Do USAID’s Journey to Self-Reliance Metrics Include Gender?

By Coryn Bookwalter
May 9, 2019

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has identified a set of 17 primary metrics used to develop country roadmaps that will allow it to better assist countries on their journey to self-reliance. USAID has recently released 294 secondary metrics that will complement the 17 primary metrics. 

USAID states, “The secondary metrics are a resource that USAID staff can use when conducting their own analyses to better understand a country’s level of self-reliance based on the Journey to Self-Reliance framework and theory of change.”

In August 2018, Plan International USA published a blog analyzing USAID’s 17 primary Journey to Self-Reliance metrics from a gender perspective. The blog pointed out several flaws within those metrics and concluded that just one of them incorporated gender equality. From this analysis, specific recommendations were made for USAID to ensure that their secondary metrics include gender sensitivity on every level. Now that the 294 secondary metrics have been released, it is necessary to analyze these metrics through the same gender lens in order to understand where USAID made progress and where additional improvements are needed.

What the Secondary Metrics Do Well: 

The Journey to Self-Reliance secondary metrics contain 21 gender-specific indicators, including the LGBT Global Acceptance Index indicator. An additional 16 of the 294 are explicitly disaggregated by gender. 

  • The Social Institutions and Gender Index indicator along with the Women’s Political Empowerment Index indicator help to fulfill Plan’s recommendation of measuring the extent to which all genders enjoy civil liberties.
  • All four themes from the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report (Political, Economic, Education, and Health gender gaps) made their way into the metrics, with at least two different components attached to each. 
  • Intimate Partner Violence and Early Forced Marriage indicators were established.
  • Educational metrics suggested by Plan were incorporated, with the Education Gender Gap indicator and other education indictors that are also to be disaggregated by gender.

USAID outlines additional metrics that focus on gender equality more generally and within certain sectors. 

  • The Gender Inequality Index indicator, for example, will measure three important aspects of human development – reproductive health, empowerment, and economic status – and the costs of gender inequality. 
  • The Unpaid Domestic and Care Work indicator allows USAID to understand the proportion of time spent in a day on unpaid care work by both men and women.
  • The Control over Women’s Cash Earnings metric analyzes the percent distribution of cash earnings by the people who decide how the money is used. This indictor shows that USAID understands that while women may be earning money, they do not always have control over how it is spent.

How the Secondary Metrics can be Improved:

While the aforementioned indicators are all great examples of how to effectively include gender within the secondary metrics, there is still room for improvement. 

  • Disaggregate by Gender: Only 16 of the 294 non-gender-specific indicators explicitly mention that the data collected will be disaggregated by gender. All of the indicators within the health and education sectors should be gender-disaggregated. For example, when measuring access to basic water sources and access to basic sanitation facilities for the health sector, data needs to be disaggregated by gender. Women and girls often face safety challenges getting to/from and within these facilities that men and boys do not. 
  • Include Violence Against Women Indicators: Indicators that can measure the laws and policies in place that protect women and girls from domestic violence, marital rape, sexual harassment, and female genital mutilation are previous Plan suggestions that still need to be added to the metrics. Violence against women and girls, whether it be measuring mechanisms in place to prevent/respond to it or understanding its different forms and prevalence rates, is an important metric that cannot be ignored on the Journey to Self-Reliance. 
  • Include Indicators Measuring Safety of  Public/Work Spaces: Along with the Violence Against Women Indicator, it is important to understand how safe or dangerous public and work spaces are for women and girls. USAID should measure the extent to which workplaces, transportation systems, and other public spaces are safe for women and girls to use without having to restrict their own movements and behaviors. 

It is laudable that USAID has applied a gender lens to ensure their secondary metrics consider the needs and challenges of women and girls around the world. However, there is still much work to be done in order to further improve the metrics. Prioritizing gender-specific and disaggregated metrics will allow USAID to better understand where countries are on their Journey to Self-Reliance and how programs can best assist them along this journey.