By Sharon Atieno

As the world commemorated the International Women’s Day on March, 8 under the theme, DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) took the opportunity to highlight its work in advancing gender equality through research.

In the last five years, IDRC has invested over CAD82 million in gender-transformative research that addresses gender inequality and the underlying power dynamics that perpetuate inequalities. This includes support to 122 projects in more than 60 countries.

In the 2021-2022 financial year alone, IDRC invested in 38 gender-transformative projects with funding support totalling more than CAD39 million.

Presently, the organization has renewed its funding of the Centre of Excellence for Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Systems (CRVS systems) through the end of 2025.

Now housed at the UNFPA, this Centre of Excellence continues to advocate for strong CRVS systems as an important step toward global gender equality.

This project aims to promote gender equality with dedicated fellowship opportunities to develop the careers of young female CRVS and gender scientists.

It will also enable development of guidelines on how CRVS can enhance gender equality and reproductive, maternal and newborn health as well as expand the capacity of institutions in the Global South to address the intersectionality of women’s legal identity, their ability to claim their rights, and their reproductive health and well-being.

The Growth and Economic Opportunities for Women (GrOW) – East Africa initiative commissioned an evidence review to analyze the integration of gender in the public procurement systems and processes of five countries – Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Ethiopia.

The review examines the measures taken by each country to achieve that gender integration and the challenges of adopting gender-responsive procurement approaches. It also proposes recommendations to overcome these barriers.

The evidence review identifies the following five types of barriers hindering women’s full integration into procurement systems: structural and systemic; legal and policy-related; cultural and societal; financial; and corruption-related.

According to the review, there remains much to be done to ensure full participation of women-owned businesses in procurement processes.

Among recommendations to overcome barriers include simplifying the procurement process, legislating anti-discrimination laws, removing financial guarantee requirements, providing ethical training and incentives for public officials, and many more.

The review aims to inform discussions on how to promote women’s entry into public procurement.

Besides, research on women’s unpaid care work, soft-skills development for job readiness and entry into non-traditional economic sectors, GrOW – East Africa supports several projects related to gender-responsive procurement.

A new publication on the relationship between the care economy and global efforts to transition to clean energy, commissioned by IDRC and developed by Kate Grantham, founder and executive director of FemDev Consulting, identifies the existing research and evidence linking women’s economic empowerment, care work and clean energy.

The publication outlines the role of women in clean energy development, the barriers to women’s employment and entrepreneurship in this sector and the impact of clean energy technologies on care work.

It also highlights existing policies and solutions that can turn the transition to clean energy into an opportunity to address gender inequalities, especially in the care economy. In addition, the report highlights the perils of inaction.

SheVax+, a regional livestock vaccine initiative in East Africa, was launched in 2019 with support from IDRC, Global Affairs Canada and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through the Livestock Vaccine Innovation Fund (LVIF).

To encourage greater vaccination uptake among women and support their long-term livelihood prospects, the initiative established a multi-pronged approach to develop a women-centred livestock vaccine private sector delivery system.

The project creates entrepreneurial opportunities for women by providing them with a valuable source of income and the capability to move into vaccine distribution and manufacturing.

Across Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, women animal health service providers make USD50-300 per month (approx. CAD69-412) depending on the country’s economy and labour rates.

In education, the initiative and its partners, are disseminating information to women on where to access vaccines and veterinary services.

This is being achieved with tools such as vaccination calendars (more than 1,200 have been distributed in English, Swahili, and Kinyarwanda), educational comic books in English and Kinyarwanda, and animated videos.

IDRC-supported researchers shared knowledge and findings at the Canada-hosted 2023 FemParl Middle East and North Africa conference in Jordan in February.

Launched in 2018, FemParl brings women politicians and leaders from across the region together and stems from Canada’s commitment to gender equality and empowerment and the belief that women belong everywhere decisions are being made.

This year’s conference focused on forms of technology-facilitated violence that face women in the public sphere. The issue is only starting to be understood and there is a distinct lack of statistically significant research on the digital experiences of women in the Global South.

There is also a poor understanding of how mis- and dis-information affects women in their public life.

IDRC has been supporting research to improve understanding of digital gender-based violence since 2016.

A global IDRC-supported survey found that women in Jordan, Algeria, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are impacted by digital violence at a rate of 77% compared to 66% for men, with Facebook identified as the platform where most of the violence and harassment occurs.