Gender and Participation

The terms ‘Participation’ and ‘Gender’ have become a part of development discourse and practice in the last few decades. Advocates of these concepts have claimed that they allow for representation of the most marginalised groups, such as women and the poor. However both approaches have also been accused of providing only lip service to the interests of those they claim to represent.  Combining gender with participatory approaches can strengthen both gender and participation, grounding gender in the realities of people’s lives, and making participation a more effective channel for the expression of marginalised people’s demands. The mainstreaming of both approaches can increase the redistribution of positive outcomes of projects, programmes and policy.

This Cutting Edge Pack hopes to inspire thinking on these issues - with an Overview Report outlining key debates on gender and participation, a Supporting Resources Collection providing summaries of key texts, tools, case studies and contacts of organisations in this field, and a Gender and Development In Brief newsletter with three short articles on the theme. As a one-off this pack also includes a handy four-page summary of the Overview report.

Gender and Participation Cutting Edge Pack - Overview Report

This Overview Report looks at convergences between approaches to gender and to participation, how these have been played out, and how they have been or could be constructively integrated into projects, programmes, policies, and institutions. Sections one and two provide background on the concepts of gender and participation, why there has not been more interaction in the past, and attempts for learning across these two approaches. Part three looks at efforts to combine participatory methodologies and gender in projects. Part four describes ways in which the two have been used to influence policy and to what extent measures have been institutionalised. In conclusion the report highlights key recommendations for policy, projects and programmes, and identifies gaps in research on this area.

Recommendations from the Overview Report

For programmes and projects:

  • Developing methods of working with differences such as age, social composition, class and marital status to enable individuals to give accounts of their own social realities.
  • Encouraging men, women and other social groups within the community to develop their own action plans for implementation, and to use these plans for monitoring and further evaluations.
  • The development of staff performance measurement systems that highlight qualitative indicators such as promoting empowerment processes over quantitative targets.
  • Training and capacity building of facilitators in participatory and gender-sensitive methodologies, and rights and advocacy-based approaches.
  • The use of a rights-based approach and a conscientization approach, integrating knowledge and social action.

For influencing policy formulation processes:

  • Development of gender units within national governments to encourage participation of civil society in policy making processes.
  • Using and developing participatory process methodologies and tools including PRA methodologies that facilitate gender disaggregated information and gender perspectives at different levels of policy formulations processes.
  • In the case of policy formulations, the facilitating organisation (government, nongovernment or other institutions such as the UN or the World Bank) needs to hold consultations and to engage with different actors in civil society, particularly women’s groups and other marginalised groups.
  • Affirmative actions and decentralisation of policy making that make it possible for local women and men to participate in local policies and programmes affecting them, need to be placed alongside policies which enable women to assert their human rights in areas such as property, labour and violence.
  • Developing capacity building and training programmes to bring about a better quality of women’s participation, particularly the poor, in local decision making processes.
  • Ensuring adequate budgetary allocation to different programmes, informed by gender redistributive objectives.
Gender and Participation Cutting Edge Pack - Supporting Resources Collection

This Supporting Resources Collection show-cases existing work on gender and participation. It presents summaries and links to key texts, tools and case studies which provide further information on the main questions addressed in the Gender and Participation Overview Report. It aims to contribute to a better understanding of how gender sensitive, participatory development has been and can be achieved. This collection also aims to support the work of busy gender and non-gender specialists, especially those in operational positions with direct responsibility for programme design, implementation and management. We hope this collection will encourage collaboration, networking and pooling of resources.