Now that Canada has a Feminist International Assistance Policy in place, it’s time to think about the role of research in the discussion, as well as how we invest in knowledge generation. Given the ambitious Agenda 2030 with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Goal 5 of which focuses on gender equality, how will we collectively work to build the evidence base we need to move forward and ensure that ‘no one gets left behind’?

[Editor’s note: This post is the first in a blog series on think tanks and gender equality, edited by Shannon Sutton and Natalia Yang.]

The Think Tank Initiative (TTI), where I work, has spent the past 8 years supporting policy research organizations in the global South to do exactly that. As essential SDG contributors, think tanks in low-and-middle income countries combine rigorous research with locally rooted citizen and policy engagement. They bridge the local with the global, connect citizens with decision makers, and generate creative yet grounded solutions. In particular the Southern Voice network, which has grown out of TTI and includes representatives from the 48 think tanks we have supported over the past decade, has worked to ensure that Southern think tanks are part of the Agenda 2030 conversation.

We recently hosted Dr. Debapriya Bhattacharya from Bandgladesh’s Centre for Policy Dialogue and the Southern Voice network here in Ottawa, and it was an opportune time for him to remind us how little research - less than 10% - emanates from Southern researchers in the global South. We seem to continue to think of research as something that is undertaken by those in, or from, the global North. Yet Southern researchers know the local context better that anyone, and are in an ideal position to provide the evidence that policymakers need to meet this ambitious Agenda.

Here’s how they’re doing this when it comes to gender equality and Goal 5.

Fostering gender equality

Providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, and decent work, as well as representation in political and economic decision-making processes, is a key component of the international development agenda. Gender equality is an explicit goal in the SDGs, and many of the think tanks we support have prioritized it within their research plans and organizational policies and practices.

We recently reached out to TTI’s 43 think tanks in Latin America, Africa and South Asia to find out more about their work on gender equality, and we were inspired to learn about what they’re up to. Here are just a few examples of how they’re fostering gender equality:

Considering gender across their organizational policies and practices. India’s Center for Study of Science, Technology & Policy (CSTEP) is taking a proactive approach to addressing harassment in the workplace with mandatory awareness training for all staff, a new policy for handling grievances, and a sexual harassment redressal committee.

Engaging in policy processes that foster gender equality.  The Social Policy and Development Centre (SPDC) demonstrated how violence in public spaces may limit women’s participation and performance in Pakistan’s workforce. These findings informed Pakistan’s Protection Against Harassment at the Workplace Act, which now includes measures against the harassment of women in public spaces beyond the workplace.

Advocating for equal opportunities for women in research. The Grupo Sofia network of female social science research in Peru is supporting women’s empowerment in the workplace while creating spaces for women to share their experiences.

Integrating gender considerations into their research from start to finish. Uganda’s Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE) and Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) co-organized gender analysis training for think tanks across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Carrying out research on gender related topics such as violence against women, access to public services and jobs, or maternal and child health. Fundación Salvadoreña para El Desarrollo Económico y Social (FUSADES) worked to improve public safety for transit users while also promoting respectful behaviour among riders, particularly towards women and girls.

You can read about these and other stories we feature in our recently launched Gender Equality Booklet.

In this series

As this also feels like an important time to ensure that these organizations are sharing their stories in their own voices, we have invited four authors to contribute posts to this series. By doing so, we hope to showcase all of the excellent work that is underway at these organizations, while highlighting how their efforts contribute to shaping Goal 5.

In the second post in this series, Maria Balarin of Grupo Sofia shares her reflections on female underrepresentation in the academic world of social sciences.

In the third post in this series, Job Eronmhonsele of Nigeria’s Centre for Population and Environmental Development (CPED) tells us about their work on maternal and child health in the Niger Delta.

In the fourth post in this series, Lissette Calderón and Margarita Beneke de Sanfeliú of FUSADES share their organization’s journey as it embraces an institutional commitment to work towards empowering Salvadoran women.

In the fifth post in this series, Shrimoyee Bhattacharya of CSTEP writes about their work to develop urban planning tools for gender equality.

In the sixth and final post in this series, Natalia Yang reflects on these articles and provides some suggestions for how we move forward.