Development that Works
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    This blog highlights effective ideas in the fight against poverty and exclusion, and analyzes the impact of development projects in Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • Opinion Surveys, Text Mining, and Social Media Monitoring for Better Gender Mainstreaming 



    By Tracy Betts

    Photo: Getty images.

    Photo: Getty images.

    Since my early days working in evaluation at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) I was convinced of the value of good data for the formulation of effective development policies and programs. Yet how to use data to ensure the Bank is reaching its overall strategic goals came a bit later.

    The year was 1997. I was team leader for a Bank project aimed at reducing crime and preventing violence in Uruguay. It was the first time a request for such a project was made to the IDB and the topic of “women in development” was already an institutional priority. So as part of preparing this project, we explored the topic of women and violence. To do so, we carried out face-to-face interviews with 545 women to understand the nature and incidence of domestic violence.

    We were stunned to learn that nearly half ( 47.3%) of the women interviewed had suffered some form of domestic violence in the 12 months prior, with nearly 23% of the women reporting that the violence had been “severe.” When we shared these results with the Uruguayan authorities, the then-Minister of the Interior immediately agreed to ensure that the project included the needed funding to raise awareness about the issue, prevent violence against women and expand services to treat those women who had been affected.

    That experience comes back to me as we gear up to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Nov. 25, because, among other things, it illustrates the importance  of gathering accurate data that not only measures the scope of the problem to be solved, but also effectively underscores the urgency of taking action to solve it.

    Back then, we had to rely on specialized consultants to train the interviewers who would then carry-out hundreds of in-person interviews and tabulate the responses in order to analyze the data. And while this type of interviewing is still needed, thanks to technology, today, we have other options for gathering information about the pressing issues in the region. And recently, we did just that to analyze gender mainstreaming.

    In our study Mainstreaming Gender in Latin America and the Caribbean: Mixed-Methods Analysis of Policies, Perceptions, and Social Media, we used the following four tools:

    • Opinion surveys applied in a number of ways to a wide range of individuals throughout the region — government officials, private sector borrowers, civil society, academics , beneficiaries and others, to understand how they perceive gender equality as a development issue;
    • A text algorithm developed in-house, which helped us analyze our own strategic and operational documents, as well as national development plans, for references to gender;
    • A tailored and automated dashboard that compiles gender-related indicators by country; and,
    • A methodology for analyzing social media in order to understand how citizens are talking about gender-related topics.

    The bad news is violence against women continues to plague the region. The good news is, however, that gender issues are a priority. And we now have low-cost instruments to capture relevant and timely data to enhance our ongoing dialogue with our country counterparts, as well as the design of customized development interventions to address these issues.

    As Chief of the Strategy Monitoring Division in the IDB’s Office of Strategic Planning and Development Effectiveness, it is my job, along with a talented team of women and men, to measure and monitor the Bank’s performance in a number of dimensions, but in particular, how effectively it implements its strategic priorities. Having worked in operations, both in the Bank’s headquarters and the field during my 30-year career as a development practitioner, I know that it’s one thing to mandate gender mainstreaming, and it’s quite another thing to actually make sure it happens.

    I’m convinced that the IDB is well positioned to help our borrowing member countries tackle the issues of gender equality, female empowerment, and violence against women. The key is to keep listening, leveraging our analytics, drawing on the impressive technical expertise and experience in the region, and – last but by no means least – continuing to integrate a gender perspective into everything that the IDB does. Without it, we will be unlikely to succeed and fully achieve the IDB’s mandate to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.

    But we can and should go way beyond gender: given the multidimensional nature of development, there are numerous opportunities to leverage these tools to tackle other key cross-cutting issues such as climate change, institution-building and the rule of law, among others. Through these tools, we can better identify today’s pressing development issues facing Latin America and the Caribbean by analyzing and connecting the myriad of data points to produce more manageable and useful information. We are inspired by the endless possibilities this work presents and hope you are too.

    The study, “Mainstreaming Gender in Latin America and the Caribbean: Mixed-Methods Analysis of Policies, Perceptions, and Social Media,” is available for download here.

    About the author:

    Tracy Betts is the Chief of the Monitoring Division of the IDB’s Office of Strategic Planning and Development Effectiveness.

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