Resources and reflections on gender and thinking and working politically

12th June 2015

Next week's meeting of the Thinking and Working Politically Community of Practice will focus on gender at an opportune time. It follows a spate of interesting papers, blog posts and talks about the relationship between 'thinking and working politically' and gender issues. 

These have set us thinking that  rather than keeping the tools of power analysis and politics trained on other people, other organisations, other outcomes, as is usually the case  we need a shift of focus. We need to look in the mirror before we go much further.

Evie Browne’s GSDRC report for DFID on Gender in Political Economy Analysis set the scene by exploring how gender is incorporated into PEA – or mostly isn’t – and which tools are used to do this.

ODI’s recent report ‘Support to women and girls’ leadership: A rapid review of the evidence’, by Tam O’Neil & Georgia Plank, with Pilar Domingo, and two DLP concept briefs, Gender and Power by Diana Koester and Gender, Sexuality and Inequality by Gillian Fletcher, take the discussion forward.  

These papers provide a useful summary of:

  • why a better understanding of gender, sexuality and power relations by donors is needed if development is to be ‘politically smart’, and why addressing gender equality is inherently political;
  • what  and who a politically-informed approach to supporting gender equality  would need to involve, by working with a wider set of actors and through informal processes and spaces;
  • how donors might need to think about these issues – by addressing gender equality as an ongoing long-term institutional process, not just the ad hoc building of individual skills, and by examining their own gendered organisations.
  • and what further research is needed.

Duncan Green has also recently commented on the ODI paper and one of the DLP papers, and on Oxfam’s own work on women’s leadership and the IDS Pathways research, drawing out some of the ‘success factors’ that lie behind effective women’s leadership. 

A number of useful papers and blogs on gender and political settlements and gender and political inclusion have come from the Effective States and Inclusive Development Research Centre. ESID has also produced Researching the politics of gender, which emphasises the importance of historical analysis of women’s political role during critical moments of state formation, and their role in informal as well as formal institutions and spaces. Through four case studies, it illustrates the value in exploiting ‘the convergence between the political settlements framework and recent advances in the feminist literature on women in politics’ and provides an analytical framework to do so. The authors suggest that this can both strengthen work on political settlements and benefit feminist analysis.

Raewyn Connell’s  great talk at LSE on ‘decolonising gender’ is not linked specifically to development. However, it reminds us of the dangers of locating gender debates too centrally in a global political economy of knowledge production which is largely shaped by the power and wealth of the global North.  She suggests we need to call on a ‘richer history of gender struggle’ than that represented in the ‘northern-centred economy of knowledge’. We should draw more on the global historical archive of feminist activism, research and thinking around the world. For instance:

At the end of her talk, Raewyn notes that feminist scholarship always needs to be linked to practice, struggle and activism, but wonders if there is a need to think and work politically more in global arenas. She argues that this may be necessary because gender relations are increasingly formed in international spaces - through transnational corporations, for instance. She wonders if we could learn from the Latin American feminist encuentros in working out how to bring activists, social movements, femocrats and researchers together to address the institutionalised masculinity that pervades most transnational spaces.

Finally, the most visible manifestation of power and politics is money and funding. As Lydia Alpízar Durán has recently noted on the AWID website, there is growing evidence that ‘women’s movements have been the key drivers defending women’s human rights and gender justice worldwide’. Yet the median budget for a 740-strong sample of women’s organizations around the world looked at by AWID was just US$20,000. Durán suggests that at the upcoming 3rd International Conference on Financing for Development, ‘it is critical to remember that real systemic impact for women’s rights needs significant resources’

To us, this all suggests the need to use the tools of power analysis and politics to examine ourselves. It suggests that this will need to be a key part of the agenda at next week's Bangkok meeting.

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

Chris Roche

Chris Roche

Chris is Associate Professor and Chair in International Development at La Trobe University in Melbourne, where he is also Director of the Institute for Human Security and Social Change. He is DLP's Senior Research Partner, and he has over 25 years’ experience working for international NGOs as a project manager, evaluator, policy researcher and director.

Read more

Author

Tait Brimacombe

Tait Brimacombe

Tait is in the final stages of completing her PhD, which explores the intersection of communication for development and gender in the Pacific, with fieldwork conducted in Vanuatu, Fiji and the Cook Islands. She has also contributed to research for AusAID (now DFAT) and the Australian Civil Military Centre on communication for development in fragile states, and the role of communication in complex emergencies. Her current research interests include women’s leadership, coalitions and collective action in the Pacific. Tait is based at the Institute for Human Security and Social Change, La Trobe University.

Read more

Author

Gillian Fletcher

Gillian Fletcher

Gillian is a DLP Research Fellow with more than 15 years’ experience of working in, researching, and evaluating international development. Her PhD examined the gaps between rhetoric and practice in HIV prevention in Myanmar. Methodologically, Gillian has a strong commitment to participatory action research and reflective learning. She is based at La Trobe University's Institute for Human Security and Social Change. 

Read more

Related items

Opinion by Alina Rocha Menocal29th March 2016

Adding gender and power to the TWP agenda

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?

Opinion by Sally Moyle6th August 2015

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

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

In a follow-up to Luke Arnold’s recent post on coalitions for disability inclusion in Indonesia, Angie Bexley introduces a broader initiative in which reform coalitions are working for the inclusion of six marginalised groups.

Opinion by Angie Bexley22nd August 2016

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

Last month, UNDP co-hosted a Global Meeting in Jordan on supporting core government functions in fragile and conflict-affected settings. It brought together over 60 colleagues and practitioners from the UN system, World Bank, donors, and government representatives from around the world.

Opinion by Aditi Haté 22nd February 2017

Development cooperation and fighting corruption: thinking differently

Everyone associates Brazil with football and the World Cup. Brazilians pouring out onto the street last summer to protest the competition being hosted in their country was last thing many of us expected to see.

Opinion by Heather Marquette24th June 2015
Opinion by Alina Rocha Menocal24th November 2014

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

Gender in impact evaluation: norms as well as numbers

The World’s Women 2015, recently released by the UN, tells us that in 2015 women held 22% of parliamentary seats – almost double the level recorded in 1997 (12%).

Opinion by Gillian Fletcher27th November 2015

When the stars align to tackle inequality: reflections on the DLP annual conference

From the Occupy Movement to Thomas Piketty to current proposals for a new set of Sustainable Development Goals, inequality has emerged as one of the most intractable challenges of our time, and everyone, from activists to academics to policymakers, is talking about it. 

Opinion by Alina Rocha Menocal18th February 2015

Inequality – the politics behind the policies

Discussion starter for the #polinequality conference

Opinion by David Hudson11th February 2015

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

Recently, I’ve read many articles and heard from many colleagues who are concerned about the apparent competition between the Doing Development Differently (DDD) network and the Thinking and Working Politically (TWP) community of practice.

Opinion by Thomas Parks29th August 2016

Connections, contradictions and the political economy of attention

How can we encourage creativity, even in risk-averse organisations? How can we protect our attention resources?

I listened to two interesting LSE podcasts recently which got me thinking more about creativity following on from a recent blog I posted about the current interest in innovation. Some even suggest the ‘innovation imperative’ is a mega trend.

Opinion by Chris Roche7th May 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

Politics, risk and development: three takeaways

Last week was a big one for the Australasian development community, particularly for those interested in the politics of development. The Australasian Aid Conference at the Australian National University (10-11 February) included a packed session on 'Putting political thinking into development practice'. And DLP’s Annual Conference at La Trobe University focused  on Power, Politics and Positive Deviance.

Opinion by Chris Roche19th February 2016

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

Today marks the fortieth anniversary of Indira Gandhi’s declaration of a national emergency in India, which led to an 18-month period of autocracy. Civil rights were suspended, political opponents and journalists were arrested without the right to trial, censorship was imposed, elections were cancelled, non-Congress state governments were dismissed, the constitution changed.

Opinion by Niheer Dasandi25th June 2015

Creative expression and women's empowerment in the Pacific

Art and creative expression have become an activist tool and alternative form of advocacy for young women in Fiji.

Through photography, theatre, dance and song, young women are finding new avenues for public expression. These innovative avenues for making their voices heard have great power in a context where women’s mobility and visibility is often constrained by socio-cultural norms.

Opinion by Tait Brimacombe19th March 2015

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

One of the most significant failings of international political assistance has been the tendency to focus too much on institutional structure and process, and not enough on culture and behaviour.

Opinion by Greg Power2nd December 2016

Welcome to DLP's blog

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

Opinion by Heather Marquette10th December 2013

How does politically informed programming shape development outcomes?

Many well-intentioned development programmes founder in the face of resistance from entrenched elites who feel threatened by a potential loss of power and resources. Resources intended for the poor and disadvantaged benefit the rich and powerful. In response, development practitioners and academics have become keenly interested in the political factors that shape development outcomes over the past ten years.

Opinion by Mark Robinson29th January 2016

The politics of redistribution: we need you

Which are the key country cases? Help us shape new research.

Opinion by David Hudson16th October 2014

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

Taking the Results agenda to the next level?

On new book The Politics of Evidence and Results in International Development

Opinion by Chris Roche15th July 2015

Anthropology and elites: 'Studying up', politically

Some strikingly parallel questions are being asked in my own discipline of anthropology and by those examining how donors and practitioners can think and work politically with developing communities.

Opinion by Paul Robert Gilbert10th March 2016

Cancer and the links between medicine and development

Guest post for From Poverty to Power

Opinion by Chris Roche15th April 2015

#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

Innovation: transactional or transformative?

Innovation has become a popular word in international development. In Australia today, Bjorn Lomborg helped to formally open DFAT’s development innovation hub innovationXchange, which is designed to ‘identify, trial and scale up successful approaches’. Other donors, including the US and the UK, are also promoting innovation through initiatives like the Development Innovation Ventures programme.

Opinion by Chris Roche23rd March 2015

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

When most people hear the term leadership, they think of 'The Leader', of the powerful CEO or the strong President (also, most likely, a man). This may be in part because the body of research into leadership is overwhelmingly dominated by the fields of business or organisational psychology. Or because the processes of leadership are often conflated with the actions or vision of a single leader.

Opinion by Heather Lyne de Ver11th February 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

Parliamentary strengthening: the IDC report

Having presented evidence to the UK's International Development Committee, what of the final report?

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

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

Guest blogger Priya Chattier speaks at DLP's 2016 Annual Conference at La Trobe University in Melbourne on Monday 8 February. Her post here begins a short series on the conference theme: Power, politics and positive deviance.

Opinion by Priya Chattier 1st February 2016

Don't give up on government

The World Bank launched its flagship World Development Report (WDR) this week, which boldly redefines how governance and policy interact to yield good or bad development outcomes. People are rightly praising the report for rejecting best practicesembracing adaptation and endorsing a focus on politics.

Opinion by Dan Hymowitz3rd February 2017

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

In October 2015 I met Anna, a softly spoken young woman who lives in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (PNG). We talked during the recess break at school and Anna told me about some of the challenges she faces trying to complete year ten, the final year of compulsory education in PNG. These include that she is beaten by her aunt and grandmother, they refuse her the bus money to get to school and that her aunt recently set fire to her text books. 

Opinion by Ceridwen Spark14th January 2016

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

new analysis of poverty in India from the World Bank challenges claims that India's reforms and striking economic growth have failed to help the poor and disadvantaged. But the deprivation and inequalities in India (highlighted by Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen in An Uncertain Glory) are stark.

Opinion by Niheer Dasandi11th December 2013

The practicalities of change - positive deviance and land reform in Vanuatu

This guest post by Anna Naupa draws on her Adrian Leftwich Memorial Lecture, presented at the DLP Annual Conference 2016: Power, Politics and Positive Deviance. It is the perspective of Anna Naupa and not that of any organisation with which she is, or has been, affiliated.

Opinion by Anna Naupa13th April 2016
Opinion by Heather Marquette10th November 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

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

The political settlements framework can seem a distraction to some practitioners, many of whom have been thinking and working politically about development for a number of years. They find the term difficult to define with any precision and, in any case, quite unnecessary. In the real world, progress towards better understanding of and engagement with the political conditions which help and hinder development has been ticking along nicely, independently of the academic debates.

Opinion by Edward Laws15th July 2015

DLP political settlements workshop: reflections

Serendipity, perhaps. I joined the Political Settlements Research Programme at the beginning of June; my first formal engagement was on June 17, at the Political Settlements Workshop organised by the Developmental Leadership Program. It was quite an induction day.

Opinion by Astrid Jamar22nd July 2015

Political settlements: people and the landscapes of power

The problem with politics is that it involves people, and people do strange things. When development actors engage with power they often prefer to iron out the unpredictability of real politics in favour of the much neater lines of trends and social groups. We revere drivers of change studies because we can cope with the long-term, identity-based analysis of `deep’ politics. 

Opinion by Alan Whaites24th July 2015
Opinion by Orlanda Ward7th March 2017
Opinion by Alina Rocha Menocal15th October 2015

What's so 'African' about African leadership?

I'm often guilty of describing myself as an 'Africanist' even though my research focuses only on Rwanda and the eastern DRC.

When I teach courses on African security, I focus on the 'important states' – Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, and the 'significant conflicts' – Biafra, the Rwandan Genocide, Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Congo Wars, the Sudans and Darfur.

Opinion by Suda Perera1st April 2014

Two remarkable transitions: lessons from Oman and Somaliland

We tend to look through the political settlements lens only at places experiencing either conflict or deep poverty – or both. Yet we would know much more about how useful the lens is if we examined more successes with it. Areas of stability and calm, especially in regions where near neighbours seem to be struggling to resolve strife, might teach us something about how historical experiences do or don’t chime with contemporary donor practices.

Opinion by Sarah Phillips20th July 2015

More room for politics in the inequality debate?

This month at DLP our focus is largely on corruption as we prepare for a collaborative event in London discussing 'Corruption and development'. Yet we could hardly fail to notice that inequality, a hot topic since Pikettymania and the theme of our conference earlier in the year, has resurfaced with a vengeance.

Opinion by David Hudson24th June 2015

Gender - the power relationship that Political Economy Analysis forgot?

It's easy to forget that 'gender' does not mean 'women' but actually means 'gender relations', or the relations between men and women. Gender analysis examines how power is distributed between women and men, how it operates, who can use it and for what purposes. It's best understood as a system which shapes everything around us – what we think, what we know, whose knowledge is privileged, and which values are supported.

Opinion by Evie Browne13th February 2014

International donors - aiding or abetting?

In September 2012, lawyers representing an Ethiopian farmer announced that they planned to sue the UK government for its role in human rights violations in Ethiopia. The farmer, named in court papers as “Mr O”, alleged that the Ethiopian government’s “villagisation” programme had involved the forced resettlement of thousands of families including his own.

Opinion by Niheer Dasandi10th September 2015

Resources and reflections on gender and thinking and working politically

Next week's meeting of the Thinking and Working Politically Community of Practice will focus on gender at an opportune time. It follows a spate of interesting papers, blog posts and talks about the relationship between 'thinking and working politically' and gender issues. 

Opinion by Chris Roche12th June 2015

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

Counting matters. As the Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi report puts it: What we measure affects what we do; and if our measurements are flawed, decisions may be distorted…. [I]f metrics of performance are flawed, so too may be inferences we draw.

Opinion by Alex Cobham12th May 2015

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

Security and justice – the mismatch between policy and practice

What hinders more politically nuanced security and justice programming?

Opinion by Shivit Bakrania21st July 2014