Are we missing the gendered perspective in evaluation?

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I’ve just passed an important milestone in my PhD journey. Last week I was confirmed as a UQ PhD candidate at the School of Communication and Arts. An excellent reason to crack open a bottle of wine and grab some quality Thai takeaway with the family. I was actually quite surprised at the level of relief I felt once this milestone was officially achieved, even though I was sure I would be fine.

My PhD is focusing on how Australian farming women are using social media to communicate about climate change and examining broader impacts of this online engagement (such as the development of social capital). I’ve called it, The untold story of Australian farming women, social media and climate change. There is not a lot out there (almost nothing) looking at these three things together, hence the merit of my PhD!

As part of my confirmation presentation, I included my evaluation experiences and how the vast majority of producers we talk to about their project/program involvement are men. This is not to cast judgment one way or the other, it’s just how it is. And it really started me thinking about what we are potentially missing by not overtly including the perspectives of farming women in our evaluations.

Many of the projects we have been/are involved in are focused on farming practices, strategies and tools to help improve environmental outcomes and or cope with a changing climate. Research1 shows men and women are impacted in different ways and have different adaptation strategies to deal with climate change. So why aren’t we looking more closely at how these projects/programs are impacting farming women? And why don’t more project/program designs take the perspectives of farming women into account? I believe this is an important aspect that is being lost, particularly given how much climate change issues impact men and women differently.

This should be an important issue for funders of projects/programs working in the climate change and climate resilience space and other areas – from the design stage to the delivery and evaluation process. We can’t keep ignoring the very essential contribution of women to the farm, particularly as climate related extremes and issues will only continue to escalate across Australia. I also don’t think this issue is limited to climate change related programs either. I think it’s across the spectrum of rural industries.

The invisible farmer’ project was ‘the largest ever study of Australian women on the land’, involved a wide range of partners and supporters and ran from 2017 to 2020. It aimed to make visible the significance of the active contributions of women to Australia’s primary production industries through research and story telling. It’s well worth taking look at this website as I think it provides a very good picture of Australian farming women and an understanding of where I’m coming from.  

It’s an area I’m very interested in and I’ll share further thoughts as I progress my thinking. If you have any ideas or thoughts about this subject or you can direct me to projects/evaluations that are including a gendered approach, I would love to hear from you (


1 Anderson, D 2012, ‘Climate Lived and Contested: Narratives of Mallee Women, Drought and Climate Change’, Hecate, vol. 38, no. 1, pp 24-41.

Alston, M 2014, ‘Gender mainstreaming and climate change’, Women’s Studies International Forum,  vol. 47, Part B, pp.287–294.

Alston, M & Whittenbury, K 2012, ‘Does climatic crisis in Australia’s food bowl create a basis for change in agricultural gender relations?’, Agriculture and Human Values, vol.30, no.1, p. 115-128.

September 2020 – Virtual Extension

This is the first blog I have written since the Covid-19 Tsunami hit.  Given that it has curtailed travel and I have had more time in my office – I certainly have no excuse.  Maybe like lots of others I was just locked into a state of following the ebbs and flows and massive changes to so many – as well as the loss of so many lives across the world.  The uncertainty, the despair, the hope.

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Future Drought Fund

The Australian Government recently announced the foundational programs for its $5 billion Future Drought Fund with eight programs starting to roll out from July 2020.

Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, David Littleproud, said in the press release that “The programs have been developed based on expert advice from the independent Consultative Committee, led by Mr Brent Finlay, a fourth generation farmer, as well as valuable input from communities and industry during last year’s national public consultation tour on the Drought Resilience Funding Plan.”

Coutts J&R has been working on programs and projects in the climate adaptation space for a number of years and see the need for funding such as this. It will be interesting to see the projects and initiatives eventuating from this and their future impact on the communities and agricultural industries they are intending to support.

Effective monitoring, evaluation and learning will be vitally important for funded projects to prove the value of the Australian Government’s investment and its impact on rural Australia.

Further information about the Future Drought Fund and its programs can be found on the Drought Fund website.

Are you proving the value of your comms program?

Many rural, NRM and agricultural organisations invest sometimes significant amounts on communication programs which we all agree can play a vital role in growing next and end user knowledge, awareness and understanding. Why then are these clearly important activities not always measured as rigorously as the research and adoption and extension programs, with communication outcomes clearly linked to and measured against higher level organisational objectives?

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