What makes many development challenges complex are the power relations and politics involved. In all contexts and at all levels, these power relationships are gendered. They affect women and men differently – often unequally.
The importance of development programs taking a politically informed approach to complex development challenges has become increasingly accepted in recent years. In this approach, a program analyses where power and influence lies to decide what it can feasibly achieve: what to work on, who with and how. For a long time, development programs have also been encouraged to be ‘gender aware’.
Both approaches aim to understand and reform unequal power dynamics to achieve change. But they have tended to operate separately – to the detriment of each.
Practice is outstripping analysis in bringing gender awareness and politically informed approaches together. The 17 case studies of this research project explore learning from social change processes and programs in diverse countries and sectors.
Some parts of the political context are easier to see than others. Formal manifestations of politics and power are the tip of a vast iceberg. Below the waterline are less visible, informal power structures and relationships. All of this political iceberg is gendered. Read more in the GAPP briefing note.
(For a similar metaphor, see Figure 3.1 in Andrews, M. (2013.) The Limits of Institutional Reform in Development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.)