Amplifying Gender Equality Efforts through Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL)

Written by: EnCompass Staff, ,

Adriana Abreu-Combs, Chief of Party, and Laura Villegas, CLA Lead, MEL Activity 

Achieving gender equality and inclusive development (GEID) has long been at the forefront of development aid goals. Donors and cooperating countries have pushed this agenda forward with varying degrees of success. Country programs continue to advance GEID, though more work is needed. The annual Global Gender Gap Report 2023 benchmarked the current state and evolution of gender parity across 146 countries and reported that, on a scale of 0 to 100, the global gender gap score stands at 68.4 percent closed. [1]

Projects funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have promoted and supported GEID for years and have applied learning from prior efforts. In 2023, the Agency released its updated Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy, which builds on decades of foundational work and includes new requirements to achieve its objectives. Monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) can not only measure progress toward these policy goals, but also reinforce GEID efforts. Experience from USAID’s Regional Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Activity, based in El Salvador and serving eight countries in the Central America region, offers examples of how to connect MEL and GEID.  

The MEL Activity team is collaborating with USAID/El Salvador and implementing partners to integrate MEL metrics and practices into the renewed GEID effort and ways to measure it. Partners expressed an interest in learning from and sharing with others working in this space. This interest and the Mission’s commitment to the agenda led to the establishment of a GEID Learning Community in October 2023. Centered firmly on USAID’s principles of collaborating, learning, and adapting (CLA), this community has flourished, providing a forum for the Mission and partners to share GEID tools, experiences, and practices, and to learn together. Members of the GEID Learning Community have stepped up to lead sessions and share experiences and tools relevant to their day-to-day work—a positive community ownership prospect. The community has generated momentum for Mission and cross-partner learning and collaboration within this effort.  

Implementing partners often struggle to understand and operationalize gender gap measures. Currently, USAID has a set of eight predefined, output-based standard gender indicators for this purpose, and partners are welcome to use additional or alternative measures. During a recent training session, the MEL Activity team sought to demystify these measures. One expert panelist who has firsthand experience with these indicators noted that GEID requires dedicated resources and assigned activities within projects against which to measure and report on achievement. Furthermore, while it is important to disaggregate data by sex—an Agency requirement—it is equally important to set targets for each disaggregation to measure gender equality results.  

A new requirement of the 2023 Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy is that Missions must conduct gender analyses at the activity design stage to ensure new activities have a good foundation for their GEID efforts. Missions are organizing internally to comply. Drawing on the experience and processes implemented in two other Missions in the region (Guatemala and Mexico), the MEL Activity worked with USAID/El Salvador to customize and formalize a process specific to the country context, collaborating with the Mission’s GEID focal point. The new process is ready to be rolled out.  One of its major strengths is its focus on building capacity within activity design teams so they can replicate the process once trained. 

The MEL Activity has conducted seven evaluations and assessments since start-up in late 2022. To ensure that these research tasks comply with GEID requirements, the MEL Activity staff always consider this dimension when creating evaluation and assessment questions. This also means that experts within the research teams bring expertise in GEID and can integrate this lens in evaluation and assessment designs and in their results where applicable.  

If there’s anything required for bigger impact in closing the gender gap it must be proven and mutually reinforcing approaches that are guided by intentionality, commitment of political will and resources, and local expertise. 

Members of the GEID Learning Community discuss priorities during the launch of the community in San Salvador in October 2023.


[1] The Global Gender Gap Index measures scores on a 0 to 100 scale and scores can be interpreted as the distance covered toward parity (i.e., the percentage of the gender gap that has been closed).

EnCompass Staff

EnCompass offers innovative solutions for organizational excellence.  We seek to enhance the impact and capacity of government and multilateral agencies, corporations, and nonprofits around the world through customized services in organizational and leadership development, training, technical assistance, and evaluation.

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