Originally published at: http://humidtropics.cgiar.org/public-policy-analysis-with-a-gender-lens-the-case-of-a-high-profile-program-in-nicaragua/
Humidtropics recently developed a practical toolkit for public policy analysis with a gender lens (in Spanish) that can be easily implemented by organizations that normally do not have staff with specialized and formal training to carry out policy research. It is a collection of nine tools, which are used in a sequential manner to generate outputs essential for public policy analysis with a gender lens.
The toolkit follows a sequential process that starts with setting the scene by discussing critical concepts and myths surrounding public policy relevance and impact. A timeline is then used to document and analyze background information, and the history of legal frameworks is organized for a better understanding of the policy or program being analyzed. Once the policy or program’s context has been established, the research problem is defined and the research questions and methods are clearly identified and stated. The tool provides guidelines to construct a conceptual framework by revisiting literature and placing the research question in perspective of the knowledge and opinions of previous researchers, as a crucial preparatory step for the policy or program analysis. Criteria and procedures to conduct a general analysis are established, as well as providing tools such as matrices for a more specific analysis with a gender focus. Finally, the toolkit renders a series of steps to identify conclusions related to the research questions, and provides a guide to ensure the referenced documents have been cited correctly.
To validate the toolkit, it was used to analyze a high profile Nicaraguan public policy program, Programa Productivo Alimentario or Hambre Cero, being implemented since 2007. This program was selected due to its relevance within the State’s implementation strategy of social and productive policy, as well as its proposed objective to contribute to women’s empowerment by redefining their roles within their families. At this time, there is no other program in Nicaragua that proposes such a mission.
Hambre Cero under a Gender Lens: Analysis Findings (in Spanish)
Nicaragua has signed and ratified international conventions and agreements, and set standards and national legislation regarding equality and gender equity. However, lack of political will, low budgetary allocation, poor inter-institutional coordination and limited openness result in this comprehensive legal framework not being implemented.
To address the Millennium Development Goals, various public authorities in Nicaragua have attempted to introduce “poverty reduction” measures, focusing on the mitigation of hunger and malnutrition, including food security and sovereignty policies. However, the program’s history provides evidence that these implemented measures were not state policies, but rather promoted by various individual governments, characterized by sharp breaks and discontinued over time. In many cases, these ruptures were conducted without feasibility analyses that would improve the implementation of ongoing programs.
Contradictions exist between the program’s conceptual approach and international policy and regulatory frameworks’ objectives and instruments. Free trade agreements, such as CAFTA-DR and the Association Agreement with the European Union, and international conventions, such as UPOV and the Budapest Treaty, have placed adverse pressure on the program’s approaches and key objectives. Specific tensions have arisen in the area of genetic heritage protection and preservation, related to the use, sharing, and protection of native genes and land races proposed by the program.
The implementation of program criteria such as budget, adaptability, and stability was evaluated as high. This provides positive operation opportunities due to budget allocation, as well as elements of stability that guarantee the program’s long-term permanence. However, the element of consistency received a low rating, due to an unclear link between the program’s objectives, goals, and results. This may be a negative element affecting the scaling of a wide range of efforts, leading to non-compliance.
Inter-agency coordination was not possible to evaluate, due to the lack of information on the subject available to the public. This is a critical variable to evaluate the program or policy’s implementation strategy, thus recommendations include the State and other actors involved making inter-agency coordination information public.
The gender analysis perspective found a lack of specific approaches to project rural women as citizens exercising their rights, but rather places them as implementation instruments for public policy benefiting rural women. While the program establishes assets that must be awarded to women who own land, it does not seek to influence legal land acquisition procedures for rural women, which would constitute a more effective integration of rural women in the public and local economy.
Based on this analysis, it is evident that women’s roles within the program’s implementation are limited to care, reproduction, and management of assigned assets. In this manner, the program reinforces traditional gender roles for rural women, limits them within private spaces in the household, and does not explicitly contribute to the enhancement of their decision-making power in the public sphere. Rather than forging a new role for rural women (a prominent topic within the program’s discourse), the program overloads their agendas by making them largely responsible for the success and follow-up of program goals.
This exercise of public policy analysis with a gender lens reveals that it is urgent to continue this kind of research, engaging the State and the local and national organizations of women and civil society in order to analyze and evaluate this and other programs, including the policy and programs that are in the stage of formulation so that with the participation of wide range of actors it will be possible to build coherent, participatory, sustainable, and equitable public policies that will contribute to human development in Nicaragua.
In the coming months, partner organizations in the Central America and Caribbean Flagship will use the toolkit to analyze relevant public policies with a gender lens and will write policy analysis reports, which will be used to generate policy debates at local, regional and national levels in the coming year. In addition, two digital libraries, one on Nicaraguan public policies and the other on rural women, were elaborated to facilitate the work of local territorial partner organizations taking on the challenge of policy analysis with a gender lens.
Blog by Gloria Carrion, Consultant; Falguni Guharay, Scientist, Research for Development, Humidtropics and Policy, Institution and Markets (PIM), CIAT; and Shadi Azadegan, Communication Specialist, Central America and the Caribbean, CIAT. Blog edited by Valérie Poiré, Communication Officer, Humidtropics. Photo by Falguni Guharay/CIAT.