Gender Studies

Gender Approaches to Development – Gender Studies

Gender Approaches to Development are important topics to study in Gender Studies. We will explain in detail the three Gender Approaches to Development; i.e. the Women in Development (WID) Approach, the Women and Development (WAD) Approach, and the Gender and Development (GAD) Approach.

1. The ‘Women in Development’ (WID) Approach

In the early 1970s, Ester Boserup, a Danish feminist economist wrote a book titled, Women’s Role in Economic Development. This book highlighted the fact that women are not only users of basic services, bearers and socializers of children, and keepers of the home, but they also represent a productive potential that was not being tapped.

The proponents of the WID Approach pointed to women’s lack of access to the means of participating in economic life. They also focused on the invisibility (that is, lack of recognition and data) of women’s work.

Boserup and other women who pioneered research into women’s role in economic development contributed to the Women in Development (WID) approach.

The UN adopted the ‘Women in Development’ Approach in 1975 at the first World Conference on Women held in Mexico. The conference asked governments to create national machinery, such as ‘Ministries of Women’ to promote and oversee national efforts to advance women and WID units.

Aims of the WID Approach

The purpose of Women in Development was to integrate women into economic development by focusing on women’s productive work in two ways:

  1. Providing women money and other resources for income-generating activities.
  2. Developing appropriate technologies to lighten women’s load. 

The modernizing theory underpinned the ‘WID’ Approach. It believed that industrialization would lead to economic development. 

Criticism of the Approach

Women in Development Approach faced multiple criticisms.

  • WID faced criticism for viewing women as one group or in isolation and ignoring their relative position to men.
  • This approach doesn’t recognize different kinds of women based on their class or ethnic backgrounds.
  • Emphasis on women’s productive capacity is criticized for failing to recognize women’s reproductive responsibilities and the subsequent miscalculations about the responsibilities, and elasticity of women’s time and labor.
  • Activities are developed for women (based on the situation analysis) without engaging men in understanding their needs or allowing them to take part in them.
  • The approach focused on the integration of women without questioning the existing development paradigms and the power relations that have put women at a disadvantage.
  • Moreover, because the ‘Women in Development’ approach was firmly grounded in modernization theory, it is assumed that adopting western strategies would lead to the solutions to the problems. Therefore, it didn’t recognize the contribution of indigenous knowledge.
  • Furthermore, the ‘Women in Development’ approach tends to see development as an activity of government. Thus, it viewed the state as the solution, rather than a potential obstacle to the advancement of women.

2. The ‘Women and Development’ (WAD) Approach

In the second half of the 1970s, the women from the south advocated the ‘Women and Development (WAD) Approach’. They felt that the ‘WID’ perspective had not considered the ‘bigger’ issues of colonialism and unequal global relationships.

Note that women from the west (European, American, and Scandinavian) developed the WID Approach in the early 1970s.

In the second half of the 1970s, the women from the non-west (Africa, Latin America, Asia) began to advocate that the issues that the Women in Development perspective considered ignore the bigger issues as described above.

WAD argues that women have always participated in the development processes but their work has been exploited to profit others in the global north.

The ‘Women and Development’ paradigm focused on the distinctive roles, responsibilities, work, and knowledge of women. It called for their acknowledgment.

WAD advocated increasing women’s share in resources, land, employment, and income.

The ‘WAD’ perspective was more concerned about the relationship between women and development rather than women into development. The ‘WAD Approach’ did not focus on what development does to women. It was only focused to make sure that women are a part of development. 

Criticism of the WAD Approach

The WAD approach also faced multiple criticisms.

  • The ‘Women and Development’ approach doesn’t consider the class, racial and ethnic differences among women.
  • WAD focused on international relations of power and neglected relations between genders and classes. It ignored differences between men and women, rich and poor in the global south.
  • The WAD position equally downplays the role of patriarchy. It does not adequately explain gender power relations and their impact on development.
  • Furthermore, the advocacy for separate projects for women did not produce the desired transformational impact.
  • The ‘Women and Development’ model has only tended to focus its intervention strategies on the promotion of income-generating activities. It didn’t consider the competing time demands such strategies place on women who also have a reproductive role to perform.

3. The ‘Gender and Development’ (GAD) Approach

In the 1980s, the ‘Gender and Development’ approach was developed.

This approach is an alternative to modernizing theory. This approach recognized women as a diverse group with interests that vary by sex, class, age, and ethnicity.

It recognizes men and women as partners in development. Considers both of them in economic and political relations.

The ‘Gender and Development’ approach concentrated on the unequal relations between men and women and seeks to transform this.

Thus apart from women, the ‘Gender and Development’ approach focuses on the social relations between men and women.

It emphasizes the equal access of women and men to the resources, and benefits from development.

It analyzes the contributions of women within (reproductive) including unpaid domestic work and outside the household (productive work). In other words, it recognizes the gender division of labor.

GAD also calls on the state to provide social services to support women’s domestic roles. The GAD paradigm argues that this would help in promoting the emancipation of women.

The GAD approach recognizes women as agents of change rather than mere recipients of development. It emphasizes the need for women to mobilize in order to achieve a greater political impact.

Furthermore, the GAD asserts that women experience oppression differently based on their race, class, culture, colonial history, and position in the global economic system.

Another important area that has attracted the attention of GAD, is Gender Law and Development (GLAD). The GLAD takes a rights-based approach to development with the aim of strengthening women’s legal rights and reforming laws that discriminate against women such as inheritance and land laws.

The ‘GID’ perspective took interest in pursuing the strategic gender needs of women.

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