Today is International Women’s Day and as many of you know, I have a fairly strong interest in gender issues and women’s issues so I thought I would put up some information on gender mainstreaming, something that isn’t often understood and even less often put into practice.
As Robert Zoellick, former director of the World Bank once said, “Investing in women is smart economics”. This brings light to the importance of putting gendered knowledge at the forefront of development, understanding the different needs of women and the ways in which women will be affected differently than man from the same policies – this idea can also be referred to as Gender Mainstreaming.
Gender mainstreaming in development is a relatively new phenomenon, which occurred from the realization that women have traditionally been excluded from development theory and practice and that gender relations had to be dealt with in the specific context that they occur. Gender mainstreaming has only been in practice for roughly thirty years and was defined for the first time in 1995 at the Fourth World Conference on Women as the ‘integration of women and gender issues into mainstream policy areas… Gender mainstreaming is not something that has or should replace the efforts to focus on women separately. Instead it regards gender analysis as a base to any intervention’. This practice ensures that women are able to benefit directly from development work and signifies a shift away from the trickle-down theory and into a more productive, inclusive practice.
Now how does gender mainstreaming work? For effective gender mainstreaming a strong gendered analysis must be included in all aspects of the development program and policy. Examples of this can be found at the International Center for Research on Women and can include simply looking at how men and women are affected and react differently from the same policy or practice. The most famous case of this was in 1976 when it became clear that international development was benefitting men and women extremely differently and leading to unequal development, this occurred because of a misconception that there were no female headed households, and policies were therefore developed with the idea of male-led households in mind. Had the development agents gone into the communities at hand and met with community leaders their programs could have been tailored to suit male and female headed households and would have better benefited the entire community.
As development continues to change and grow, perhaps gender mainstreaming can move away from simply distinguishing between men and women and can start to include gender orientation, sexual orientation, and look beyond traditional views of households and communities.
I’ll be putting up more in the next few days about women and development, so keep your eyes peeled! And please feel free to leave feedback about any news or ideas you’d like to see me write about.