be used to avoid specific gender pronouns (see also page 18)’. The use of plural pronouns is then recommended, or even the use of pronouns by rephrasing the sentence to make it passive.
Another situation in which language reproduces gender biases occurs when it is addressed to men or women. Women are usually referred to by their marital or family status, or whether they are a mother or not (wife of, daughter of, sister of, mother of). This way of addressing women creates an imbalance and is disrespectful by eliminating the women as subjects but linked to a man (husband, father….). It is more appropriate to use the universally adopted form of “Ms.”
The use of stereotypes related to traits, behaviours, activities and appearances, as well as emotional characteristics of women and men (e.g., men are aggressive, women are more emotional) must be avoided.
These small steps, taken in all NIPN communications, can help change perceptions of gender stereotypes and roles.
The same applies to visual communication: Stereotypes can be revealed in the selection of colours (blue for men, pink for women) and graphic representation (women with children in their arms, men in office clothes). The selection of neutral colours such as orange, green or yellow contributes to the communication not being identified and directed to a single sector of society.
The aim of including GTA in NIPN projects is to reduce or eliminate gender inequalities that affect women’s and girls’ food and nutrition security. The broader achievement will be that gender-sensitive nutrition policies will be part of the NPAN.
Structural changes, both at the institutional and societal level, require the revision of processes that exclude the rights of girls and women.
Both governments and donors should be willing to allocate resources, not only in the policy implementation phase, but also for data collection and analysis, including the design of gender-sensitive surveys and tools.
NIPN platforms and the C4N-NIPN Global Coordination can be catalysts to the scaling up of GTAs. Part of this role is to support better understanding of what works and why, and how to seize every opportunity to make changes in gender perception, roles and inequalities.