On Thursday, October 25, 2018, Dr. Patricia Morris gave a talk on the day in the life of a gender specialist during Fem Sem. Dr. Pat Morris is known internationally as a leader in women’s empowerment and development and is a gender-mainstreaming expert with a career spanning more than 20 years. Her work has taken her to Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America. It was truly a pleasure to learn from an expert about the everyday work that gender specialists do to make our world a better place.
Dr. Pat Morris began her presentation by describing how gender specialists do gender mainstreaming. She noted how the UN defines gender mainstreaming as “the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies, or programs, in any area and at all levels”. Gender mainstreaming is a strategy for making the concerns and experiences of women as well as men an integral part of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programs. This work is essential in all political economies and societal spheres so that women and men benefit equally. The ultimate goal of gender mainstreaming is of course, gender equality.
To do gender mainstreaming, Dr. Pat Morris stressed that one must do gender analysis. She described gender analysis as an organized approach for considering gender issues in the entire process of programming or organizational development. The purpose of gender analysis is to ensure that international development projects and programs fully incorporate the roles, needs, and participation of women and men.
Dr. Pat Morris also highlighted the different types of gender analysis during her presentation. These include gender assessment, gender evaluation, and gender auditing. Gender assessment is done before a project begins whereas gender evaluations is done after the project has been completed. A gender audit is conducted during project implementation and assesses the internal and institutional context in which a program operates. It also evaluates gender integration as it relates to policies, staff capacity, tools, training and resources, organizational culture and workplace issues. Gender auditing is conducted via desk reviews, questionnaires, interviews and focus groups with staff. Ideally, a gender audit would be carried out by a consultant who would make recommendations about how to better mainstream gender within organizations and among staff as well as in the design, implementation, and monitoring stages of gender mainstreaming.
To end her presentation, Dr. Pat Morris described her work as a gender specialist in Afghanistan where she was conducting a mid-term evaluation of a women’s leadership development project. The day’s tasks consisted of several obligations. First, Dr. Pat Morris was involved in a kick-off meeting with her evaluation team. As a collective they reviewed their sampling approach as well as identified and created a list of key informants. Second, Dr. Pat Morris met with a donor to discuss the expectations of the project, evaluation approach, timeline and agreed-upon deliverables. Third, Morris met with an implementing partner for more information on the project background and to collect project documentation. Throughout the day in Afghanistan, Morris reviewed evaluation tools by looking at telephone surveys, desk review guidelines, key informant interview protocols, and focus group discussion protocols. Finally, Dr. Pat Morris ended the day by preparing a timeline and schedule for inclusion in an evaluation work plan.
The key takeaway of Dr. Patricia Morris’ presentation was that the work that gender specialists do is complex and requires time, patience, and dedication from individuals who are committed to gender equality. Morris ended her presentation by reminding us that not every project ends well. In fact, some gender projects are very successful in some areas, and unsuccessful in others. Although it is difficult to gauge whether a project will be successful in a particular region, gender specialists are committed to work they do and must carry out a project to its completion. We all have something to learn from gender specialists. Learning from a gender specialist as brilliant as Dr. Patricia Morris was truly an honor and the graduate students at FemSem were very happy to have her.
Ruby Bafu is a first-year doctoral student in Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying race, gender, and inequality in education for young, Black girls.