Beyond Gender Mainstreaming Key Resources

Gender mainstreaming 
Sectoral guides 

Gender mainstreaming

Strategies of Feminist Bureaucrats: Perspectives from International NGOs (2012), Ines Smyth and Laura Turquet, IDS Working Paper No. 396,, 33 pp.

The authors of this paper explore, from an insider perspective, the challenges and opportunities for feminists working as women’s rights and gender equality specialists in international nongovernment organisations (NGOs). In Part 1, Laura Turquet discusses the strategies used and the challenges encountered when she lobbied the Department for International Development (DFID) on its gender equality policy, while struggling to avoid marginalisation within her own organisation, Action Aid. In Part 2, Ines Smyth describes how she left Oxfam for a year to work in the Asian Development Bank, using this experience to consider the strategic opportunities available to a gender specialist working in an NGO such as Oxfam as compared with working in an international finance institution.

Strategies of Feminist Bureaucrats: United Nations Experiences (2012), Joanne Sandler and Aruna Rao, IDS Working Paper No. 397, 

This is another paper written from an insider perspective, this time from within the United Nations (UN). In Part 1, Joanne Sandler analyses the experience of feminists struggling with the institutional sexism of the UN bureaucratic machine in the difficult but ultimately successful negotiations around the creation of UN Women. In Part 2, Aruna Rao describes how cross-agency UN Gender Theme Groups worked together through a process of reflexive inquiry to strengthen the gender equality programming of three UN Country Teams, in Morocco, Albania, and Nepal.

Policy Brief – Gender Mainstreaming 2.0: On Track with Gender. Moving Forward Phase  (2011), Nijmegen: CIDIN, Hivos, Oxfam Novib, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in co-operation with Cordaid, ICCO, and KIT,

Policy Brief – Gender Mainstreaming: On Track with Gender. Taking Stock Phase (2010), Nijmegen: CIDIN, Hivos, Oxfam Novib, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs,, 6 pp.

These two briefing papers were produced as part of a Dutch government/NGO/University collaboration to assess and improve gender mainstreaming processes, policy, and practice in Dutch development co-operation. The Taking Stock Phase briefing argues that both a ‘stand-alone’ approach – that is, specific measures targeting particular areas – and a gender mainstreaming approach, in which gender equality is treated as a cross-cutting issue, and integrated into all policies, programmes, and budgetary decisions, should continue to be followed. The paper also recommends consulting thematic women’s organisations and feminist specialists in mainstreaming efforts; the use of targets; the use of both human rights language and efficiency arguments; and the assessment and development of staff’s understanding of gender. Recommendations from the Moving Forward Phase briefing include: seeking greater complementarity between stand-alone and mainstreaming approaches; the involvement of men in gender mainstreaming activities; organisations having internal gender policies and introducing/maintaining qualified gender officers or teams; and in development interventions involving the private sector, combining a business perspective with a women’s human rights perspective, for example, by using Corporate Social Responsibility language, rather than insisting on gender mainstreaming language.

World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development: An Opportunity Both Welcome and Missed (An Extended Commentary) (2011), Shahra Razavi, Geneva: UNRISD,$file/Extended Commentary WDR 2012.pdf, 14 pp.

In 2012, the World Bank’s annual flagship publication, the World Development Report (WDR), focused for the first time on gender equality. In this paper, the author critiques the WDR 2012, recognising it as a turning point in the World Bank’s thinking on gender equality, marking a shift away from the previous, instrumentalist ‘growth is good for gender equality’ orthodoxy and ‘gender equality as smart economics’ rationale, and acknowledging the attention paid to, for example, women’s unpaid reproductive work, public investment in water and sanitation, and gender biases in family laws and segregated labour markets. However, for the author, the failure to address gender biases in macroeconomic policies within the context of rising inequalities and extensive labour market informalisation, the narrow focus on conditional cash transfers when discussing social policy, and the lack of attention paid to controversial issues such as abortion, renders the report of limited usefulness not only for policymakers, but all others who care about gender equality.

‘Subversively accommodating: feminist bureaucrats and gender mainstreaming’(2010), Rosalind Eyben, IDS Bulletin 41(2): 54-61

Taking international development organisations as the field of analysis, the author of this thoughtful paper acknowledges that the ‘radical promise’ of gender mainstreaming has dimmed, and considers the argument of many – that gender mainstreaming has failed as an instrument of transformation, because it has had to work within existing frameworks and organisational forms – and as such appears to have made only small changes to the status quo. She goes on, however, to argue for a shift in emphasis, from a focus on institutional capabilities to one on actors and individual agency within development organisations and bureaucracies, and on the strategies, tactics, and manoeuvres deployed by feminists within such bodies, stressing the importance of individual agency and determination, something rarely recorded in the world of development policy, where change is attributed to the system, not to individuals.

Talking of gender: words and meanings in development organisations’ (2010), Ines Smyth, Chapter 13 in Andrea Cornwall and Deborah Eade (eds.) Deconstructing Development Discourse: Buzzwords and Fuzzwords, Rugby: Practical Action Publishing in association with Oxfam GB, pp. 143-151

In this essay, the author reflects on the vocabulary commonly used within development organisations when communicating about ‘gender and development’. For the author, terms such as ‘empowerment’, ‘gender’, and ‘gender mainstreaming’ which originated in feminist thinking and activism, have lost their moorings and become depoliticised. However, she argues that despite these problems, there are indications that debates and language may be taking a more radical turn with the acknowledgement of the shortcomings of the practices of gender mainstreaming, the deepening of interest in the notion of empowerment, and the explicit adoption of a human rights language.

Beijing 15 from hopes to disappointment and non-accountability’ (2010), Lydia Alpízar Durán, Development 53(2): 202-209

In what was originally an address to the annual session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), in this piece, the author shares her reflections as someone who joined the women’s movement in the midst of the Beijing preparations as a youth activist. She discusses the importance of the development community focusing on the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and going beyond the Millennium Development Goals, and presents insights from the work of advancing women’s rights and gender equality over the last 15 years along with a review of some relevant current trends and concludes with a set of action-oriented recommendations.

Mainstreaming gender, democratizing the state?’ (2008), Shirin Rai, in S. Rai, The Gender Politics of Development, New Delhi: Zubaan, and London and New York: Zed
Books, pp.71

First published in 2003, this essay looks at gender mainstreaming from the perspective of national gender machineries within states, arguing that democratisation processes are crucial for embedding national gender machineries in the architecture of governance. For the author, as these national machineries become an established part of the political landscape of countries, the question is whether, given their relatively weak position within the state system, they can effect a more sustained agenda of redistribution and gender equality, the capacity of these bodies often being undermined by lack of resources, and lack of will in terms of addressing issues of gender equality.

Feminisms in Development: Contradictions, Contestations & Challenges (2007), Andrea Cornwall, Elizabeth Harrison, and Ann Whitehead (eds.) London and New York: Zed Books (print on demand), website:

Part two of this multi-authored, three-part book is entitled ‘Institutionalizing gender in development’ and the six excellent essays that make up the section all reflect on and critically assess the success or otherwise of gender mainstreaming in the development sector, analysing the institutional aspects of efforts towards gender transformation, progress towards gender equality, and the strength of the gender agenda within development institutions. (The essay ‘Mainstreaming gender or ‘‘streaming’’ gender away: feminists marooned in the development business’ in this section, written by Maitrayee Mukhopadhyay, also appears in IDS Bulletin 35(4), from 2004.) In the book’s final essay, ‘The chimera of success: gender ennui and the changed international policy environment’, author Maxine Molyneux makes the point that institutional gender mainstreaming on its own will never be enough, ‘. . . if gender analysis and mainstreaming are to be more than another policy tool, they need to be accompanied by some strategy for achieving gender justice as part of a broader commitment to greater social and economic equality.

Living Gender in African Organisations and Communities: Stories from The Gambia, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia (2006), Senorina Wendoh and Tina Wallace, Transform Africa,, 127 pp.

Based on research in Rwanda, The Gambia, Uganda, and Zambia, this report investigates the way gender is understood among African communities and local organisations. The research was commissioned in order to help NGO Transform Africa understand better why there has been so much resistance to current approaches to working on gender among African NGOs and local communities.

Gender & Development, Vol. 13, No. 2 (July 2005), Mainstreaming: A Critical Review

This 2005 special issue of Gender & Development focuses on gender mainstreaming and includes seven articles looking at gender mainstreaming in a variety of contexts around the world, as well as what has become an influential editorial article by Fenella Porter and Caroline Sweetman, and an overview of progress made up to 2005, ‘Gender mainstreaming since Beijing: a review of success and limitations in international institutions’, written by Caroline Moser and Annalise Moser. There is also a very helpful Resources section. For those without subscriber access to Gender & Development, the articles, but not the Resources section, are available at

Gender Mainstreaming: productive tensions in theory and practice’ (2005), Sylvia Walby, Social Politics 12(3): 321-343

As indicated by the title, this article is a highly theoretical and scholarly consideration of gender mainstreaming. For the author, gender mainstreaming is a contested process, involving ‘gender equality’ and ‘the mainstream’. The article, which provides the introductory paper for the Social Politics special issue on Gender Mainstreaming, published in 2005, goes on to discuss the variety of definitions of gender mainstreaming, differing visions of, and routes to, gender equality, and the location of gender mainstreaming between notions of ‘expertise’ and democracy, all against the backdrop of transnational global politics, multilateral forms of government, such as the United Nations and the European Union, along with diverse understandings of human rights, which transcend country boundaries.

Who needs (sex) when you can have (gender)? Conflicting discourses on gender at Beijing, (1997), Sally Baden and Anne Marie Goetz, Feminist Review 56 (Summer):3-25.

This important article examines the challenges to the concept of gender mainstreaming which emerged at the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, September 1995. Relating the viewpoints of a number of southern activist women at the NGO Forum of the Beijing Conference, the article reveals that even at what was a relatively early stage in the history of gender mainstreaming, some were arguing that the way ‘gender’ had been deployed in development institutions had led to a depoliticisation of the term, where feminist policy ambitions had been sacrificed to the imperative of ease of incorporation into organisational frameworks. The article also relates the attack on ‘gender’ which came from right-wing groups, and was battled out over the text of the Platform for Action agreed at the official conference.

Getting Institutions Right for Women in Development (1997), Anne Marie Goetz (ed.)
London and New York: Zed Books, (print on demand) website:

Something of a seminal work, this book looks at the relationship between gendered aspects of development organisations (ranging from NGOs to state bureaucracies) and the gendered outcomes in the development process that continue to constrain or disadvantage women. The articles in the book look at the opportunities for development organisations to confront institutional gender inequity. Some of the articles challenge the assumption that NGOs are inherently more gender-sensitive organisations, while others highlight the importance of individual agents in promoting gender equity within resistant organisations. There are also examples of women’s organisations and the problems they face in challenging the norms of the wider cultural context within which they are located.


Gender Manual: A Practical Guide for Development Policy Makers and Practitioners, (2002), Helen Derbyshire, London: Department for International Development,, 42 pp.

Designed for use by non-gender specialist staff at the UK’s Department for International Development and partner organisations, this document provides an example of a ‘how to do gender mainstreaming’ guide. It combines practical tools and guidelines on what it calls the ‘four key steps’ of gender mainstreaming – collecting sex-disaggregated data and gender analytical information; women as well as men influencing the development agenda; action to promote gender equality; and organisational capacity building and change – with succinct but thoughtful and clearly written introductory sections on ideas and concepts relating to gender equality and mainstreaming.

Gender Mainstreaming in Practice: A Toolkit (Third Edition) (2007), Bratislava: UN Development Programme, Part I,
en_gender_mainstre.pdf, 149 pp., Part II,

Another example of a ‘how to’ guide for non-gender specialists, this Toolkit, produced by the UN Development Programme for use by staff in Southern and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, comprises a handbook, originally, a separate CD (the content of which can now be downloaded from the email address, above). Part I of the toolkit provides a methodology for gender mainstreaming in any policy area, and is divided into four sections – ten steps for Mainstreaming Gender into the Policy-making Process; Gender Analysis; Basic Principles of Gender Equality; and a Glossary of Terms and Case Studies. The CD looks at 12 programme areas, or sectors, for example, poverty, health, and energy and environment, highlighting the main gender issues in each area, the main arguments for gender mainstreaming, and possible progress indicators and entry points for action.

Sectoral guides

Commonwealth Secretariat Gender Mainstreaming Series, website:

This series currently consists of ten books, each focusing on gender mainstreaming in a specific development sector. These sectors include health, conflict transformation, primary and secondary education, poverty reduction, and social protection.

Gender in Agriculture Sourcebook (2009), The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank,

The Executive Summary (available in Arabic, French, Russian, and Spanish, as well as English) of the Gender in Agriculture Sourcebook is entitled ‘Investing in women as drivers of agricultural growth’. Arguing that agriculture is a crucial source of livelihoods for women in many developing countries, and a key pathway out of poverty, the Sourcebook uses empirical evidence to provide ‘decision makers and practitioners with practical guidance, not only on how to avoid the pitfalls of gender neutral planning, but on how to capitalize on the extraordinary productive and poverty reducing potential of the woman farmer’. The Sourcebook consists of 16 downloadable modules, which cover a wide range of relevant areas, such as: gender in crop agriculture; gender in fisheries and aquaculture; gender and livestock; gender issues in agricultural labour; and gender issues in land policy and administration, plus an Executive Summary, an Overview, and Updates.

Gender and Value Chain Development: An Evaluation Study (2010), Lone Riisgaard, Anna Maria Escobar Fiblar, and Stefano Ponte, Copenhagen: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark,, 71 pp.

Opening with very helpful definitions of ‘value chains’, ‘value chain analysis’, and ‘value chain interventions’ (p. 6), this paper, which is based on the findings of existing evaluations, aims to uncover which gender issues are important when and where in value chains. The discussion is organised into four different sections: gender outcomes of value chain interventions focused on complying with sustainability standards; gender outcomes of generic value chain interventions; gender outcomes of value chain interventions that target only women; and gender mainstreaming in value chain projects.


Association of Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), 215 Spadina Ave, Suite 150, Toronto, Ontario, M5T 2C7, Canada, tel: 1 416 594 3773, email:,

AWID is an international, feminist, membership network organisation that works to promote gender equality, sustainable development, and women’s human rights. The organisation has a diverse membership – including development practitioners, development organisations, researchers, academics, activists, policymakers, and funders – many of whom have direct experience of implementing gender mainstreaming programmes within their own, or other organisations. AWID works to a set of initiatives – Where is the Money for Women’s Rights? Resisting and Challenging Religious Fundamentalisms; Women Human Rights Defenders; Building Feminist Movements and Organisations; Women’s Rights Information; Influencing Development Actors and Practices for Women’s Rights; and Young Feminist Activism, commissioning and publishing work on all these areas. A further initiative is the AWID Forum, held every four years, and which is perhaps the key networking event for all those working in gender and development, whether as professionals in development agencies, grassroots activists, or academics and students.

Gender at Work, 177-639 Dupont Street, Toronto, Ontario, M6G1Z4, Canada, tel:1 647-995-4289, fax: 1 866-571-5810, email: info@genderatwork, website: 

Gender at Work is a non-profit organisation which has combined feminist thinking with insights from the world of organisational development in order to work both with and within organisations to support institutional transformation that promotes women’s empowerment and gender equality. Gender at Work’s website provides information on the methodology it uses in its work to bring about transformation, plus case studies, and downloadable resources.

UN Women, street address: 220 East 42nd Street, New York, NY 10017, USA, mailing
address: 405 East 42nd Street, New York, NY 10017, USA, tel: 1 646 781-4400, fax:
1 646 781-4444, email: via the website, website:

The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, or UN Women, was created in July 2010, bringing together the four separate UN bodies that previously focused exclusively on gender equality and women’s empowerment. Former Chilean president Michele Bachelet was chosen as the organisation’s first Executive Director. UN Women’s main roles are: to support intergovernmental bodies, for example, the Commission on the Status of Women, in their formulation of policies, global standards, and norms; helping member states to implement these standards and forging effective partnerships with civil society; and holding the UN system accountable for its own commitments to gender equality. The organisation has five focus areas – violence against women; peace and security; leadership and participation; economic empowerment; national planning and budgets; and the Millennium Development Goals – and UN Women is now responsible for publishing the World Survey on the Role of Women in Development, which comes out every five years, and the biennial Progress of the World’s Women report. These can be downloaded from the UN Women website.