How to do gender analysis in health systems research – Significance of data collectors’ gender (part 2)

This blog post is part of a series looking at key questions related to gender analysis within health systems research. In this post we explore the significance of data collectors’ gender in relation to whether the emphasis should be on training as opposed to the gender of data collectors.

RinGs Steering Committee

02 November 2015

On 8 September 2015 Research in Gender and Ethics (RinGs): Building Stronger Health Systems held a cross-RPC webinar on “How to do gender analysis within health systems research”. The webinar involved 26 members from Future Health SystemsReBUILD, and RESYST.

Webinar participants asked some very interesting and relevant questions about how gender analysis can be incorporated into health systems research. In this blog series, we discuss some of the issues raised and we would be interested in your viewpoints as well. Please let us know in the comments section below!


Q: When thinking about gender in relation to the data collection process there is often a lot of focus on who is collecting data, i.e. the gender of the data collectors. Instead, should not the focus be on whether those collecting data have the relevant training and required skills to recognize gender issues and report on them?  If not, isn’t there a danger that only women should be collecting data on issues relevant to gender? Male participant, Uganda


A: This is a very good question and shows the tendency of health systems researchers to equate gender work with women, or think that studies which examine gender often focus on topics related to women’s health needs, such as maternal and child health or sexual and reproductive health. A focus on gender, however, does not focus solely on women, but with the “socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women” and people of other genders (WHO 2015). Men may be excluded from women’s health studies despite their important role in influencing women’s health-seeking behavior.

Incorporating gender analysis into a study, goes beyond focusing on men or women in isolation. It entails examining the social context of gendered power relations and how these affect such things as access to resources, division of labour, social norms, and rules and decision-making.

When collecting data it is not a pre-requisite that female data collectors must be used with female respondents and male data collectors must be used with male respondents. Data collectors from either gender can be trained to understand and recognize gender issues. However, it is important to recognize that in some contexts it will not be acceptable for male data collectors to collect data from females, or female data collectors to collect data from males.

Some respondents may be uncomfortable sharing information with a person from the opposite sex. This is particularly relevant for sensitive issues, such as sexual and reproductive health. It is therefore up to the researchers to understand the context in which they are collecting data and to make an informed judgement on who is to collect data from whom. Our goal as researchers is to collect accurate and high quality data, and the identity of our data collectors may be an important component in doing so.


To view a recording of the webinar or the webinar presentation slides, click here.

For more information about RinGs visit our website.