Analyzing Gender Roles: A Comparison of Two Frameworks

Gender role

I will focus on two gender planning frameworks - the 'gender role' framework and the 'social relations analysis". The gender roles approach entails a gender disaggregated analysis of roles as well as the access/control over resources. It then considers the implications of these divisions and differences for project design. Ravazi and Miller (1995, p14) state that "it aims to highlight the key differences between the incentives and constraints under which men and women work; the insights gained from the analysis are then used for tailoring planned interventions (credit, education, training, etc.

) in such a way as to improve overall productivity". However, they go on to highlight the limitations of the gender roles framework arguing that it neglects the "social connectedness" of gender relations by separating out the relationship between the sexes. This framework also fails to take into account that gender divisions of labour and responsibilities fluctuate according to each sex's ability to cope with its own sphere. In this way the division of labour is a changing system of co-operation and exchange.

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For example, when a man's cash crop sales are falling, women have to compensate by taking on men's traditional productive activities like beer brewing. In neglecting "togetherness" this framework disregards how powerful gender relations can undermine resources directed at women (Ravazi & Miller, 1995, p15). Enhancing women's access to resources doesn't necessarily mean that they will have control over how they are used. The Grameen Bank in Bangladesh hands out loans to low income landless women in rural Bangladesh.

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However, men will often take these credit loans from their wives, rendering the women in a worse off position than they were to start with. Therefore powerful social relations and gender ideologies can affect a woman's ability to retain control over her own resources. "In either case the gender roles framework's assumption of autonomy seems misplaced: the complexity of conjugal relations lies precisely in this mix of social and economic, selfishness and altruism, and conflict and co operation" (Ravazi & Miller, 1995, p17).

The social relations framework makes up for some of the downfalls of the former approach which enables development planners to tailor projects more appropriately. The social relations framework is a more advanced gender planning framework. This approach sees gender as a 'social' relation. More specifically, it defines gender relations as those social relations that give rise to the subordination of women. Social relations don't exist in a vacuum. They are interwoven into a broader framework, and never exist in pure form (Kandiyoti, D. 2002).

Therefore, in order to devise policy and projects to mitigate female subordination, one must take into account both the relations of production and the social relations of everyday life (Pearson, Whitehead, Young, 1981, in Ravazi & Miller, 1995, p28). By providing a more sensitive reading of the intricate social relations through which women and men live their lives, development planners are able to consider whether targeted interventions will ultimately enhance women's status or undermine rights to which they were traditionally entitled (as in the case of the Grameen Bank).

There needs to be more attention focused on the ways in which power sharing between the sexes is more equal. Proponents of the social relations analysis emphasise the need for "action oriented political strategies to bring about women's empowerment" (Kabeer, 1992 in Ravazi & Miller, 1995, p31). Institutional frameworks for WID and GAD Since the 1980s the UN has tried to make sure there is 'national machinery' to ensure the representation of women's interest in the planning process. WID attempted to pursue their agenda through women only units at the state level.

Gender mainstreaming

This method of institutionalising WID failed and marginalized women in the development process. GAD therefore introduced the "gender mainstreaming" approach. "Mainstreaming measures are intended to provoke gender sensitive institutional, policy and operational changes across the public sector in order to make responsiveness to women's interests a routine part of each sector's activities" (Goetz, 1998, p62). Mainstreaming measures include policy instruments such as gender monitoring checklists, guidelines, inter ministerial committees, gender awareness training and gender specific national policy plans (Goetz, 1998 p62).

Integrating gender into national development plans requires political and economic groundwork by GAD policy advocates. How effective have such individuals been in mainstreaming gender issues at the state level? Goetz's research notes that although GAD institutions have developed capacity for strategic planning, the majority lack a capacity to ensure that national policy commitment to the integration of gender in development is clearly tied to budget allocations.

In order for gender issues to be legitimised there needs to be an increase in public awareness, through the amplification of the women's voice, whether it be inside or outside the state (Goetz, 1998, p71). The top down approach to development doesn't appear to be very successful in practice. Goetz, in her paper 'Mainstreaming gender equity to national development planning', notes "the paucity of women in the higher level of the civil service and the government, the lack of awareness of and commitment to gender issues generally amongst state personnel, and the critical importance of allies in government and in the administration".

It can't be assumed that women in influential positions will be willing to fight for women's interests. Class status may detach them from the concerns of poorer women. Other pressures, like the pressure to conform to the orientations of their male dominated institutions, may limit the possibilities for developing sensitivity to women's concerns. All reports detail the great frustration GAD bureaucrats feel at their lack of resources, limited impact, and the lack of legitimacy the issue appears to have (Goetz, 1998, p71).

Non-Governmental Organizations

Activists, academics and advocates working within mainstream development institutions have therefore taken up the rhetoric of NGOs - that of 'bottom up development'. Neither the market nor the state has managed to engender development. Kate Young sees NGOs as "a channel through which planners can be kept informed of women's needs and priorities so that women's views constitute essential inputs into the revision of projects and plants. In this way NGOs can fill the missing link in efforts to integrate gender into development planning" (Ravazi & Miller, 1995, p34).

It appears as though "government works best when it is responsive to and accountable to the bulk of the population". Women's power is thus premised on a collective notion of empowerment, targeting in particular the poorest and the least privileged groups. NGOs, through participatory planning, provide a channel for these women's organizations to voice their concerns to development planners at the state level. However, women's NGOs don't always manage to overcome problems encountered by women and development advocates within public institutions.

NGOs as advocators often meet the same hurdles as women and development advocates within public institutions. It is also difficult to imagine how autonomous NGO decisions makers will be in the future due to the growing proportion of donor funds being make available to them. (Ravazi & Miller, 1995, p40). Have these policy and project approaches significantly empowered women? It is clear that WID, with its 'efficiency' policy approaches and women only units, has not managed to successfully "integrate women into the global processes of economic, political and social growth and change" (Rathberger, 1990, p489).

It is for this very reason that GAD was first introduced. As Kabeer (1994) notes, GAD is concerned with the issue of power as it relates to gender and strategies for empowering women and challenging the status quo. Have GAD policy and project tools been implemented in practice? The rhetoric of this new approach appears to have been taken up by the institutions at various levels, but in reality it is the WID perspective that is still pursued. Why have GAD strategies not been put into practice? GAD programs emphasize fundamental societal change, including an examination of the social relations of gender.

This willingness to consider fundamental social transformation does not sit well with the large donor agencies which prefer government-to-government aid, with its respect for the sovereign rights of member states (Parpart,1993, p450). In addition, the concern to relieve women from some of the harsher aspects of SAPs of the 1980s has led to a renewed focus on women's welfare. The United Nations and other development agencies still see women "as helpless victims trapped by tradition and incompetence in an endless cycle of poverty and despair.

The possibility that Third World women might have skills and strategies to protect themselves rarely surfaces" (Parpart, 1993, p450). The danger here is that gender issues are tackled with poverty reduction policies. Interconnected gender issues across classes and socio-economic strata are consequently neglected and problems of gender bias by women towards other women are overlooked. Rathberger (1990) propounds that it may be easier to develop GAD projects in the realm of research rather than in the realm of development practice or implementation.

Researchers will be able to document their studies of women in a language that conveys the centrality of women in the development process to the development planners. Alternatively perhaps there is a requirement to build up a bigger and stronger lobby within the male world which can give greater legitimacy and recognition to women's struggle for equality and empowerment. This will be possible only when women can build stronger bridges with their male colleagues.


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Updated: Apr 29, 2023
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Analyzing Gender Roles: A Comparison of Two Frameworks essay
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