Gender disparity stands as among the most debilitating social issues every nation has experienced. As a problem deeply ingrained in societal and cultural ties, gender disparity provides key implications to international development policies, programmes and projects. Although roles within different societies assigned per gender may appear as a natural way of life, it is nevertheless correct to assert as well that gender-based oppression is also apparent. Therefore, this study seeks to address gender awareness in light of its implications to the concept of fulfilling international development agendas. Without the promotion of gender awareness, international development agendas would not fully emancipate. Through a perusal of existing literature, this study assesses the importance of recognizing gender awareness as an important component of promoting international development policies, programmes and projects through identifying gender roles and forms of gender-related oppression.
Permeation of Gender in Society
A common trend in the existing literature on international development is the constant recognition of societal units as devoid of gendered notions. However, such does not fully correspond to the realities of inequalities related to gender, given that men and women both have corresponding roles within different societies. A gender awareness approach should therefore emanate as a key concern of operationalizing international development agendas. The following reasons have emerged from the literature of gender awareness vis-a-vis international development – errors in estimating success of international development programs, lack of effective collective action organization and the preclusion of actors from acting on international development programs (Agarwal, 2000, pp. 442-450).
Estimating Success of International Development Programs
Disregarding gender awareness may lead to wrong assessments on the degree of effectiveness of international development programs. Without taking into account the factor of gender, one could wrongfully assess the effectiveness of international development programs. For instance, international development programs involving roles distributed between male and female actors may not find proper evaluation if there is no account taken on gender awareness, such that the evaluation process takes place by focusing on the experiences and outputs of male actors, without due regard to the same for female actors (Elson, 1995, pp. 312-321). In such case, the optimality of international development programs may not emanate if gender-related issues affecting female actors in international development programs are left unresolved. Thus, maximizing international development programs should take place with due regard for gender awareness. The oppression experienced by women actors must find due resolution in order for international development programs to work. At the same time, exclusive focus on the roles of male actors may cause underestimations in the overall potency of international development programs (Agarwal, 2000, pp. 442-450; Molyneux, 1985, pp. 227-254).
Organizing Collective Action
Efforts to organize collective action for international development programs may not work properly if such proceed without due regard for gender awareness. Undue focus on the roles of male actors may lead to the overlooking of greater potentials for fulfilling the goals of international development programs, in that the existing literature provides that female actors have historical leniencies towards forming strong social networks (Elson, 1995, pp. 312-321).. In rural parts of many developing nations, for instance, women have exhibited notable skills in terms of nurturing social capital based on mutuality and dependence towards one another. Women within rural parts of developing nations also proved resilient in terms of maintaining unity with one another, in that many of them rejected many forms of dissention on account of class and race differences, among many others. Moreover, women in rural parts of developing nations tend to use the resources of their localities for their everyday needs, hence leading them to have greater control in terms of local resource conservation, compared to men. Another key aspect of rural women in developing nations is that they all tend to show unselfishness in terms of interacting with one another, thus leading them to become better cooperators than men. The foregoing characteristics could provide helpful implications for improving prospects on enhancing international development programs (Agarwal, 2000, pp. 442-450; Beall, 1998, pp. 513-534).
Fulfillment by Actors of International Development Programs
Those who hold claims towards fulfilling international development programs may preclude themselves from further performing their consonant obligations if they fail to realize the importance of gender awareness. It is crucial to recognize that male and female actors all have their gender-specific ways on organizing international development programs – in this case, typically formal for men and typically informal for women. Similarly, without focusing on the respective constraints both male and female actors face with regard to their gender, then international development programs might, at best, present a stunted form of progress that does not give due regard to the attendant gender-based difficulties (Elson, 1995, pp. 312-321).. Social norms defining gender roles may, for example, affect the kind of participation both male and female actors may render with regard to the fulfillment of international development programs. Both male and female actors, in accordance to the societies in which they belong in, may have different roles associated with their abilities and attributes perceivably based on their gender. Therefore, it is crucial for one not to ignore the fact that societies have defined gender roles to their respective populace. It is the duty of actors in international development programs to provide what they could in accordance to existing norms on gender in making their agenda highly effective (Agarwal, 2000, pp. 442-450; Pearson, 2000, pp. 383-402; Ransom & Bain, 2001, pp. 48-74).
Gender awareness stands as a key component for making international development programs work effectively, as justified by the aforementioned reasons based on the existing literature. Undermining the role of gender in international development accounts for lesser optimality of related programs, in that the failure to recognize existing differences based on gender would lead to a “one size fits all” approach most likely focused on just one gender. This study takes into account findings from various literature stressing that the lack of due recognition to gender awareness in fulfilling international development programs is due to the undue focus on the role of male actors. The fact that female actors have not found full-fledged recognition due to the assumption of societal units as being essentially gender-free in nature is one that defies reality. It may be ideal for one to assume a gender-free orientation for all societal units, given that notions on gender are only social constructs and that international development programs may transcend those. Yet, such is not in line with the reality that societal units in different parts of the world involve roles that differ according to gender. Both men and women have roles corresponding to their gender-based identities – as in the literature used for this study, men tend to have greater privileges to economic resources, while women have stronger inclinations towards forming social networks. Therefore, should the evaluation of international development programs focus only on the side of male actors, then it would ultimately lead to wrong approximations.
Collective action, for instance, is a strong point needed for the successful implementation and execution of international development programs.
Yet, instigating collective action for international development programs may not work successfully if such does not take into account differences thereto in terms of gender. The existing literature has shown that women, particularly in rural areas of developing nations, have historical potential in terms of forming social networks. Such inherence among women could enable them to perform greater mobilization for making international development programs work. At the same time, however, the failure to recognize the potential of women in forming social networks would only put efforts for collective action in international development programs to waste, such that the repeated focus on men could take more time and resources before effective collective action would rise. Although there are advocates for gender equality that would argue that gender is just a social construct unaffected by international development programs, the existing literature has proved that holding on to such ideal is impractical for the purpose of managing the reality at hand – that there are gendered roles in social relations international development programs should be compatible with.
Furthermore, as a matter of measuring strengths and constraints, failure to give due regard to gender awareness in international development programs might cause inaccuracies in terms of determining optimal outputs. Men and women, their gender roles differentiated depending on the society in which they belong, both have differences in terms of their strengths and constraints. The roles of men and women in their respective societies afford with sets of skills and limitations that could prove useful for the implementation of international development programs, particularly within developing nations. Therefore, any failure to regard gender awareness in international development programs in said regard would result to lack of success in implementation and execution efforts. Viewing societies as genderless entities while implementing and executing international development programs would lead to impracticalities that may cause clashes from among men and women.
Ideally, a world not defined by gendered differences may somewhat ease efforts at reaching success in international development programs. Yet, the reality that societies, with their respective cultural setups, all espouse their respective gender roles does not afford the aforementioned ideal even a small practical space in terms of pushing for international development. A recognition that must push through with regard to international development programs is the fact that societies around the world all have their respective differences with regard to gender. International development, as it seeks to serve the welfare of people around the world, must not proceed via a “one size fits all” approach, meaning to say that diminutions concerning societal differences must have due regard first before planning for international development. One such diminution –gender differences within societies, must prevail within the context of international development programs. Three reasons account for the rationale behind the value of awareness towards gender issues in international development programs. Firstly, giving due regard for gender awareness may provide for an accurate depiction of the outputs produced by international development programs, such that instances of one-sidedness towards the involvement of only one gender would be prevented. Secondly, organizing successive efforts for collective action requires gender awareness, for gender-based attributes within societies may prove instrumental to such. Thirdly, recognizing gender-based strengths and constraints is crucial for estimating the success of international development programs within societies, as those prevent the utilization of “one size fits all” approaches.
Agarwal, B., 2000. Conceptualising environmental collective action: Why gender matters. In: S. Chari and S. Corbridge, ed. 2008. The development reader. United Kingdom: Routledge. pp. 442-450.
Beall, J., 1998. Trickle down or rising tide? Lessons on mainstreaming gender policy from Colombia and South Africa. Social Policy and Administration, 32(5), pp. 513 – 534.
Elson, D., 1995. Male bias in the development process: An overview. In: S. Chari and S. Corbridge, ed. 2008. The development reader. United Kingdom: Routledge. pp. 312-321.
Molyneux, M., 1985. Mobilisation without emancipation? Women's interests, the state and revolution in Nicaragua. Feminist Studies, 11(2), pp. 227 – 254.
Pearson, R., 2000. Rethinking gender matters in development. In: T. Allen and A. Thomas, ed. 2000. Poverty and development into the 21st century. United Kingdom: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 383-402.
Ransom, E. and Bain, C., 2011. Gendering agricultural aid: An analysis of whether international development assistance targets women and gender. Gender and Society, 25(1), pp. 48 – 74.