Incorporating Gender into Academic Research Life
By Elizabeth A. Asante
Editors’ note: The blogs in our series have shared stories of various initiatives to promote the integration of gender in think tanks. Some stories have focused at the individual level, on think tank staff and researchers. Others at the organizational level, describing gender equality in think tanks’ internal structures and policies. Still others have recounted efforts to support researchers in thinking about the relevance of gender to their research projects. In this blog, Elizabeth A. Asante shares her perspectives on the effectiveness of the Gender Action Learning Project (GALP) in supporting the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), Ghana, to integrate gender analysis into a specific area of the Institute’s work: national level budget processes.
I always wondered how the University of Ghana could deepen its commitment to gender equality without ambitiously incorporating the concept into all aspects of academic research life. In 2011, three years after joining the University of Ghana faculty, I rejoiced to see the University formally committing itself to gender by launching its first sexual harassment policy. In that policy document, sexual harassment, (defined as the unwelcomed sexual advances, including requests for sexual favours, verbal or physical conduct or behaviour of a sexual nature, persistent propositions for dates, sexual jokes, passing on pornographic material, comments about someone’s body etc.) was totally banned in the academic environ. The policy was applicable to all members of the university community. The purpose of the policy was to make the university a conducive place for learning and work for both men and women.
Although this was an excellent initiative, I was especially elated when in 2018 the Think Tank Initiative (TTI) of the International Development Research Institute (IDRC) approached the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) with the proposition to participate in the Gender Action Learning Project (GALP). Working through the feminist consultants, Gender at Work, GALP sought to support organizational change processes designed to transform approaches to gender in both research and organizational policies and practices.
GALP: ISSER and the Research-Intensive Vision of the University of Ghana
The University of Ghana has a vision to become a world-class research-intensive university. The University wants to be known primarily for its dedication to the search for knowledge and its spirit of critical inquiry. It hoped for additional facilities to enhance research in addition to its renowned teaching excellence. With this vision, it was important that gender become a basic cross-cutting variable in every research in every department, school, centre and institute at the University. ISSER is a semi-autonomous research institution within the College of Humanities at the University of Ghana. ISSER carries out research and training geared towards promoting the socio-economic development of Ghana and Africa. The Institute has a reputation for solid social science research, paying close attention to exploratory, explanatory and evaluative aspects of the dynamics of development. Research at ISSER has always impacted Ghana government policy and programmes.
GALP came to ISSER and the University of Ghana at the right moment, as ISSER was well-positioned to provide leadership in deepening gender commitments at the University. As ISSER prepared for the webinars and in-person meeting with the team from the Gender at Work, faculty from other departments such as Sociology, Political Science and the Centre of Social Policy Studies who heard about GALP asked if they could participate in the programme. Gender at Work graciously agreed. With the immediate needs of the country in mind, ISSER asked for a webinar on Gender Responsive Budgeting. Once again, Gender at Work was flexible about this request and organized this immediately. I was, of course, delighted that through GALP the Institute could provide strategic leadership in support of the University’s research-intensive vision.
GALP: Effecting Budgetary and Organizing Gender Change at the National Level
The effects of the GALP webinars were immediate. The Social Division of ISSER was planning to undertake a gender analysis of the next national budget. However, soon after the GALP webinars, a request came to ISSER from Ghana’s Parliamentary Select Committee on Gender and Children that gave one member of the ISSER Gender Change Team, Andrew Adjei-Holmes, the opportunity to practice what he had learnt through the webinars. The Parliament of Ghana wanted to find out whether Ghana’s budget was gender sensitive, and how they could establish a gender sensitive budget. Thus, Andrew had a rare opportunity to engage with the parliamentarians in a workshop where he led discussions on the basic tools for a gender inclusive budget. Working together in an interactive presentation, the workshop participants went through policy processes, planning and priority setting, programmes and budgeting, monitoring and evaluation, and how all these stages could be coordinated to promote the gender responsive agenda.
The Future: GALP and the University of Ghana
A critical element of a research-intensive university is building a vibrant intellectual environment of knowledge and capacity development. This requires periodic capacity building programmes. These programmes are needed to equip faculty with skills at global standards with respect to gender methodology, data collection, data analysis and reporting. Capacity building of research skills for both ISSER and the entire faculty in relation to gender will consolidate a world-class reputation for the University of Ghana.
These are the author’s personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect those of Gender at Work or IDRC’s Think Tank Initiative.
Elizabeth A. Asante is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research, University of Ghana.