Lessons Learned

1. Analysis of gender and power relations, and understanding and addressing discriminatory systems and structures, is critical to progress

Gender inequalities cannot be considered independently from the broader systems of discrimination or disadvantage in which they occur.

The ‘Do No Harm’ research from the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program at the Australian National University has concluded that achieving women’s economic empowerment is contingent not only on women having access to economic resources but also on the removal of the impediments to freedoms that disempower women. Pacific Women activities that can demonstrate the most positive changes are grounded in strong gender analysis and have strategies to address the gendered power relations that sustain high levels of discrimination and violence against women.

UN Women’s Markets for Change (M4C) program has shown that to make marketplaces safer for women vendors, it is also necessary to undertake interventions aimed at reducing cumbersome and discriminatory local and municipal government systems and regulations.

The Connecting Technical and Vocational Education and Training in Vanuatu project identified that their education and training activities need to link with interventions that aim to expand employment opportunities for women and support gender equitable workplace policies, such as provision for maternity leave.

There are several initiatives Pacific Women stakeholders will progress to understand better the systemic and structural barriers to gender equality; and where possible, develop or create links to interventions that address these barriers. The Pacific Women Support Unit will investigate how best to include gender and power analyses in future program designs. Implementing partners will be supported to monitor outcomes using gender analysis frameworks (such as that used in the M4C program) to build the information base and the evidence about the connections between gender relations and program outcomes.

2. Community awareness projects on violence against women are not sufficient on their own to cause lasting change in attitudes and behaviours that will prevent violence against women from occurring

Global evidence on ending violence against women demonstrates that sustainable, effective prevention programming requires not only a focus on raising awareness about the inappropriateness of violence, but also involves supporting strategies that are aimed at achieving community-wide endorsement of more positive, gender equitable social norms and community-led actions that can facilitate women’s empowerment.

Pacific Women is funding an increasing number of prevention activities that aim to end violence against women. Given this, the program needs to ensure these activities are based on a strong understanding of knowledge, attitudes and values at individual, family and community levels and that they work at multiple levels to achieve longer-term and transformative changes.

3. Better monitoring and evaluation of projects aimed at ending violence against women is crucial to show that change has taken place

Activities supported by Pacific Women that focus on ending violence against women differ in approach, scale and possibly, impact. However, program reporting has shown there is a significant variation in the way that these projects are monitored and evaluated. This makes it difficult to draw conclusions on effective strategies and impact, both individually and collectively of Pacific Women’s efforts to end violence against women in the Pacific.

Pacific Women is working with selected partners implementing prevention activities to monitor and evaluate against some common inquiry questions. An example of this is supporting selected partners to answer the question, what are effective approaches for changing social norms, attitudes and behaviours in relation to violence against women. Through focusing on a common inquiry question, Pacific Women hopes to be able to draw conclusions about effective approaches in different contexts.

4. Training activities need to be practical and contextually sensitive to be effective

Projects supported by Pacific Women that use simple and practical methods to reinforce women’s and men’s understanding of rights and responsibilities have been shown to be successful in bringing about change. For example, the UN Women M4C program that is implemented in Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu partnered with local women’s organisations to reach women market vendors with practical and contextually relevant  training about their rights. Delivered through a partnership with FemLINKPACIFIC in Fiji, Vanuatu Women’s Centre in Vanuatu and Women’s Rights Action Movement in Solomon Islands, UN Women was able to introduce complex ideas – including on equality – which normally remain out of reach for women market vendors.

5. There is considerable Pacific gender research being produced, but support is needed to improve its quality, accessibility, and its links to policy-making

The Pacific Gender Research Scoping Study supported by Pacific Women assessed and reported on the status of gender research in the region. The associated symposium and workshop, Advancing Gender Research in the Pacific, reflected on the study findings which indicated that although there has been a steady increase of gender research publications on the Pacific, most of the research has been undertaken by researchers based outside the Pacific. The study also concluded that research is of varying quality, with limited accessibility and weak connections to development policy and practice in the region. Within the Pacific, expertise and resources to support accessible, relevant and high quality gender research is limited.

A Pacific Women Advisory Group on Research has been established to guide the implementation of Pacific Women’s Research Strategy. The aim of the Strategy is to support high-quality, locally appropriate and sustainable research that addresses and informs responses to gender inequality in the Pacific region. Pacific Women will support a minimum of two research projects a year, with the aim of directly influencing and informing Pacific Women programming.

6. Tracking of activity impact and contribution of Pacific Women

A key question asked by many implementing partners and DFAT is to what extent are observed results due to the program, rather than other external factors? These questions of cause and effect are critical to verifying a program’s theory of change and in understanding what works and what does not in different contexts. Due to the complex nature of gender equality programming, progress and results are almost always about contribution, rather than attribution.

To acknowledge this complexity, Pacific Women is working to support and encourage partners to think about their contribution to results, rather than feeling pressured to identify attribution. One way Pacific Women is doing this is through support for country reflection workshops. These workshops provide a critical space to bring implementing partners together to reflect on their work, to test innovation and to synthesize evidence using contribution analysis.

7. The process of establishing coalitions

There is mounting evidence through partner reports that there is tangible benefit in investing in the ‘process’ of coalitions building, meaning that sufficient time is spent defining boundaries and building rapport and trust amongst coalitions or individuals acting collectively.

Pacific Women has integrated these lessons into the first revision of the program’s Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Framework by including an inquiry question that aims to track what support and capacity coalition’s need to advocate effectively. The program has also learnt to be realistic in terms of understanding the time it takes for coalitions or individuals acting collectively to build a common agenda and approach and achieve desired results.

8. Faith-based coalitions

Pacific Women has moved to increase its partnerships with Faith Based Organisations’ (FBOs) over the life of the program. A common thread across activities is the increased momentum to address structural barriers that exist within these ecumenical organisations and churches. Focusing on transformation of these typically conservative structures is seeing some encouraging results. This confirms that FBOs are important partners but that work must begin with addressing structural barriers within these organisations and churches before effective community violence prevention interventions can take place.

9. Supporting evaluative thinking

There is the need to enhance evaluative thinking within activity reports to provide a greater emphasis on the identification of outcomes (both intended and unintended), challenges encountered and lessons learned during implementation. This entails a change in orientation from profiling the positive results to becoming more critical; feeling safe to highlight both what worked, and what did not; barriers encountered and suggestions for ways forward. It is not uncommon for implementing organisations to favour profiling good results for fear that negative results may impact on ongoing funding. The challenge for Pacific Women is to enable partners to safely identify both successes and failures without fear that this will impinge negatively upon funding decisions.

The evaluative thinking component to reporting will help strategic reflection in program planning and implementation and support ongoing program improvement. Approaches for emphasising strategic and evaluative thinking in Pacific Women include ongoing capacity building strategies that will be exercised by M&E personnel working directly with projects. Over time it is anticipated that the level and degree of evaluative thinking will translate into improved reporting by partners.