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Evaluation database

Evaluation report

2012 Sierra Leone: Mid Term Evaluation of the National Gender Strategic Plan

Author: Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children's Affairs

Executive summary

"With the aim to continuously improve transparency and use of evaluation, UNICEF Evaluation Office manages the "Global Evaluation Reports Oversight System". Within this system, an external independent company reviews and rates all evaluation reports. Please ensure that you check the quality of this evaluation report, whether it is "Outstanding, Best Practice", "Highly Satisfactory", "Mostly Satisfactory" or "Unsatisfactory" before using it. You will find the link to the quality rating below, labeled as 'Part 2' of the report."


The Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs (MSWGCA) commissioned a Mid-term evaluation of the National Gender Strategic Plan (NGSP) 2010 to 2013 with support from United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to assess the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impact and sustainability of the plan. The purpose of the Mid-term evaluation was to assess the level of achievement of the Plan through analysing the factors that have facilitated or hindered achievement, and to compile lessons learned so as to inform implementation of the remaining part of the Plan period.


The evaluation sought to assess the following:
• The level of alignment of the plan with national priorities, other ministries’ strategic plans and also the Joint UN Vision for Sierra Leone;
• The extent to which the Ministry of Social Welfare Gender and Children’s Affairs has popularized, disseminated and assured effective coordination of the plan as well as any challenges encountered;
• The level of progress made towards achieving the anticipated results of the Strategic Plan including contributing factors and impediments;
• Lessons learnt and best practices in relation to implementation of activities to achieve the strategic priorities articulated in the Plan;
• Strengths and weaknesses of the Plan;
• Finally, to make recommendations on a vision for gender equality and empowerment that will be the basis of future policy for national and international partners promoting gender equality and sustainable development in Sierra Leone.


The Mid-term evaluation employed a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods that included desk review, interviews, focus group discussions and field visits. Qualitative data collected through fieldwork was transcribed and analysed by categorization of themes and content analysis. Using triangulation, secondary data from literature review and primary data gathered from site visits was analysed, leading to the development of this report. A detailed approach and methodology was prepared and submitted as the Inception Report. 

Findings and Conclusions:

Relevance of the Plan
The NGSP, whilst operationalizing the twin policies on Gender Mainstreaming and Women’s Advancement, is found to be relevant to the context and priorities of Sierra Leone particularly the Agenda for Change (AfC) which is the national development framework. The NGSP responds to selected national priorities in the Agenda for Change specifically the fourth priority around ensuring sustainable human development through the provision of improved social services. In addition, most of the NGSP themes have been integrated in the proposed Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP III) Agenda for Prosperity 2013- 2017 which has highlighted gender as a cross cutting theme. The NGSP is in line with and upholds the principles entrenched in the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone, which guarantees equal rights for men and women. The plan has also contributed in responding to some of the pending Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommendations1 which aimed at addressing the underlying causes of the conflict, by prioritizing the elimination of laws and practices that discriminate against women, introducing effective measures to address and reduce sexual and domestic violence and securing the government formal and public apology to women for all wrongs that were meted on them during the civil strife by H.E. Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma.

The Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) has committed itself and signed onto several international human rights instruments that promote gender equality work such as the Beijing Platform for Action, the United Nations Security Resolution Council (UNSCRs) 1325 and 1820; Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Millennium Development Goals, the 1995 Beijing Platform, the African Union Declaration on Gender Equality and Development and the ECOWAS Protocols on Women and Development. The NGSP has acknowledged this international normative framework in guiding its design and to a large extent the six priorities are reflected in some ways in these instruments. The NGSP also responds to the Joint UN Vision for Sierra Leone, of 30th May 2009, which establishes the general framework for cooperation in Sierra Leone and whose overall priority is furthering the consolidation of peace. The Joint vision seeks to continue its work around the promotion of the rule of law, human rights, the rights of marginalized groups, women and children, and to assist in the review of Sierra Leone’s Constitution. More particularly, the Joint UN Vision will continue to support the capacity building of Sierra Leone’s national security agencies (especially the Sierra Leone Police) in highly specialized policing areas, such as airport and border security, human trafficking, gender-based violence, crime investigation and related fields. The UN Joint Vision for Sierra Leone also speaks to the issues identified in the Plan. Through key informant interviews and focus group discussions, the 6 strategic priorities are found to be representing the themes that are critical for Sierra Leone. 

Design of the Plan
The NGSP prioritises 6 areas of intervention namely:
• Capacity building, Management and Oversight;
• Women’s participation in governance;
• Sexual and reproductive health rights;
• Research, documentation and Information & Communication Technology (ICT);
• Women’s empowerment with specific focus on rural women;
• Gender budgeting and accountability

The design of the NGSP was participatory even though spearheaded by the MSWGCA who required a national reference document to give direction to gender related activities so as to streamline gender interventions nationwide2. During the development of the NGSP stakeholders were engaged in identifying key priorities and strategies for the Plan.3

The design of the plan is commended for its balanced efforts of focusing at both supply (government ministry, line ministries and departments) and the demand side (consumers and beneficiaries of gender equality interventions).

At the outset, this Mid-term evaluation reveals the important role of baseline data. Baseline data around all outputs was found to be missing yet this would have provided the starting point for the assessment of progress made due to targeted interventions. Thus, the absence of baseline data or targets for the plan has been found to be a serious weakness of the plan and has made it difficult to make a comprehensive assessment of progress. The findings of this Mid-term evaluation therefore are derived from an analysis of how performance indicators have been fulfilled – i.e. level of achievement and is therefore not compared alongside baseline or set/fixed quantitative or qualitative targets.

Effectiveness and Efficiency
This Mid-term evaluation observes that a series of interventions contributing to the realisation of the outputs in the NGSP were undertaken by the MGSWGCA, partners and civil society organisations. These achievements are comprehensively analysed in the body of this report. However, several of the activities undertaken during the period under evaluation were not necessarily derived from the plan - since the consultants established that there were low levels of knowledge of the NGSP. Thus, whilst some progress on outputs are assessed as “On Track” this is not necessarily attributed to the Ministry coordinating those activities – rather to the fact that in Sierra Leone there have been achievements witnessed around these outputs. It is notable however that even where respondents did not know about the Plan, their implementation of gender work corresponded with key components of the plan confirming that there is a commonality around the priority areas to intervene for gender equality work in the country.

Consequently, the consultants conclude that the expectation for the NGSP to provide a clear framework for coordinating national gender responsive programmes was not realised. The low levels of awareness of the NGSP can be attributed to a set of inter related weaknesses that have continued to plague the Ministry4 namely: the weak coordination capacity within the Ministry; low visibility of the Ministry particularly amongst other line Ministries reform programmes (e.g. Justice Sector Secretariat Reforms); low resource allocations and other management constraints around “lapses and overlaps in functions and mandates, obsolete regulations that marred effective administration and management.”5

In terms of achievements of the NGSP, they are assessed alongside the seven outputs derived from the 6 priority areas. Whilst presenting these achievements, the consultants observe that social transformation work takes time and results cannot be rushed – in addition the participatory approach embraced by the MSWGCA in rolling out this plan requires time and patience to solidify results. An implementation period of 2 years may not be sufficient to optimise the impact of the NGSP and ensure sustainability.

Output 1 is concerned with strengthening capacity for gender mainstreaming and monitoring by 2012The plan provides three indicators to guide realisation of the output which are: Capacity assessment of the Ministry conducted; Network of gender equity and women empowerment established and a Monitoring and Evaluation plan developed. This evaluation establishes that the delivery of this Output is “On Track” through various interventions such as the capacity assessment6 of the Ministry and the presence of networks advancing gender equality which are most active in the regions. Under this output and particularly at the districts, the Ministry’s coordination and leadership role on the gender agenda are greatly visible assuring a relatively consistent and coordinated community roll out of the plan. This experience demonstrates that animating social transformation work at community level generally results to more visible products. It is at community level where ideas/concepts are actualised with beneficiaries and thus demands synergy building amongst actors working at that level. However, the absence of a monitoring and evaluation framework for the delivery of the NGSP greatly undermines realisation of this output and this probably explains the leadership and coordination weaknesses at national level.

Output 2 focuses on strengthening legislative and policy framework for gender equality and equity by 2012 and to realise this output two indicators are provided: gender related legislations enacted and 30% quota allocated for women’s representation in governance. A series of partnerships with civil society and development partners to popularise the Three “Gender Acts” have been intensified in the period as a basis of linking statutory provisions to communities’7 capacities to claim and enforce rights. A variety of models are noted for this purpose which include, hosting radio shows, monitoring of court cases on sexual gender based violence, joint workshops with Ministry representatives, production of popular and simplified versions of the various Acts. However, many respondents cited that there were challenges in implementing/enforcing these legal provisions and also in ensuring that the citizenry invoked their rights under the new laws. The journey to the new quota law has thus embraced a different strategy which emphasises more on stakeholder consultations around provisions and dialogue to anticipate how the “world will look like” once the provisions are enacted and enforced. This has enabled a process of “buy in” on the principle that women’s representation is a necessity, whilst the law is yet to be enacted; there is a general understanding that there is a need to transform the profile of representation so as to root democracy and fairness in Sierra Leone.

Output 3 focuses on strengthening mechanisms for addressing gender related dimensions of SRHR. Five indicators guide the realisation of this Output: number of Rainbow Centres established; Review of Section 21 of the Prevention and Control of HIV and Aids Act 2007; CEDAW requirements of SRHR met; Number of PHUs providing PMTCT; Number of centres providing Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) services. The review of the HIV/AIDs law provided an impetus for reflecting HIV prevention programmes in a more gender sensitive manner. The evaluation established that over 300 Primary Health Units were providing PMTCT and PEPs services across the country and thus responding to some of the recommendations by CEDAW.

Output 4 focuses on strengthening mechanisms to reduce violence against women and three indicators guide the realisation of this output: proportion of cases of gender based violence prosecuted per year (disaggregated by sex), the number of FSU’s and awareness of GBV. The establishment of a law enforcement mechanism, the Family Support Unit (FSU) to specifically target violations meted out on children and victims of sexual gender violence within the Sierra Leone Police CID department has provided it strategic influence. There has been wide dissemination and popularity about the FSU’s. However, FSU’s are not found in all sites in the country and hence traditional justice mechanisms are found to be operational in resolving sexual and gender based violence cases (which often do not affirm girls and women’s claims/rights). The evaluation establishes that where FSU’s are present and whilst a large populace are aware and utilise the FSU’s, many do not proceed to prosecute their cases due to varied reasons including delays in securing a medical report and in securing hearing dates. As a result, many victims and their families opt to “compromise” these cases and settle for a monetary consideration to abandon the criminal cases against the perpetrator. Despite this, there has been quite a substantial number of fast tracked prosecutions and secured convictions which hopefully when widely disseminated will begin to demonstrate the seriousness of violating these rights and end impunity around sexual and gender based crimes.

This evaluation establishes that whilst a triple focus on: prosecutions; presence of Family support units and the awareness raising constitute elements of a holistic multi sectoral approach to reducing and responding to gender based violence, more investments to community structures response mechanisms would be useful to complete the loop to influence behavioural and attitudinal change.

Output 5 is concerned with strengthening capacity for gender analysis by 2012. To realise this output two indicators are provided: the proportion of Ministries monitoring and evaluation systems generating gender disaggregated data and the number of studies, research and reviews with a gender perspective. This component of the plan was not largely rolled out even though there are monthly GBV statistics generated by the FSU The statistics are not widely disseminated nor analysed to inform other developmental interventions or programmes. The work around this Output is the least notable, perhaps due to the fact that the design of the plan did not facilitate proper monitoring of the results.

The 6th Output is strengthened women’s access to land rights, financial services and markets to promote women’s engagement in economic life by 2012. The two indicators to demonstrate realisation of the output are: number of women owning viable business and number of recipients of micro credit and other loan schemes disaggregated by sex.

The absence of baseline data on these indicators made it almost impossible to ascertain the level of progress. However, a number of studies are underway through the support of the UN system in Sierra Leone to ascertain women’s access to financial and productive services. One of the studies undertaken by UN Women is to assess the quality and impact of financial and productive services on increased levels of income on both rural and urban women; to identify support services available to women in the areas under review including functional literacy; to identify challenges and obstacles encountered by women in their success to financial and productive services as well as to institutions in the provision of these services; and to provide recommendations to enhance women’s access to these services. 

These studies indicate that there are renewed efforts on the part of development partners to put women issues at the centre stage and to ensure that women are appropriately mainstreamed. With reference to the efforts of the government, there is a Law Reform Commission that is currently studying and interrogating gender issues such as land reform, as a critical element in the country’s development efforts. It must be however noted that most women with businesses is not as a result of work done in the gender arena but out of individual effort.

The 7th Output focuses on strengthening capacity for gender budgeting and monitoring by 2012. Its realisation is based on one indicator, namely, proportion of Ministries exercising gender budgeting. Gender budgeting is a novelty in the country’s development effort to empower women and ensure access to resources and power. Though a series of awareness interventions and skills building for gender budgeting, both within line Ministries and local councils attest to the importance of the gender budgeting tool.

In terms of sustainability, the evaluation team observed that some of the processes and structures emerging from the plan implementation will continue to deliver benefits to project beneficiaries beyond the NGSP life span. This is facilitated by several factors: existence of the Ministry’s infrastructure from national to regional levels; formation of networks at the regional level amongst broad based actors and utilising existing structures at community levels such as Paramount Chiefs and Soweis, inter alia. 

Some key constraints that have undermined the implementation of the plan include; absence of baseline data and targets; weak coordination mechanisms; capacity challenges as well as the lack of monitoring and evaluation framework.This Mid-term evaluation concludes that the implementation of the NGSP whilst “sluggish” in some parts it is largely “On Track” – since out of the 7 Outputs, 4 are “On track” whilst 3 are “not sufficiently on track”. The implementation of the NGSP requires to be accelerated through a stronger coordination mechanism particularly at the national level to assure Ministry ownership and enhancement of its leadership status as the national machinery for gender equality work.

The recommendations made are organised around key periods: short term which means between 1 and 12 months period; medium term which means 1 year to 3 year period and long term which means a 3 year to 5 year period.


Recommendations to the Ministry

Short term:
• Review of the Strategic Framework of the National Gender Strategic Plan so as to upgrade the indicators (currently at output level) to outcome/strategic goal levels
• Update the Strategic Framework within the National Gender Strategic Plan so as to undertake the completion of Strategic Objective 4 which is currently missing the strategic goals on Women’s empowerment around women’s economic empowerment and women and agriculture.
• Prioritise, develop and roll out an efficient monitoring and evaluation framework for the NGSP, designating specific personnel to monitor at regional and national levels.
• Design and roll out a national dissemination and popularisation of the National Gender Strategic Plan to enhance ownership and accelerate the pace of implementation of the plan in the remaining phase.
• Invest in processes and establish mechanisms that will strengthen the Ministry’s leadership and coordination role around gender perspectives throughout all government Ministries, Departments and Agencies for instance by:
• Establishing a High level technical Inter-Ministerial committee or Task Force that would provide strategic national profiling of gender equality work (informed by the gender focal points).
• Forging closer partnerships and collaboration with the Gender Affairs Specialist in Statehouse with a view to generating greater political will, visibility and resourcing.
• There is need to fast track the finalization and implementation of Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children's Affairs (MSWGCA) Strategic Plan so that all portfolios “model” how to integrate gender in their work namely the Children’s and the Social Welfare portfolio. It is this type of model that would be replicated in other line ministries.
• The recommendations from the capacity assessment report should be urgently released, resourced and fully implemented within a 2 year8 period followed by a review of the implementation status for learning and growth.
• The GBV mapping survey undertaken jointly by the Ministry and the International Rescue Committee should be released, widely disseminated so as to ensure a more coordinated response and management mechanism for GBV survivors

Medium term:
• In order to ensure a coordinated sustained action around gender, it is compelling that gender focal persons in line ministries are professionals in a gender discipline with an established set performance targets. They should be accountable to the Ministry on gender mainstreaming results This is in line with the Public Service Commission Strategic Plan 2011 – 2014 that commits to designing a criterion for the recruitment of qualified professionals to become professional heads of MDAs
• To forge and sustain strong linkages of these gender focal points with the Inter Ministry technical committee/Task Force in their work. This will assure gender equality work is institutionalized and that accountability to gender results is attained.
• To re-establish, strengthen and formalize capacity building programmes for Ministry personnel specifically in programme management, monitoring as well as building gender competencies with the Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM) and the Gender Research and Documentation Centre GRADOC for more strategic and visibly interventions around gender equality and women empowerment
• Advocate for government resourcing for the Ministry and specifically to the Gender Affairs Directorate should be enhanced by at least 7% in the next 2 years and increased to 12% in 5 years.9
• The Ministry could develop simplified and friendly minimum standards/tools for the implementation and monitoring of gender sensitive programmes so as to assure consistent gender mainstreaming application throughout the Plan implementation and monitoring processes. Some of these tools include gender analysis frameworks to guide sectoral planning, model minimum gender indicators across sectors, gender monitoring frameworks, templates for assessing gender responsive legislation and policies. Once integrated in project/programme planning, implementation and monitoring a strong culture of gender compliance and gender competencies would emerge.

Long term:
• The utilisation of community groups and traditional leaders as champions for social transformations should be intensified and strengthened in the next phase such as the such as the Soweis’ leadership, Paramount Chiefs’ engagements and the community wellness advocacy groups
• There is need to sustain and strengthen male involvement in the gender equality interventions being rolled out from the NGSP.
• There is need to improve timely and quality reporting at both technical and financial levels to assure smooth and quick funds disbursements from funding and development partners.

Recommendations to funding partners

Short term:
• There is need to continue and increase investments in building social capital within the Ministry for instance through building with capacity building for project management and monitoring. All training opportunities would ensure that gender is a cross cutting theme as well as any other forms of capacity building initiatives
• Towards ensuring strengthened programme accountability and improved reporting, there should be prioritised support for the development of the monitoring and evaluation framework of the NGSP
• For consistency in rolling out gender equality work in Sierra Leone, there is need to design a gender support strategy for both government MDA’s and civil society organisations where programme choices and selection are informed by the objectives and strategies of the NGSP • There should be earmarked and easily disbursed funds to support the specific recommendations made to the Ministry within a 12 month period so as to assure more “energised and focused” Plan implementation process in the remaining period

Medium Term:
• Development partners could set up a designated Gender Basket Fund to assure joint prioritisation and coherence. This can be disbursed through various options such as pass through grants, earmarked funds, pool funding or direct budget support. The support should be accompanied with specific responsibilities around strengthening of the procurement system within the Ministry so it is strict but simple and with more speedy approval processes throughout the whole chain of accountability
• As part of capacity strengthening, development partners could second personnel alongside strategic priorities for a minimum period of 6 months and maximum period of 2 year period to support the Ministry in reshaping itself to deliver the remaining outputs in the next phase of the plan

Long term:
• There is need to improve disbursement of funds in a timely manner.

Recommendations to civil society

• There is need for more vibrant engagement between civil society organizations and the Ministry at the national level as a key element to assure harmony and consistency in implementation and advocacy for gender responsive policy and legal frameworks (as witnessed in the Gender Equality Bill discourse around creation of a Women’s Commission)
• There is need for collective re-induction to gender equality work. Whilst not subjecting the operational work of GM as an academic exercise, there is need to revisit and generate a common understanding around the theory for responding to patriarchy and all forms of oppression amongst civil society actors and Ministry personnel. In this way, national knowledge and understanding of the interconnectedness between diverse forms of subjugation, denial of rights and gender oppression will generate clarity and profile the ministry work more strategically (in terms of authority and resourcing). The civil society advocacy will also be refined so as to generate support and demand for accountability towards fulfilment of the National Gender Strategic Plan.
• Encouraging more male participation on gender related assignments and issues at all levels as a way of leveraging gender on the national political agenda.

1 The recommendations included: repeal of all statutory and customary laws that discriminate against women. In the sphere of political representation, the TRC recommends redressing the marginalization of women by enacting new laws requiring all political parties to ensure that at least 30% of their candidates for all national and local elections are women; ratification of the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women, which entered into force on the 25 November 2005
2 Pg. 1 and 2 Sierra Leone National Gender Strategic Plan
3 The participatory process emerged in most key informant interviews as well as focus group discussions in the regions. Pg. 3 Sierra Leone National Gender Strategic Plan
4 This has been captured in detail in the Report of the Management and Functional Review for the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, spearheaded by the Governance Reform Secretariat and funded by DFID.
5 Ibid
6 At the time of writing this report, the Capacity Assessment report had not yet been availed to the consultants, hence has not been reviewed.
7 Women, men, girls, boys, law enforcement institutions, community based organisations
8 Change management and reforms language often indicates that the “window period” for any reforms to be rooted is 24 months

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