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Wikipedia Article Proposal: Gender and Development

IA 039 Gender and International Affairs

31 October 2013

Geneva Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies

The Gender and Development (GAD) approach is a way of determining how best to structure development projects and programs based on analysis of gender relationships. It was developed in the 1980s as an alternative to the Women in Development (WID) approach that was in common use until then.[1]


Women in Development[edit]

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The term “women and development” was originally coined by a Washington-based network of female development professionals in the early 1970s[2] who sought to put in question the trickle down theories of development by contesting that modernization had identical impact on men and women[3]. The Women in Development movement (WID) gained momentum in the 1970s, driven by the resurgence of women's movement in northern countries, whereby liberal feminists were striving for equal rights and labour opportunities in the United States[4]. Liberal feminism, postulating that women's disadvantages in society may be eliminated by breaking down stereotyped customary expectations of women by offering better education to women and introducing equal opportunity programmes[5], had a notable influence on the formulation of the WID approaches, whereby little attention was given to men and to power relations between genders[3].
The translation of the 1970s feminist movements and their repeated calls for employment opportunities in the development agenda meant that particular attention was given to the productive labour of women, leaving aside reproductive concerns and social welfare[6]. Yet this focus was part of the approach pushed forward by advocates of the WID movement, reacting to the general policy environment maintained by early colonial authorities and post-war development authorities, wherein inadequate reference to the work undertook by women as producers was made, as they were almost solely identified as their roles as wives and mothers[7]. The WID's opposition to this “welfare approach” was in part motivated by the work of Danish economist Ester Boserup in the early 1970s, who challenged the assumptions of the said approach and highlighted the role women by women in the agricultural production and economy[8].
A dominant strand of thinking within WID sought to link women’s issues with development, highlighting how such issues acted as impediments to economic growth; this “relevance” approach stemmed from the experience of WID advocates which illustrated that it was more effective if demands of equity and social justice for women were strategically linked to mainstream development concerns, in an attempt to have WID policy goals taken up by development agencies[9].
This led to the WID movement facing a number of criticisms.: such an approach had in some cases the unwanted consequence of depicting women as an unit whose claims are conditional on its productive value, associating increased female status with the value of cash income in women’s lives[10]. Furthermore, the WID, although it advocated for greated gender equality, did not tackle the unequal gender relations and roles at the basis of women's exclusion and gender subordination rather than addressing the stereotyped expectations entertained by men[11]. Moreover, the underlying assumption behind the call for the integration of Third World women with their national economy was that women were not already participating in development, thus downplaying women's roles in household production and informal economic and political activities[12]. The WID was also criticized for its views on the fact that women's status will improve by moving into “productive employment”, implying that the move to the “modern sector” need to be made from the “traditional” sector to achieve self-advancement, further implying that “traditional” work roles often occupied by women in the developping world were inhibiting to self-development[13]. The Women in Development approach was the first contemporary movement to specifically integrate women in the broader development agenda and acted as the precursor to later movements such as the Women and Development (WAD), and ultimately, the Gender and Development approach, departing from some of the criticized aspects imputed to the WID.

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Women and Development[edit]

The second subsection of Women and Development (WAD), led by Simon Fuerstenberg, explores the origins of WAD (as a theoretical model as well as a practical approach to development), and its emergence into gender-studies scholarship in the mid 1970s. It goes on to outline the points of departure from the previously predominant theory, WID. Finally, it discusses major criticisms of the WAD approach, and the weaknesses that it shares with the WID perspective. It is important to explicate the neo-Marxist derivations of the theory, and investigate the criticisms of the previous approach, for which WAD is meant to correct. These include the explanatory limitations of modernization theory, as well as practical arguments for a development-based approach to women that did not include their integration into a patriarchal social structure, and rather construct development projects for women exclusively. The WAD paradigm stresses the relationship between women, and the work that they perform in their societies as economic agents in both the public and domestic spheres. It also emphasizes the distinctive nature of the roles women play in the maintenance and development of their societies, with the understanding that purely the integration of women into development efforts would serve to reinforce the existing structures of inequality present in societies overrun by patriarchal interests. Some of the common critiques of the WAD approach include concerns that the women-only development projects would struggle, or ultimately fail, due to their scale, and the marginalized status of these women. Furthermore, the WAD perspective suffers from a tendency to view women as a class, and pay little attention to the differences among women, including race and ethnicity, and prescribe development endeavors that may only serve to address the needs of a particular group. While an improvement on WID, WAD fails to fully consider the relationships between patriarchy, modes of production, and the marginalization of women. It also presumes that the position of women around the world will improve when international conditions become more equitable.

Gender and Development[edit]

Unlike WID, the GAD approach is not concerned specifically with women, but with the way in which a society assigns roles, responsibilities and expectations to both women and men. GAD applies gender analysis to uncover the ways in which men and women work together, presenting results in neutral terms of economics and efficiency.[1]

Caroline Moser developed the Moser Gender Planning Framework for GAD-oriented development planning in the 1980s while working at the Development Planning Unit of the University of London. Working with Caren Levy, she expanded it into a methodology for gender policy and planning.[14] The Moser framework follows the Gender and Development approach in emphasizing the importance of gender relations. As with the WID-based Harvard Analytical Framework, it includes collection of quantitative empirical facts. Going further, it investigates the reasons and processes that lead to conventions of access and control. The Moser Framework includes gender roles identification, gender needs assessment, disaggregation control of resources and decision making withn the household, planning for balancing the triple role, distinguishing between different aims in interventions and involving women and gender-aware organizations in planning.[15]

Third subsection of GAD Gender and Development, led by Opeyemi Samuel Obe explore the emergence and relevance of GAD in development. To achieve this, emphasis would be drawn to its historical development in the 1980s, which was shaped as a reaction to the Women in Development approach developed in the 1970s. For a proper understanding of the GAD approach, its theoretical underpinnings and basic assumptions would be discussed before drawing out its major criticisms. The GAD concept emerged in the 1980s out of criticism of WID approach. WID and WAD differ in focus and centrality of women in development. The GAD concept inspired new debates in women and development, which has important implications both for theory and practice. Unlike WID, GAD shifted the discussion in women and development discourse from ‘women’ to ‘gender.’ This new gender focus, emphasize power relations between women and men, their relative positions in social economic and political structures and a need for an institutional change within the social-economic and political structure to eliminate inequality. Base on this assumption, it is imperative to study and understand ascribe roles before any meaningful policy could be achieved. Gender and development has been subjected to many criticisms. Through ‘gender’ neutral terminology, women issues have become depoliticized. Also development agencies still advance gender transformation to mean economic betterment on neoliberal economic agenda.

Neoliberal approaches[edit]

Fourth subsection Neoliberal approaches, led by Samuel Rohr, describes current discussions in the literature on the relationship between Neoliberal Economics, Gender and Feminism. Gender issues have increasingly become part of economic development agendas, as examples such as the [World Bank’s] focus on gender show. The World Bank started focusing on gender in 1977 with the appointment of a first Women in Development Advisor[1]. Thirty years later, a Gender Action Plan was launched to underline the importance of the topic within development strategies. In 2012, the World Development Report was the first report of the series examining Gender Equality and Development[2]. The World Bank, together with other institutions, such as the IMF are often understand as “major exponents of the neoliberal agenda”[3] (Makwana 2006) suggesting therefore, that gender issues have become part of the [neoliberal] development agenda. The fact that Gender has become part of the [neoliberal economics] development agenda - in the current understanding involving features such as [privatization] and [deregulation] – is not uniformly conceived as a positive development. Some scholars in the field argue that [feminism], especially during its [second wave], has contributed key ideas to Neoliberalism that, according to these authors, creates new forms of inequality and exploitation[4] (Fraser 2012). In the post-war era, feminist scholars such as [Elizabeth Wilson(Wilson 1977)] criticized [state capitalism] and the [welfare state] as a tool to oppress women. This anti-welfare state thinking arguably led to feminist support for neoliberal ideas embracing on a [macroeconomic policy] level deregulation and a reduced role of the state. The impact of programs of the [Bretton Woods Institutions] and other similar organizations on gender are being monitored by Gender Action, a watchdog group founded in 2002 by [Eliane Zuckerman] who is a former World Bank economist. A current topic in the feminist literature on economic development is the ‘gendering’ of [microfinance], as women have increasingly become the target borrowers for rural [microcredit] lending. This, in turn creates the assumption of a “rational economic woman” which can exacerbate existing social hierarchies (Rankin 2001). Therefore, the critique is that the assumption of economic development through microfinance does not take into account all possible outcomes, especially the ones affecting women.

Smart economics[edit]

Fifth subsection of Smart Economics, led by Kazushige Kobayashi, synthesizes how the neoliberal institutions responded to the fierce criticisms by trying to incorporate gender perspectives into their programs. An initial effort came from World Bank. By presenting various quantitative and analytical perspectives on women in international economics, the World Development Report 2012 marshaled the importance of gender mainstreaming on a basis of intrinsic and instrumental values. Establishing a new framework to incorporate gender into its framework, the Bank named a new approach Smart Economics. While the report marked a monumental significance that a chief proponent of neoliberal development emphasizing gender roles in a globalized world, the report also met a series of denouncement and further criticisms from various authors such as Bedford (2012). Foremost, the criticism of Bedford is based on both ideological and practical grounds. Ideologically, she emphasizes an intrinsic incompatibility between feminism and neoliberalism by casting a doubt if free market system, which generally commoditize human labor and subjugate female workers, can function in a way that champion the interest of women. Practically, she also points out that an apparent absence of the World Bank in the proposed international measures to eradicate gender inequality is a reflection of the bank’s reluctance to go beyond simple rhetoric in making more concrete, tangible actions. As Bedford expressed her grave concern, neoliberalism emphasizes quantitative, liner, and universal features of economic development which does not take any consideration of pluralism and multiple identities. While neoliberal development tends to aggravate and institutionalize the existent socio-economic inequalities, the feminist opponents call for a greater respect on diversity and a more intersectional perspective that is still lacking in the framework of Smart Economics. Although it is recognized that the utility of neoliberalism as an organizing force to accelerate economic development, it is also fallacious to assume that a simple progress of material life would naturally result in ameliorated conditions of gender disparity.


The World Bank[note 1] was one of the first international organizations to recognise the need for Women in Development, appointing a WID Adviser in 1977. In 1984 the bank mandated that its programs consider women's issues. In 1994 the bank issued a policy paper on Gender and Development, reflecting current thinking on the subject. This policy aims to address policy and institutional constraints that maintain disparities between the genders and thus limit the effectiveness of development programs.[17]


GAD has been criticized for emphasizing the social differences between men and women while neglecting the bonds between them and also the potential for changes in roles. Another criticism is that GAD does not dig deep enough into social relations and so may not explain how these relations can undermine programs directed at women. It also does not uncover the types of trade-off that women are prepared to make for the sake of achieving their ideals of marriage or motherhood.[1]


  1. ^ The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans to developing countries for capital programmes. According to their website: "Our mission is to fight poverty with passion and professionalism for lasting results and to help people help themselves and their environment by providing resources, sharing knowledge, building capacity and forging partnerships in the public and private sectors".[16]


  1. ^ a b c Shifting views...
  2. ^ Irene Tinker (1990). Persistent Inequalities: Women and World Development. Oxford University Press. p. 30. ISBN 978-0-19-506158-1. 
  3. ^ a b Razavi, Shahrashoub; Miller, Carol (1995). [www.$FILE/opb1.pdf "From WID to GAD: Conceptual shifts in the Women and Development discourse"] (PDF). Occasional Paper. United Nations Research Institute for Social Development. 1: 2. Retrieved 22 November 2013.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Razavi1995" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  4. ^ Ibid., 3.
  5. ^ Robert Connell (1987). Gender and power: society, the person, and sexual politics. Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-1430-3. 
  6. ^ Ibid., 3.
  7. ^ Ibid., 3.
  8. ^ Ibid., 4.
  9. ^ Ibid., 6.
  10. ^ Ibid., i.
  11. ^ Bradshaw, Sarah (May 2013). "Women's role in economic development: Overcoming the constraints" (PDF). UNSDSN. UNSDSN. Retrieved 22 November 2013.  line feed character in |title= at position 39 (help)
  12. ^ Koczberski, Sarah (1998). "Women In Development: A Critical Analysis". Third World Quarterly. Taylor & Francis, Ltd. 19 (3): 399. 
  13. ^ Ibid., 400.
  14. ^ March, Smyth & Mukhopadhyay 1999, pp. 55.
  15. ^ Van Marle 2006, pp. 126.
  16. ^ About World Bank.
  17. ^ World Bank 2010.


Further reading[edit]

  • Janet Henshall Momsen (2009). Gender and Development. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 0-415-77562-0. 
  • Lise Østergaard (1992). Gender and development: a practical guide. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-07132-1. 
  • Raana Haider (1996). Gender and development. American University in Cairo Press. 

Category:Women's rights Category:Development

Tentative References:

Bradshaw, Sarah. "Women’s role in economic development: Overcoming the constraints." UNSDSN. (accessed October 20, 2013).

Fraser, Nancy. 2012. “Feminism, Capitalism, and the Cunning of History”

Makwana, Rajesh. 2006. “Neoliberalism and Economic Globalization.” In Share the World’s Resources: Sustainable Economics to End Global Poverty.

Parpart, Jane L., Patricia Connelly, and Eudine Barriteau. 2000. Theoretical Perspectives on Gender and Development. Ottawa: International Development Research Centre.

Parpart, Jane L. 1993. "Who is the "other"?: a postmodern feminist critique of women and development theory and practice". Development and Change. 24 (3): 439-464.

Rankin, Katharine N. 2001. “Governing Development: Neoliberalism, Microcredit, and Rational Economic Woman.” Economy and Society 30 (1): 18–37. doi:10.1080/03085140020019070

Rathgeber, Eva M. 1990. “WID, WAD, GAD: Trends in Research and Practice.” The Journal of Developing Areas. 24(4): 289-502.

Razavi, Shahrashoub, and Carol Miller. 1995. From WID to GAD: conceptual shifts in the women and development discourse. Geneva: United Nations Research Institute for Social Development..

Vagliani, Winifred. 1985. The integration of women in development projects. Paris: Development Centre of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Wilson, Elizabeth. 1977. Women and the Welfare State. London: Tavistock Publications.

World Bank. World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development. World Bank Publications, 2011.

Wagner, Gernot. But Will the Planet Notice?: How Smart Economics Can Save the World. Macmillan, 2011.

Kate Bedford . Bretton Woods Project -Gender WDR: Limits, gaps, and fudges.

Visvanathan, Nalini, et al., eds. The women, gender, and development reader. New Africa Books, 1997.

Benería, Lourdes, Günseli Berik, and Maria Floro. Gender, development, and globalization: Economics as if all people mattered. New York: Routledge, 2003.