Gender Mainstreaming in the EU Development Cooperation

Essay, 2008

16 Pages, Grade: A



1. Introduction

2. Concept of Gender Mainstreaming

3. Analysis of Gender Mainstreaming in the development cooperation of European Union

4. Conclusion

5. Bibliography

1. Introduction

Gender Mainstreaming is potentially one of the most far-reaching and radical strategies for achieving gender equality in society. Gender Mainstreaming incorporates 'gender' as a means to equal visibility and participation of both sexes. It does not merely concentrate on women anymore, but tackles broader issues concerning women and men. Gender mainstreaming is a political principle for integrating a gender perspective in policy-making and decision-making. It therefore challenges underlying values and norms as well as actual practices (Mazey. 2001: 1-18).

I want to explore Gender Mainstreaming in the context of the European Union development cooperation. Therefore I return to its origins. Gender Mainstreaming first came up in a development context during the United Nations Third Conference on Women in Nairobi 1985 and became a recommended broader strategy during the Platform of Action of the Forth World Conference of Women in Beijing ten years later. The European Union (EU) adapted Gender Mainstreaming in the following year (Mazey. 2001: 5). So far the implementation of Gender Mainstreaming in the EU is highly criticized by feminist scholars. Therefore I ask myself if Gender Mainstreaming fulfills its potential of being a far-reaching and radical strategy. In order to check this assumption, I want to analyse the implementation of Gender Mainstreaming in the development cooperation of the EU. Does it really have an effect on the policy-making and decision-making processes? What efforts does the EU make to integrate a gender perspective in development cooperation?

I expect that the development cooperation is one of the key areas of the implementation of Gender Mainstreaming in the EU and that critics may not meet this policy area in particular. I assume that the EU makes an effort to really integrate Gender Mainstreaming. But I expect that Gender Mainstreaming is degraded and differs from its theoretical concept.

I therefore will first explore the concept of Gender Mainstreaming a bit further and find out how it is supposed to work. Referring to this theoretical part I will deduce criterias to further analyse the implementation of Gender Mainstreaming in the development cooperation of the European Union and follow up with the actual analysis. In the end I will draw a conclusion and reconsider my hypothesis.

2. The Concept of Gender Mainstreaming

Gender Mainstreaming was developed in the context of development cooperation as part of the transition from the concept of Women in Development (WID) to Gender and Development (GAD). The WID concept was criticized for its focus on women issues and women problems. The underlying message was that women have a problem and we have to help to integrate them. Thus men in particular and society as a whole were excluded from their responsibility of dealing with gender issues and integrating women. Overall gender roles and relations were no issues in the WID concept. Thus the focus shifted in the 1980s to a gender approach. The GAD concept was introduced in order to tackle broader gender issues and structures that construct gender (von Braunmühl. 2002: 18-19). The GAD concept goes beyond the WID concept as it questions oppressive structures, means the causes for inequalities, and calls for a transformation of those structures (Rathgeber. 1990). Gender Mainstreaming is an instrument of the GAD concept to work towards gender equality (APRODEV/One World Action. 2002: 8) .

Gender Mainstreaming was first discussed and adopted by UNIFEM in the 1980s. It was introduced in order to counter gender neutral development planning and to approach macro-economic and macro-political decision-making. Gender Mainstreaming includes a double-sided strategy. On one hand it requested an awareness for gender differences between women and men in all development policies, programmes and projects and on the other it demanded positive action for women when they are disadvantaged in the access to resources or underrepresented in decision making (von Braunmühl. 2002: 19). It is important to recognize here that Gender Mainstreaming does not substitute women programmes but enlarges them to gender perspective (Frey/Zdunnek. 2002: 78).

Theoretical Gender Mainstreaming is based on a feminist critique of liberal democracy. It starts with doing gender in political and economical institutions and thus questions the construction of gender roles and hierarchies and the consequential discrimination of women. The means of Gender Mainstreaming is to counter the construction of traditional gender roles. Thus it is not concerned ostensible with the discrimination of women, but with traditional images and stereotypes of gender in society. The theoretical concept of Gender Mainstreaming is therefore strongly connected to the feminist discussion on gender (Leitner. 2005: 13).

Gender Mainstreaming implies a connection to the mainstream. The implementation of Gender Mainstreaming takes place in the context of existing political structures. Feminists explicitly chose the state as a key partner for change. It is therefore directly confronted with the patriarchal and neoliberal system. Here lies one of the major concerns of scholars about the concept. Gender Mainstreaming needs to be integrated in the system in order to work. It therefore involves mainly men or persons not connected with feminist ideas and discussions on gender; and having marginal or no awareness for gender issues. Therefore Gender Mainstreaming might loose its tranformative potential. Thus one has to be aware of differences between theory and practice (Leitner. 2005: 14-15). Woodford-Berger does not see that as a problem, but rather as the „powerful appeal of the notion of gender mainstreaming" (Woodford- Berger. 2007: 10). There is the chance „to imbue all systems, structures and institutionalized cultures with awareness of gender-based biases and injustices, and to remove them" (Woodford-Berger. 2007: 10). She sees Gender Mainstreaming as a strategy that brings scholar, advocates and bureaucrats in many ways together.

This critical point is reflected in the theoretical division of two types of Gender Mainstreaming: „the integrationist approach whereby the overall development agenda is not transformed, but each issue is adapted to take into account women-and-gender concerns; and the agenda-setting approach as a key strategy whereby women participate in decision-making and determine development priorities" (APRODEV/One World Action. 2002: 8).

Regardless of this differentiation Gender Mainstreaming has a huge impact on international politics. It was discussed and adopted in 1995 on the Forth World Conference on Women of the United Nations in Beijing. Herewith Gender Mainstreaming was extended to all fields of policy and internationally recognized. All participating states commited themselves to implement Gender Mainstreaming in their national political systems. In Beijing+10 and in the World Millenium Summit 2005 the concept was reaffirmed as a global strategy for the promotion of gender equality.

The EU was involved in the preparation of the Forth World Conference and very much committed to the issue. Following the Action Platform of the World Conference the EU adapted Gender Mainstreaming. Therefore the equal opportunities agenda of the European Union was expanded. Formerly it was merely concentrated on equal pay and equal treatment of women in the workplace based on Article 119 of the Treaty of Rome. After 1996 there can be identified three models of equal opportunities within the EU: equal treatment, positive action and gender mainstreaming which are inclusive and interactive (Rees. 1998: 27f). Gender Mainstreaming significantly opened the equal opportunities agenda of the EU as is applies to all institutions and policies (Pollack/Hafner-Burton. 2000: 434). In the communication of the European Commission in 1996 is stated that:

The principle of 'gender mainstreaming' consists of taking systematic account of the differences between the conditions, situations and needs of women and men in all Community policies and actions (European Commission. 1996: 1).

Sonia Mazey states in her analysis of Gender Mainstreaming in the EU that the focus of it goes beyond the policy-making process and „implies institutional and political change in order to increase women's political representation and participation in decision- making" (Mazey. 2001: 3). This accentuates the two-sidedness of Gender Mainstreaming of integrating a gender perspective in policy-making and of empowering women in politics.

Important for a good implementation of Gender Mainstreaming is political will and an atmosphere towards gender equality. The EU stated its political will by integrating gender equality as one of its fundamental principles in the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997 (EU. 1998: Art. 2). Furthermore the atmosphere towards gender equality was positive and very much promoted by the new Scandinavian member states. Besides all institutions must be themselves critically and aware in the implementation process (Mazey. 2001: 12-18).

Caroline Moser and Annalise Moser identified in their review of Gender Mainstreaming in international institutions six key components of Gender Mainstreaming:

- a dual strategy of mainstreaming gender combined with targeted actions for gender equality;
- gender analysis;
- a combined approach to responsibilities, where all staff share responsibility, but are supported by gender specialists;
- gender training;
- support to women' decision making and empowerment;
- monitoring and evaluation (Moser/Moser. 2005: 12).

I will use this criteria in order to analyse the implementation of Gender Mainstreaming in the development cooperation of the EU. I will therefore focus on the following points in the next chapter:

- the political will and atmosphere towards gender equality;
- the training of staff in gender issues;
- the use of internal assessment and evaluation of Gender Mainstreaming;
- the two sidedness of Gender Mainstreaming;
- the representation of women in the decision-making at various levels;
- gender analysis as a basis for the implementation of Gender Mainstreaming;
- and its actual impact on gender equality in the concrete development cooperation.

Reflection on those critirias I will return in the end to the concept of Gender Mainstreaming and critically discuss what kind of concept was adopted by EU development cooperation.


Excerpt out of 16 pages


Gender Mainstreaming in the EU Development Cooperation
University of Auckland
Gender and Development
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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449 KB
Gender, Mainstreaming, Development, Cooperation, Gender, Development
Quote paper
Stefanie Kessler (Author), 2008, Gender Mainstreaming in the EU Development Cooperation, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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