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International Development Research Centre Centre de recherches pour le dĂŠveloppement international

Solutions for gender equality


The world needs evidence-based solutions to achieve gender equality. Innovative research is essential to finding and developing solutions that will overcome the longstanding and systemic barriers to equality.

International Development Research Centre PO Box 8500, Ottawa, ON Canada K1G 3H9 Tel: (+1) 613-236-6163 idrc.ca | info@idrc.ca Š 2019 International Development Research Centre

COVER: UN/RYAN BROWN

Part of Canada’s foreign affairs and development efforts, IDRC invests in knowledge, innovation, and solutions to improve the lives of people in the developing world. Bringing together the right partners around opportunities for impact, IDRC supports leaders for today and tomorrow and helps drive change for those who need it most.


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RESEARCH FOR EQUALITY THE POWER OF MOVEMENTS

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Collective action to achieve gender equality Supporting women-led efforts for equality From small community groups to public policy STRUCTURAL POWER

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Data for gender equality Collecting and sharing accurate femicide data Counting births, deaths, marriages, and divorces Using data to shape better healthcare

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Power, gender equality, and global changes Resilience, rights, and gender equality Acknowledging women’s role in farming Food security in kenya

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Gender-based violence at work, in public, and online Safer workplaces in South Asia Safer streets and transit in Pakistan Protecting privacy online THE INDIVIDUAL’S POWER

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Women in research and academia Support for early career women scientists Providing data on women researchers and scientists to inform policy Building visibility for women researchers


RESEARCH FOR EQUALITY

IDRC-funded solutions to address gender power imbalances The world needs evidence-based solutions to achieve gender equality. Innovative research is essential to finding and developing solutions that will overcome the longstanding and systemic barriers to equality that are standing in the way of half the world’s population — barriers that are particularly detrimental to poor women and girls in developing countries. Unequal access to education, income, healthcare, justice, and opportunities prevent these women and girls from assuming positions of influence in their households, communities, workplaces, and countries.

Evidence-based ideas for real results The International Development Research Centre (IDRC), a federal Crown corporation, supports the Government of Canada’s international assistance efforts by investing in research and researchers to address critical development challenges in low and middle-income countries. IDRC is committed to shaping important discussions about gender equality, including the conversations at the Women Deliver conference in Vancouver from June 3–6, 2019.

Solutions for gender equality In the months leading up to Women Deliver, IDRC convened a speaker series called Solutions for Gender Equality. We asked some of our research partners from around the world to explore distinct but interconnected themes and solutions related to power at the individual, structural, and collective levels. The events generated rich conversations around the themes of glass ceilings for women in science and research, global environmental changes, gender data gaps, gender-based violence, and collective action.

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The challenges and innovative solutions they brought forward are captured in this publication. After all, we believe in the power of evidence to propel societies toward achieving gender equality. We also believe that dialogue about solutions should be grounded in local realities and led by local stakeholders, particularly women and youth.

Towards power, progress, and change This publication shines a light on an important group — women in developing countries — whose voices are not always heard. They have long faced formidable hurdles to self-determination and fulfillment because of their under-representation in decision-making. Research can illuminate a path toward a world where all people have equal opportunities, rights, and access to services. With evidence that offers solutions, insights, and lessons about the structural reforms that will be necessary to achieve gender equality, we can chart a course of action that is positioned for success. The research-based solutions in the following pages demonstrate IDRC’s commitment to generating evidence to support the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy. IDRC is also focused on working with our research partners to bolster national and regional commitments, which are essential building blocks for achieving gender equality on a global scale. The Women Deliver 2019 theme of power and its scope to drive or hinder progress and change reminds us that power dynamics are at the core of our collective mission to achieve gender equality. It is equally important to recognize the power and responsibility that all of us have to continue driving the structural change needed to achieve gender equality in our countries, sectors, and communities. Only then can we help ensure that no one, now or in future generations, is left behind.


KINAL ANTZETIK DISTRITO FEDERAL/SARAI FABIÁN

THE POWER OF MOVEMENTS

Collective action to achieve gender equality Women worldwide are harnessing their collective power to address inequalities. IDRC-supported research in India and Mexico highlights how the power of collective action can successfully overcome the negative effects of patriarchal and gender norms.

Putting women in the lead Mahila Samakhya’s success was in providing training to village women to facilitate discussions with other women in remote villages about the issues that matter to them. They might discuss food rations that were late in arriving, the need for better toilets in a community, or safe schools for young women. These opportunities allow women to challenge current social norms and break gender stereotypes.

Garnering local support

Supporting women-led efforts for equality In India, the Mahila Samakhya program (which translates to “equal rights of women”) is an important example of a successful women’s empowerment effort. Founded in 1989, it has helped more than 1.2 million women across 42,000 villages and 11 Indian states. Its success led the Centre for Budget and Policy Studies in Bangalore to evaluate the program over three years, with support from Growth and Economic Opportunities for Women, an initiative funded by IDRC, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Here is what they found.

The Mahila Samakhya evaluation found that women’s empowerment initiatives must be locally grounded and supported. Upon entering a community, the program needed the support of the local men and the local administration to form a strong women’s group. “Women need to have the space to articulate what it is that they want before we start engaging, and when we start actually doing this gender equality work, there is no escaping men,” said Niveditha Menon, senior research advisor, Centre for Budget and Policy Studies.

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DFID/PIPPA RANGER

Prioritizing process over targets Giving women the space and time to determine the means and goals of their journey to empowerment is essential. This approach was central to Mahila Samakhya, which recognized that there is no limit to what women can achieve. The evaluation found that programs following this path are more likely to be successful and sustainable. “The program did not have any targets to meet. It did not have any predetermined outcomes. Women’s sense of their lives and their belief systems were paramount in deciding what would occur.” Niveditha Menon, senior research advisor, Centre for Budget and Policy Studies

Sustaining action Researchers conducting the evaluation found that longstanding women’s collectives can shift household dynamics and give women bargaining power. This is probably linked to women’s increasing visibility and

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acceptance in their community. In addition, the daughters of women who participate in the collectives have better health and education than their peers. What’s more, many of the Mahila Samakhya collectives formed women’s federations at regional levels. The federations created unique institutions such as literacy schools for girls and a women’s court that helped women deal with the judicial system when they were victims of violence or theft. Advocating for government support The Centre for Budget and Policy Studies was working on its evaluation of Mahila Samakhya when the newly elected national government announced plans to shut the program down. The Centre advocated for continued state funding and offered evidence of the program’s scope, value, and impact. It succeeded in getting several Indian states to agree to fund the program at the regional level.


From small community groups to public policy Indigenous women and other vulnerable groups in Mexico’s southern states are at a higher risk of maternal mortality and domestic violence. They also have poorer access to healthcare and legal services.

Institutionalizing initiatives Community projects can benefit from the security of fixed funding and the status of a government program when they become part of government policy. The women’s houses in Mexico obtained program status in 2012 and are now recognized nationally and globally as a successful strategy to strengthen the rights of Indigenous women.

Health promoters and midwives in four of Mexico’s southern states formed community organizations and ran Indigenous women’s houses to change this. IDRC funded an evaluation to see how this project and others like it have influenced public health policy and improved Indigenous women’s health.

“How can we guarantee the continuity of our initiatives? By institutionalizing some of them as a part of public policy to Indigenous people.” Lina Rosa Berrio Palomo, research professor, Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social

Focusing on prevention and empowerment The program has operated in some of the country’s poorest regions since 2004. There are now 30 women’s houses that offer a variety of front-line health services such as birth control, information on family planning, health prevention campaigns, prenatal care, traditional ways of attending births, and midwifery. Actions against violence include public education campaigns, legal counselling, emotional support, and case documentation.

Creating safe spaces for women Many of the shifts that have institutionalized Indigenous women’s rights in Mexico’s health policy got their start in these village-level groups, which offer safe spaces for women to exercise their rights and access services. This strategy allows women to become agents of change and enables their own development. “The work originates in small groups of Indigenous women in their communities talking about empowerment, about economic development, about health, about many different topics,” explained Lina Rosa Berrio Palomo, research professor, Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social.

STRUCTURAL POWER

Data for gender equality IDRC supports research to make women, girls, and their needs more visible in data collected worldwide. This research aims to break down barriers that prevent women and girls from reaching their full potential and achieving equality. Data that represents both women and men can provide the evidence needed to re-think, re-shape, and address structural inequities, including discriminatory laws, practices, and social norms. This chapter highlights three IDRCfunded solutions that provide hope for the future.

Collecting and sharing accurate femicide data More than 18 countries across Latin America have introduced laws to prohibit femicide (killing women and girls based on their gender). In other parts of the world, governments address these murders through policies and laws on female infanticide, so-called honour killings, and dowry murders.

Combining evidence, action, and advocacy

Data collection

The women’s houses in Mexico use knowledge to influence public policy and help agencies adopt a holistic approach to providing services to Indigenous women. Outcomes include public funding for Indigenous language translators and a growing legitimization of Indigenous midwives.

The way governments and institutions collect data on these murders can make a huge difference in understanding the extent of femicide and finding ways to stop it. “We need simple and clear protocols to understand what we are counting and when we are counting it. Because you have the judiciary, the security forces, the executive power, and we need to be clear about who is the owner, who is going to take responsibility,” noted Silvana Fumega, research and policy director, Latin American Institute for Open Data (ILDA). I N T E R N AT I O N A L D E V E L O P M E N T R E S E A R C H C E N T R E

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Coherent data systems While there is a thirst for accurate data on femicide in Latin America, the official registration system is not yet complete and up-to-date. Coherent data systems with official statistics are needed. Right now, the ownership of data is fragmented, leading to challenges in generating and using data for evidence-based policymaking. “Civil society organizations, even individuals, are stepping in to fill the gap. In Mexico, there’s one single woman that has the most up-to-date database on femicide. She goes by the name Princesa, which is princess in English.” Silvana Fumega, research and policy director, Latin American Institute for Open Data

Journalists turn to Princesa’s data sets to write articles. Legislatures looking to pass laws to reduce violence use her maps to pinpoint cases reported in the media. But these stop-gap measures will not match the power of official statistics once they are available.

Counting births, deaths, marriages, and divorces Civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) systems collect data on births, deaths, marriages, and divorce. They also include information on cause of death, such as femicide. Proof of legal identity, which is based on a birth certificate, can influence the access that girls and women have to health services, education, banking, and voter registration. It can also provide women with the means to claim property rights and inheritances.

Identifying barriers and gaps The Centre of Excellence for Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Systems, in partnership with Open Data Watch, created a series of knowledge briefs (https://crvssystems.ca/knowledge-briefs-gender-andcrvs) that identify data barriers, gaps, and opportunities to help governments in developing countries count women and girls and address their unique needs.

“To get to gender equality, we need data equality.”

Standardization of data It is also important to standardize the data collected on femicides to give it validity. Using standard definitions across jurisdictions is one way to do so. Collecting comparable data on perpetrators and the locations of the killings gives visibility to the crimes. It also provides accurate information to allow policymakers to find ways to prevent similar deaths.

Safeguards to protect women Safeguards are also necessary. For example, publishing data about safe houses could expose women fleeing violence to retribution if the data is not properly anonymized. “You need to be careful about safety and about privacy. Because open is not the opposite of private. It’s a complement, and you need safety protocols,” said Fumega. Officials also need to consider transgender women, who may be missing from femicide statistics because they are unable to obtain identification as a woman or to opt for a gender choice other than male or female.

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Shaida Badiee, managing director, Open Data Watch

Collecting data The information a country chooses to measure affects what it can learn about its population and the issues it faces. Data gaps that hide women and girls from plain view can be bridged with adequate funding and a commitment to the SDGs, which provide a framework to support national data gathering. “Data, data collection, and data interpretation and use are not neutral. Does a country’s data collection form allow women to be listed as heads of households? Does it collect data on ovarian and cervical cancer rates? What about teen pregnancy and the resulting births?,” asserted Shaida Badiee, managing director, Open Data Watch. Making data available Once data is collected, it must be shared with other organizations, governments, and people. How people process, analyze, and disseminate data must increase its value by making it accessible and relevant. That way, the data can have an impact on public policy.


BANGLADESH: ICDDR,B

Data must also be available to the people who are its source. In one example recounted by Shaida Badiee, data on unpaid house and care work was shared with the community that participated in the survey. People saw how much more time girls were spending on this type of work compared to boys and they discussed the effects of this work on their studies, participation in sports, and social life. This openness of data can ensure greater impact because it can be applied toward achieving gender equality.

Using data to shape better healthcare Gender equal data also requires a complete picture of the services that women and girls need. Bangladesh provides an important case study in using data to manage the health services available to marginalized women and girls in urban areas. Data on where women seek healthcare With 35% of people in Bangladesh living in urban areas, the national health system, designed for a rural nation, is struggling to deliver equitable services to all regions. Maternal, child, and adolescent girl health suffers, as millions of women and girls have migrated to work in textile and garment factories. “By the time the urban poor come back from work, all the government primary health facilities are closed, so they

end up going to the informal sector,” explained Sohana Shafique, lead researcher, International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b). Urban women turn to pharmacies or to health centres run by non-profits and private owners that offer few services and have limited ability to refer patients to more specialized levels of care. These facilities operate outside of the health information systems.

Better planning for services offered With support from IDRC, icddr,b developed the Urban Health Atlas, which provides geo-referenced data on the services offered to women and girls in major cities in Bangladesh. This interactive online tool aims to provide health managers with the data they need to redistribute services, particularly in the vital area of maternal and child health. It is an important step toward universal health coverage that helps the country improve health services planning, referrals, and oversight in urban Bangladesh. “To achieve universal health coverage, we need a complete picture (of all who are seeking care).” Sohana Shafique, lead researcher, International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b)

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IDRC/BARTAY

STRUCTURAL POWER

Power, gender equality, and global changes The world faces sweeping global changes, with socioeconomic and environmental shifts affecting some of our most vulnerable regions. There is an urgent need to accelerate effective climate adaptation and improve food security, and to do so in a way that is truly representative, equitable, and inclusive of the most marginalized people. Yet many groups, particularly women, girls, and Indigenous peoples, suffer disproportionately from climate stresses, food insecurity, and related challenges. IDRC funds research that addresses these problems by building resilience, boosting social equity, and providing evidence to challenge the powers-that-be.

Resilience, rights, and gender equality In the semi-arid regions of Kenya, drought affects the livestock that women and men rely on.

Understanding the effects of climate change on women Livestock keepers have two choices when the usual water sources dry up: the men, who are the deemed owners of livestock, can water their cattle in the village, a decision that puts women last in line to collect their household water, or they can move cattle from the village in search of water. The problem with the latter option is that women can no longer milk the animals every day and sell the milk for family income. This has ripple effects and forces women to find other livelihoods. “[Gender relations span multiple] situations, from the family, as a very basic institution of the household, to community levels, to the markets and how markets function, and of course to the state and state policy.� Nitya Rao, professor of gender and development, University of East Anglia, U.K. and researcher with Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions

Education levels are very low for both women and men farmers, so when they are forced to find other work, only certain types of jobs are available to them. Research carried out by the Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions

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(ASSAR) consortium identified cleaning, laundry, and other domestic work as safe possibilities for women. Sex trade work carries much higher risks. ASSAR research is funded by the Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia (CARIAA), a partnership between IDRC and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development. ASSAR found that women are diversifying their livelihoods and sometimes suffering for it. They lack childcare, healthcare, and education about protecting their sexual or reproductive health. These issues are known offshoots of the climate-generated disaster of drought. “The state is also very blind to these kinds of power inequalities. So, how do we confront this structural disadvantage, make more decent work, have regulations that provide or ensure that work is protected, [and] work is decent?,” said Nitya Rao, professor of gender and development, University of East Anglia, U.K. and researcher with ASSAR.

Creative approaches to adaptation The consortium’s work aims to generate lasting change by giving everyone, women included, an opportunity to contribute to the climate change debate. This method of bringing climate adaptation to communities is all about involving people. Untangling the tension and interplay between climate, gender, social equity, and power sometimes requires a more creative approach. In Cape Town, South Africa, ASSAR applied the dramatic technique known as “Theatre of the Oppressed” to challenge top-down approaches to climate change. This creative solution offers a supportive environment where people from diverse backgrounds come together to experience, understand, and challenge unjust realities. In a township rife with poverty and violence, the technique led women to reject the proposal from a large development bank to simply re-roof homes as a blanket solution to overheating; instead, the women called for consultations with community stakeholders, in the interest of pursuing effective, appropriate, locally-relevant climate action. “Resilience is something that traditionally has been very much about physical hazards, but little by little, it’s becoming more about rights, entitlement, and gender equality.” Daniel Morchain, International Institute for Sustainable Development and researcher with ASSAR

Acknowledging women’s role in farming In Nepal, researchers at another CARIAA consortium, Himalayan Adaptation, Water and Resilience (HI-AWARE), examined ways to help poor and vulnerable women, men, and children adapt and manage their response to climate change. The project took place in the river basins of three major glacier and snow-fed rivers draining in the Himalayan regions of Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. Identifying the challenges for women Nepal’s rural regions are feeling the impact of climate change. More than 85% of residents surveyed by HI-AWARE say they perceived changes to agriculture due to climate change. Men often adapt by relocating within Nepal or migrating internationally in search of reliable living wages. Women often remain on the land. The effects of men’s migration on women-headed households are complex and serious. According to migration specialist and researcher Amina Maharjan, this means that the “heart and head of the home” is all on women. She notes that programs such as Nepal’s agricultural extension service, which aims to boost agricultural productivity, increase food security, and improve rural livelihoods through farmer education, are failing to adapt to the reality of women as farmers. “You keep adding to the burden, but then you have no support for the women to take it on. When women migrate, that’s when land abandonment happens,” remarked Maharjan, a migration specialist with the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development and researcher at HI-AWARE. Targeting women to address power imbalances Community researchers also trained Nepalese women to grow off-season vegetables in an urban area. The project was successful because the women’s work soon generated household income. However, that brought its own genderrelated challenges. The moment the scale of income increased, the husbands started coming to the meetings to participate in the project instead of their wives. The project team had to insist on training the women. “We had to say, ‘No, we only train the [women] members, and not members’ spouses or children.’ We had to take a stand.” Amina Maharjan, migration specialist, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, and researcher at HI-AWARE

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Food security in Kenya

STRUCTURAL POWER

Women constitute 75% of Kenya’s agricultural labour force, but gender inequalities often undermine their productivity and nutritional well-being. Women have unequal access to and control over land, agricultural technologies, markets, job opportunities, and climate information.

Gender-based violence at work, in public, and online

A 30-month IDRC-funded project led by CARE USA aimed to produce evidence on how changes in power relations between genders can affect a household’s food security.

Addressing gender power imbalances for food security Whereas development approaches often focus on improving women’s market literacy and offering them access to credit, this research team has been encouraging the use of approaches to address structural and systemic issues around gender and power. The project brought women and men together from almost 500 households in Kinangop, 100 km north of Nairobi, for gender dialogues on issues such as agriculture, climate impacts, and food security. They discussed factors that limit women’s mobility and their access to markets, political participation, and gender-based violence. “We take men and women through reflection spaces, through gender dialogues, using specific tools, where they reflect upon the social norms.” Maureen Kemunto Miruka, CARE USA

After one year, the team saw significant changes in men’s sharing and caregiving workload. An important goal is for men to see women’s empowerment not as a threat to their masculinity, but rather as a benefit to the household. “What we hope to see at the end of three years is more systemic changes, such as men allocating the productive pieces of land to their wives and spouses, and really considering women as partners,” said Maureen Kemunto Miruka, CARE USA.

Each day, women worldwide are at risk of gender-based violence. Women in developing countries face a constant threat of harassment or violence in the workplace, in public spaces, and online. IDRC supports research for solutions that will address this problem through lasting changes. Here are three examples of research to improve the lives of women and girls.

Safer workplaces in South Asia Women working in South Asia’s thriving garment industry face many forms of violence on the shop floor. While governments welcome multinational companies that hire women, these same governments do not ensure their laws to protect women from workplace sexual exploitation are sufficiently enforced. Evidence-informed solutions An IDRC-supported research consortium is gathering evidence and testing responses to put an end to workplace harassment and gender violence at garment factories in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, and Indonesia. Their recommendations include encouraging those South Asian governments that attract multinational investors to provide safe housing, ensure streets are well-lit, and implement complaint committees to curtail gender-based violence. “When women start perceiving themselves as rights-bearing citizens and rights-bearing persons, it really has an impact on how they deal with violence across various spaces.” Rakhi Sehgal, IDRC-supported labour researcher and activist

Providing safe conditions Culture change is critical to this response. Rakhi Sehgal, IDRC-supported labour researcher and activist, cites the Government of India as an example, saying it needs prodding to implement the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act of 2013. “We need to provide basic conditions for safe and nonhostile working environments by making all sexually-laced comments, jokes, innuendos, and double-meaning words immediately punishable at all levels, from recruiters to coworkers, to top management,” noted Sehgal.

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NYUSTERNBHR

Complaints committees

Safer streets and transit in Pakistan

India’s national law mandates local complaints committees that operate outside the workplace. Sehgal says the government must take steps to ensure these committees are formed at the district level, function properly, and are monitored.

Women living in developing countries experience harassment or violence in public spaces much more often than elsewhere, according to a 2016 ActionAid poll. In India, 79% of women said they feel unsafe and fearful on the streets and while using transit. This feeling was reflected by 86% of women in Thailand and 89% of women in Brazil.

“Our recommendation is that local governments should partner with local industry and community-based organizations and really organize training … to educate on sexual harassment laws and grievance procedures,” asserted Sehgal.

Support for survivors As part of the required culture change, women need to feel safe to report incidents. While women of relative privilege working in the global entertainment industry have been able to denounce sexual violence and harassment with the #MeToo movement, women in developing countries face large barriers. This is especially true for women in South Asia’s industrial and agricultural sectors. “Many of these women are of rural origin, barely educated, and they’re extremely vulnerable. They’re underpaid and overworked, actively prevented from unionizing. And when they try to make a complaint, it’s mostly regarded as false and they are treated as liars,” explained Sehgal.

App to survey safety The Information Technology University of the Punjab in Pakistan and the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C. created a mobile app called ReCAPP to survey women and men in Lahore, Pakistan, about their perception of safety while using the city’s massive bus transit system. Born of research and supported by IDRC’s Growth and Economic Opportunities for Women program, the app addresses unsafe transportation as an important factor that prevents women from attending school or accepting job opportunities. The app was the first step in a successful bid to get policymakers in Pakistan to implement local laws that allow women to complain about harassment in public spaces.

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ASIAN DEVELOPMENT BANK

Understanding women’s feelings of safety In 2017, the Urban Institute used the app to conduct a survey to identify factors that led women to experience more threatening and disruptive transit journeys than men. “What women did in those surveys was basically record their perception of safety in a public space. They would observe things like, ‘I’m in a dark alley, somebody might be following me’, or ‘There’s this vendor standing on the side’,” said Ammar Malik, director of research, Evidence for Policy Design, Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Women reported poor lighting, local bus stops that were too far from a transit hub, and having to stand in crowded lines to board a bus. They also reported feeling more vulnerable after leaving the safety of a bus or a well-lit transit hub.

“The last mile, which is when you step out of your doorstep to get to the mass transit, that’s the biggest problem in urban transport safety for women.” Ammar Malik, director of research, Evidence for Policy Design, Harvard Kennedy School of Government

The study also revealed a need to train transit drivers and conductors — a policy measure that government officials were willing to implement. Researchers found that drivers could be perpetrators, so by placing posters or advertisements in buses, all men are told that touching and verbal harassment are crimes.

Protecting privacy online Women-focused solutions Survey participants proposed their own solutions. These included patrolling, enforcement, or assigning someone to watch the men as women go about their daily business.

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The Internet offers many opportunities for women to express themselves freely, but it is not necessarily a safe place. In fact, many women are reluctant to voice their opinions online, silenced by the fear of threats and harassment. Research has an important role to play in understanding real experiences of gender-based violence online and in testing initiatives that engage everyone in changing this reality.


Safeguarding women through research

THE INDIVIDUAL’S POWER

IDRC-funded researchers at the global research network Privacy International are using technology as a means of promoting human rights and working to protect privacy in developing countries.

Women in research and academia

This is especially important for women and queer people, whose work is highly visible. Often, they are forced to operate between the Internet’s power to give them a voice and the threats it also brings. “If you consider people of certain class, race, non-binary gender people, or non-hetero expression of sexuality, these people are the ones that are most targeted online.” Joana Varon, founding director and policy strategist, Coding Rights

From online to real world These threats can transcend the online world and become very real. According to Joana Varon, founding director and policy strategist, Coding Rights, journalists, politicians, artists, activists, and gamers are among those most targeted for hateful comments or physical threats of violence. “There is a continuum between online and offline interactions because it’s impossible to separate the consequences of actions that occur in digital environments and the offline world,” explained Varon. Campaign to reduce online vulnerabilities As part of the Privacy International network, Coding Rights developed Safer Sisters, a campaign featuring animated images that provide tips to women and non-binary people to help them stay safe online. The images address sensitive issues surrounding their online presence in a creative way. Each loop of images offers suggestions to users for improving digital security, including tips for storing and creating passwords and dealing with online haters.

Women bring diversity of thought and experience to research and academic environments. Their contributions enrich knowledge and support the innovative processes that institutions generate, leading to greater solutions for today’s global challenges. IDRC actively supports initiatives and programs to break down the institutional barriers women researchers face and promote equal opportunities and professional development for women.

Support for early career women scientists In many countries, women outnumber men in the early years of university education; however, many drop out of the profession as they progress in their careers. A 2018 UNESCO Institute for Statistics report found that barely 30% of researchers around the world, across all disciplines, are women.

Shedding light on the problem Researchers say the problem exists because academic institutions remain unfriendly places for women researchers. The steep drop of women in research — coined the leaky pipeline — occurs primarily at the doctoral and early-career stages. To compound the problem, few women attain leadership positions at research institutions, instead stagnating in lower positions and unable to break through an invisible, but pervasive, glass ceiling. Women work for lower pay, have higher teaching and administrative workloads, face institutional barriers against promotions and leadership positions, and deal with gender discrimination, including sexual harassment and being undervalued as academics. “The very few women who get the opportunity to enter scientific research face issues related to culture, family commitments, and stereotyping on gender roles,” said Pendo Bigambo Nandiga, scientist, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Early Career Fellowship holder, Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD). Understanding gender-specific barriers Early on in their careers, women researchers have few role models, mentors, or support networks to guide them through challenging environments. They also lack support

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to strike the healthy work-life balance they need, a dilemma they face far more frequently than their male counterparts.

tries. Since 2003, AIMS has produced more than 1,500 graduates, roughly one-third of whom are women.

Case in point: Pendo Nandiga works in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which is comprised of 70% men. She also teaches two courses and coordinates two undergraduate programs. At the same time, she longs to be at home with her one-year-old daughter and she carries the mental load of household planning and chores.

What’s more, the AIMS Women in STEM initiative is accelerating the careers of African women in STEM. The initiative provides funding for innovative programs that promote women in STEM. It engages also men and boys through awareness training to promote gender-sensitive science and to help change mindsets among the student population.

“All this [gender barriers] requires a lot of determination, tolerance, and passion. Otherwise, one will just quit.” Pendo Bigambo Nandiga, scientist, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Early Career Fellowship holder, Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD)

Support for women to achieve their potential One of the ways IDRC is addressing this challenge is by supporting the OWSD, which offers Early Career Fellowships to women. OWSD Fellows work to establish world-class research and collaborate with scholars worldwide. They participate in workshops and mentoring programs to develop leadership and management skills, network with public and private sector partners to potentially commercialize their research, and learn to better communicate their work to funding agencies and other researchers. For young mothers, the Fellowship also provides family care assistance such as childcare costs and travel support for family members. OWSD support is already proving beneficial for Pendo Nandiga, who started a Women in Science chapter that brings more than 50 women researchers from Tanzania’s academic, government, and industrial sectors together. The chapter, part of OWSD, supports these researchers to network and collaborate to address gender discrimination issues that affect their careers. By encouraging women’s participation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)-related research and scientific leadership positions, Women in Science Tanzania raises the visibility of women researchers nationally and globally.

Focus on women in STEM Another IDRC-supported program, the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), supports doctoral and earlycareer women scientists from low and middle-income coun-

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Evidence to inform approaches Critically, this AIMS initiative is addressing the need for reliable, evidence-based data on women’s participation and leadership in STEM across Africa. AIMS expects the evidence to is encourage key government, academic, and industry players to develop policies that break down prejudice and gender stereotypes about women in STEM.

Providing data on women researchers and scientists to inform policy IDRC provided funding for the largest study ever on African scientists working in higher education, government, and industries. Led by Catherine Beaudry, a professor at Polytechnique Montréal, the research team found that both women and men suffered from a lack of funding and insufficient mentorship. Women, more than men, were more negatively impacted by work-family balance.

Findings to inform solutions The data echoes women’s experiences in most countries; that is, it noted the dual burden placed on women academics who want to advance their careers while juggling caregiving and household responsibilities. Academic conferences are a case in point. Researchers — women and men alike — need to attend conferences to establish professional networks and enter into research collaborations. Conferences help young researchers gain visibility, get cited, and move up the career ladder. For young women researchers with new families, however, attending conferences poses a problem because of their limited mobility. According to Beaudry, every decision for them becomes a choice, a compromise. The lack of mobility is particularly acute for women at the beginning of their careers because of motherhood — which can set women back for the rest of their careers.


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“If you’re not there, then you are basically absent from the scene. Between mobility, collaboration, and family demands, early-career women are in the midst of a Bermuda triangle from which it is extremely difficult to get out.” Catherine Beaudry, professor, Department of Mathematical and Industrial Engineering, Polytechnique Montréal

Support for women needed So what does Beaudry suggest for helping young women researchers? She recommends measures like travel grants to provide funds to cover the costs of caregivers while researchers travel to conferences. Alternatively, conference organizers could support researchers with young children in very practical ways: by providing nursery services during networking events, for example, or even providing highchairs and activities for children.

Building visibility for women researchers Although networking at conferences also helps women access employment opportunities and obtain promotions, their family life may prevent them from benefiting from the career advancement these events can offer. Research conducted by Grupo Sofia — a network of Peruvian social scientists supported by IDRC — sheds light on this important issue. Their findings appear in the 2018 book, Inequality in academia: women in the Peruvian social sciences.

Advocating for women with evidence Grupo Sofia’s mission is to research and advocate on issues women scholars in academia face and promote equal opportunities for them. In particular, the group focuses on activities that promote greater women’s participation in public debates and producing and sharing knowledge. Addressing inequalities that influence career advancement In Peru, more than half of male academics credit their personal or professional networks for helping them obtain professorships, yet barely 12% of women academics do the same. That’s because family life takes over for most women researchers. Less time means fewer research opportunities and weaker support for promotion or leadership positions. Parenthood affects the professional careers of almost 72% of women researchers, compared to only 39% of men. Inequalities between women and men in academia often result from deep-rooted gender roles and expectations inside their homes. “Women are penalized more than men for marriage and parenthood, which also makes them more prone to abandon their academic careers. Even when women keep working, they experience guilt for not dedicating enough time to their children,” remarked Andrea Roman Alfaro, researcher and former executive coordinator, Grupo Sofia.

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Gender roles at home and in the workplace The problem lies in the way young girls and boys are socialized, and how gender differences are naturally assumed. Grupo Sofia found that women are often the main caretakers in their homes. In fact, almost 55% of women affirmed that they were the main caretakers of their homes, while barely 27% of men shared similar responsibilities. And home often spills into the workplace. Women find it harder to establish their authority, especially in male-dominated research areas. Alfaro and her colleagues found that roughly 80% of women said it required effort to assert their authority with their colleagues, while a similar percentage of men said they never felt this way. The women had to employ specific behaviours to assert authority like standing still, having a stronger voice, and being firm. Alfaro also heard multiple stories of overt discrimination and sexual advances from supervisors, bosses, and mentors. Increasing women’s visibility One of the ways Grupo Sofia addressed this lack of visibility and authority was by producing an online directory of over 100 social sciences women researchers in Peru to increase the visibility of women academics. Now, journalists and organizers are using it to contact women for academic events, TV panels, and newspaper pieces, among others.

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The group also launched the #WomenKnow (#LasMujeresSaben) campaign. With online content, social media, presentations, and booklets, the network reached out to research organizations, the media, and the public to raise awareness about gender inequality in academia. #WomenKnow encouraged women from other academic fields to launch similar initiatives in Peru and Latin America. The campaign also reached out to men asking them to recommend women for events they were attending or classes they were teaching. Men were asked to vote their women colleagues into leadership positions and encourage them to write in academic journals and participate in academic association boards. The campaign also created an online public statement that more than 100 women and men signed, agreeing never to participate in all-male expertise panels. “Part of our campaign was to target men explicitly and give them data that first proves there is a problem, and ideas on how to become part of the solution.� Andrea Roman Alfaro, researcher and former executive coordinator, Grupo Sofia


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