Adding gender and power to the TWP agenda

6th August 2015

Thinking and Working Politically presents development to us as an endeavour embedded within power structures. This is so important.

It helps us see clearly that we need to understand domestic politics to deliver development outcomes. Who are the players? Who makes decisions? Who will stand to lose from a proposal and how can they block progress?

But now we need to take the next step – and realise that there are many forms of power.

Power theorists have framed power in a variety of ways. I quite like the ‘power over’, ‘power to’, ‘power with’ framework. ‘Power over’ is the ability to get people to do something that they otherwise wouldn’t. This is the way we generally see power today, and I think it is usually how we see power in TWP.

‘... given the connections between gender analysis and political economy analysis, we need to be speaking with one voice’

Yet authority is not only positional or hierarchical, and if we only look at people in visible positions of authority, we will miss most of the story. Power pervades society. And some forms of power are so ubiquitous they are almost invisible. In the jargon, this is hegemony – where power becomes seen not as a construct that could be challenged and dismantled, but as the ‘natural order’ of things.

And so gender relations are generally seen as ‘natural’ arrangements or even individual choices, or, particularly in the development context, value-neutral cultural arrangements. Too often, I think, we just don’t see gender. Even if we do see it, we see gender equality as a social issue, and equate gender analysis with social analysis. In other words, not part of the main game.

The result is that gender has too often been, as Evie Brown puts it, the power relationship that Political Economy Analysis forgot.

Recently, I am pleased to be able to say, there has been a convergence of interest – if modest – in gender analysis and TWP. We are beginning to see ways in which both approaches can work together to advance our understanding and improve development outcomes.

Because gender is a primary system of power. As Diana Koestler has said, our understandings of power may themselves be the result of men’s power over women. Our systems of power are derived from historical arrangements made by men to maintain power over other men. And to do this they often controlled women.

Greater gender equality is correlated, in a number of studies, with lower resort to domestic terrorism and to intra- and inter-state violence. While correlation is obviously not causation, a gender and power analysis offers explanations that I find exciting.

When women are seen as property, other men become potentially hostile competitors. And where you see power as a zero sum game, you are more likely to resort to the ‘power over’ approach of armed violence or insurrection. One of the drivers of violent extremism, insurrection or armed conflict is a willingness to advance one’s cause at another’s expense, violently. We are seeing this scenario play out in ISIS now. ISIS needs women  subjugated women  to maintain the systems of power they are building amongst male players.

The women’s movement has long been working with this political understanding of gender relations. Gender and power have been at the centre of gender and development theory for decades. As far back as the 1980s, Mayra Buvinic pointed out that effective integration of gender equality into development programming requires a clear understanding of the political processes in which development actors work.

‘Taking a gender sensitive and TWP approach, we can explore how we can work with women and civil society to disrupt power structures that are not helpful to development.’

And of course we can’t forget the old feminist adage that the personal is political. It reminds us that gender relations frame the incentives of women and men differently and define interests. It shows us how the dominant patterns of power play out in our daily lives, and allows us to notice that they are replicated throughout society and in our personal gendered relations.

It also helps us to see alternative ways that power is exercised. Too often we start by looking at those in power, yet people with very little power know well how to navigate authority and can tell us a lot about how we can support change.

So  understanding gender relations and inequality could improve the TWP approach. Equally, importing TWP thinking into gender equality work could ensure gender analysis becomes increasingly sophisticated. And, given the connections between gender analysis and political economy analysis, we need to be speaking with one voice.

We’re already on the same page in talking about the need for flexibility, rolling design and iterative implementation. DFAT’s major gender equality programsPacific Women, Empowering Indonesian Women for Poverty Reduction and the newly designed Investing in Women Initiative – are all underpinned by these approaches.

Working together, we could land joint positions on how to conceptualise power more broadly, building in understandings of gender relations to improve the effectiveness of our analysis. Taking a gender sensitive and TWP approach, we can explore how we can work with women and civil society to disrupt power structures that are not helpful to development.

And, let me add, we need to apply a power analysis to our own position in the development hierarchy. It could give us the degree of humility we need to get over ourselves. 

 

Image: Woman in Nepal (Stephan Bachenheimer / World Bank)

0 Comments

Leave a comment

The views expressed in Opinions posts are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of DLP, the Australian Government or DLP's partner organisations.

Documents

Author

Sally Moyle

Sally Moyle

Sally has been the Principal Sector Specialist for Gender Equality in Australia's aid program since May 2013. She has been a senior executive in the Australian Government since 2008, responsible for the Office for Women, and working on Indigenous Affairs and in DisabilityCare Australia. Prior to this, Sally was the AusAID Gender Adviser. She came to AusAID in 2006 with a decade's experience in gender equality policy domestically and internationally at the Australian Human Rights Commission, where she was the Director of the Sex Discrimination Unit. 

Read more

Related items

Cancer and the links between medicine and development

DLP Senior Research Partner discusses what cancer has taught him about the links between medicine and development. Guest post for From Poverty to Power.

Opinion by Chris Roche15th April 2015

Two remarkable transitions: lessons from Oman and Somaliland

What we can learn from areas of stability and calm in regions where near neighbours seem to be struggling to resolve strife.

Opinion by Sarah Phillips20th July 2015

Creative expression and women's empowerment in the Pacific

Through photography, theatre, dance and song, young Fijian women are finding new avenues for public expression and activism.

Opinion by Tait Brimacombe19th March 2015

Welcome to DLP's blog

Welcome to DLP's new blog on politics, power, policy and developmental leadership

Opinion by Heather Marquette10th December 2013

Uncounted: has the post-2015 data revolution failed already?

The Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi report tells us that how we measure affects what we do; and if our measurements are flawed, decisions may be distorted.

Opinion by Alex Cobham12th May 2015

Coalitions for inclusion in Indonesia: communities and government tackling discrimination together

Following up to Luke Arnold on coalitions for disability inclusion in Indonesia, Angie Bexley introduces broader work on the inclusion of six marginalised groups.

Opinion by Angie Bexley22nd August 2016

Identifying rebels with a cause (and effect)

The Developmental Leadership Program will host its 2016 Annual Conference at La Trobe University in Melbourne on 8 February. Its theme is Power, politics and positive deviance.

Opinion by Chris Roche1st December 2015

Fixing aid: we can't turn off the tap at the first sign of corruption

Much 'petty' corruption is about the poor using what little power they have to stave off destitution. (Guest post for The Conversation)

Opinion by Heather Marquette10th November 2014

Oil reform in Nigeria: The ups and downs of channel-hopping programme delivery

How much do we really know about what 'thinking and working politically' can achieve – and where it might present dangers – in challenging political and sectoral contexts?

Opinion by Joanna Buckley27th July 2017

Using aid to strengthen Parliaments: fix the car, or worry about the driver?

Parliaments have always been treated as the poor cousins of democracy assistance efforts. (Guest post for From Poverty to Power)

Opinion by Alina Rocha Menocal24th November 2014

Climate change and adaptation in the Pacific Islands: watering down women's security?

Beyond 'adaptability'? In this guest post, Nicole George highlights the work of women leaders who are challenging a narrow adaptation agenda.

Opinion by Nicole George7th March 2014

Innovation: transactional or transformative?

It's time to discuss how the word 'innovation' might mean different things to different audiences. 

Opinion by Chris Roche23rd March 2015

Taking the Results agenda to the next level?

In The Politics of Evidence and Results in International Development, Chris Roche and his fellow editors examine how practitioners have navigated, resisted and used the ‘results agenda’ for more transformational ends.

Opinion by Chris Roche15th July 2015

Political analysis as the practical art of the possible

Bringing politics back into PEA - a new paper with Adrian Leftwich

Opinion by David Hudson24th July 2014

The politics of redistribution: we need you

Share your thoughts on episodes of redistribution that have helped redress inequality, and help us shape new research into the politics behind them. 

Opinion by David Hudson16th October 2014

Gender and power: six links and one big opportunity

Donors have recently made great efforts to understand power in partner countries. Yet they have largely ignored one of the most pervasive power relations – gender.

Opinion by Diana Koester21st May 2015

Beyond the limits: can we Think and Work Politically to achieve the SDGs?

How international development agencies need to change to confound the sceptics. (Guest post for the OECD's Institutions and Stability blog)

Opinion by Heather Marquette4th February 2016

Do donors have realistic expectations of their staff when it comes to 'thinking and working politically'?

Is learning to ‘think politically’ like learning a new language? 

Opinion by Heather Marquette9th June 2014

Political settlements: people and the landscapes of power

The inescapable conundrum that politics involves actual politicians is one reason why the subject of political settlements generates so much debate.

Opinion by Alan Whaites24th July 2015

Parliamentary strengthening: the IDC report

Parliaments - and the political parties that populate them - are the institutions people trust least. Guest post for ODI's Shaping Policy for Development blog.

Opinion by Tam O'Neil9th February 2015

Gender analysis, and thinking and working politically – bridging the gap

Guest post on Devpolicy  introducing panels at this week's Australasian Aid Conference

Opinion by Chris Roche14th February 2017

How does politically informed programming shape development outcomes?

A new 'thinking and working politically' community of practice aims to develop practical guidance for development practitioners based on evidence of what works in politically smart programming.

Opinion by Mark Robinson29th January 2016

Perceptions of women in politics in Fiji: how to accelerate change?

Women are widely seen as entirely capable of taking on political leadership in Fiji. Yet when asked to think about 'leaders', many automatically see men in the role.

Opinion by Rachel Fairhurst20th January 2015

'Sticky’ change: What international development can learn from adaptive management

Promoting and sustaining individual behavioural change is as important as building flexibility into development programming.

Opinion by Greg Power2nd December 2016

Gender in impact evaluation: norms as well as numbers

Sex-disaggregated data tells us little about the gender-related impact of an intervention, argues DLP research fellow Gillian Fletcher, since gender is a process of judgement linked to norms about femininity or masculinity.

Opinion by Gillian Fletcher27th November 2015

Development cooperation and fighting corruption: thinking differently

Corruption is an emotive word and covers a huge range of behaviours - yet anti-corruption efforts still follow a one-size-fits-all pattern.  

Opinion by Heather Marquette24th June 2015

More room for politics in the inequality debate?

Inequality, a hot topic since Pikettymania, and the theme of the DLP conference earlier this year, has resurfaced with a vengeance.

Opinion by David Hudson24th June 2015

Fiji's Roshika Deo - outlier, positive deviant or simply feisty feminist?

Priya Chattier will speak at DLP's 2016 Annual Conference. Her post here begins a short series on the conference theme of Power, politics and positive deviance.

Opinion by Priya Chattier 1st February 2016

Pacific power: new femininities and women's leadership in the Pacific

The educated, internationally connected women who are changing the way 'development' is done

Opinion by Ceridwen Spark24th June 2014

#Feminism: Digital technologies and feminist activism in Fiji

Guest post on Devpolicy on DLP work with research partners at University of the South Pacific.

Opinion by Tait Brimacombe14th March 2017

The practicalities of change: Positive deviance and land reform in Vanuatu

Anna Naupa's 2016 Adrian Leftwich Memorial Lecture discussed where most transformation happens - in drafting the rules, or in putting them into action.

Opinion by Anna Naupa13th April 2016

Developmental leaders, 'dirty hands', and the dark side of collaboration

Should donors support developmental leaders who gain or keep power through questionable means? 

Opinion by Niheer Dasandi11th December 2013

Breaking new ground in parliamentary strengthening

The importance of tailoring parliamentary support programmes to their context. (Guest post for openDemocracy)

Opinion by Alina Rocha Menocal29th March 2016

What's so 'African' about African leadership?

Does a focus on 'African' leadership obscure the rich and diverse nature of Africa's many states and get in the way of useful lessons from other parts of the world?

Opinion by Suda Perera1st April 2014

Don't give up on government

Can the World Bank's flagship World Development Report inspire a good governance revolution that delivers development gains?

Opinion by Dan Hymowitz3rd February 2017

International donors - aiding or abetting?

The importance of acknowledging the dilemmas donors may face when giving aid to developmental states.

Opinion by Niheer Dasandi10th September 2015

Transparency and Accountability: learning through collaboration

How can the impact of transparency and accountability work be deepened? 

Opinion by Brendan Halloran10th June 2014

Medellin - more than a miracle

Bad news sells. And for news editors looking for horror stories to recycle, Colombia's second largest city used to be a reliable source.

Opinion by Cheryl Stonehouse4th March 2014

Security and justice – the mismatch between policy and practice

What hinders more politically nuanced security and justice programming?

Opinion by Shivit Bakrania21st July 2014

What are governance advisers missing with 'Political Economy Analysis'?

DLP's contribution to a new-style field guide for development practitioners. Guest post in FP2P

Opinion by David Hudson8th October 2015

Bringing Political Economy Analysis in from the cold

Once seen as a 'transformative' tool to change donor thinking, does much PEA now do little to help staff think and work politically?

Opinion by Jonathan Fisher6th May 2014

Fragmentation of the Thinking and Working Politically agenda: Should we worry?

Many different paths, but all leading to similar destinations - and adding useful nuance to development thinking and practice.  

Opinion by Thomas Parks29th August 2016

Adding gender and power to the TWP agenda

Gender relations are full-blown power relationships. Yet in the development context, they are too often seen as value-neutral cultural arrangements. 

Opinion by Sally Moyle6th August 2015

Thinking about women and girls makes development work better for everyone

A look at what happens when gender analysis is placed more squarely at the heart of governance work. (Guest post in The Conversation)

Opinion by Orlanda Ward7th March 2017

What's in a name? Leadership as more than the 'big men' and 'big women' of history

A more nuanced understanding of good developmental leadership demands a shift away from the conventional focus on 'big' individuals.

Opinion by Heather Lyne de Ver11th February 2014

Gender - the power relationship that Political Economy Analysis forgot?

While most development research is well on the way to embedding gender analysis, PEA - many donors' key analytical tool - largely ignores it.

 

Opinion by Evie Browne13th February 2014

When the stars align to tackle inequality

Reflections on the 2015 DLP annual conference.

Opinion by Alina Rocha Menocal18th February 2015

Anthropology and elites: 'Studying up', politically

The parallels between - and ethical dilemmas of - anthropology's focus on context and international development's ‘thinking and working politically’ concept. 

Opinion by Paul Robert Gilbert10th March 2016

Education against the odds: the work of a women's coalition in Papua New Guinea

PNG's BPW Port Moresby, a case study for a DLP research project, is an impressive example of local women networking without donor assistance to advance gender equity.

Opinion by Ceridwen Spark14th January 2016

DLP political settlements workshop: reflections

A practitioner considers how the intangible nature of power can be discussed and included in a policy framework. 

Opinion by Astrid Jamar22nd July 2015

Reforming FIFA: what can we learn from experience with (other) corrupt autocrats?

FIFA may not be a developing nation, but international football has its own complex political economy. Guest post for From Poverty to Power.

Opinion by Paul Jackson and Heather Marquette11th June 2015

Politics, risk and development: three takeaways

Reflections from last week's Australasian Aid Conference and DLP’s 2016 Annual Conference, both hosted at Australian universities. 

Opinion by Chris Roche19th February 2016

The curious case of Indian autocracy and what it tells us about 'thinking and working politically'

The history of India’s largely forgotten shift to autocracy and its return to democracy can tell us much about how change happens.

Opinion by Niheer Dasandi25th June 2015

Connections, contradictions and the political economy of attention

Thoughts on two sources of new and useful ideas about the deeper structures that might shape creativity.

Opinion by Chris Roche7th May 2015

What do we do on Monday? Political settlements in theory and practice

Can donors, researchers, policymakers and practitioners all agree on what we mean when we talk about 'political settlements'?

Opinion by Edward Laws15th July 2015

Inequality – the politics behind the policies

On the eve of the 2015 DLP Conference, Deputy Director David Hudson kicks off discussion on the conference theme - the politics of inequality.

Opinion by David Hudson11th February 2015

From functional governance to sustainable peace: Making the space to reflect, learn and adapt

Learning how to balance the technically possible and politically feasible in volatile, conflict-affected contexts.

Opinion by Aditi Haté 22nd February 2017