Gender mainstreaming from the ground up for the World Food Programme

Food and nutrition security and gender equality are closely linked and mutually constitutive. The fact that women and girls are among the most undernourished in the world and are often hardest hit by food insecurity underlines this.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has been committed to mainstreaming gender throughout its work since the late 1990s as a key driver of food and nutrition security. However it identified that applying a gender mainstreaming strategy from the ‘top down’ had inherent limits and that there was a need for organisational ‘ground up’ innovation and learning to ensure relevance and sustainability at the local level. Taking this on-board, WFP partnered with the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) to develop a ‘Participatory Action Learning’ (PAL) and knowledge sharing programme that would enable WFP to reflect on, capture and improve their gender mainstreaming practices in order to achieve the linked goals of gender equality and food and nutrition security.

With funding from USAID, the first phase of the programme was launched in June 2013 with five ‘pilot’ WFP Country Offices: Lesotho, Guatemala, Kenya, Malawi and Senegal. IDS researchers worked with WFP staff to use participatory methodologies to identify and critically explore the gender dimensions of specific WFP interventions.

Insights were gained in relation to a range of gender issues, including protection-related challenges, women’s unpaid care work and engaging men in child nutrition programmes. Broad organisational lessons on gender mainstreaming were also drawn from the  programme, including: the importance and value of giving WFP staff the autonomy, time, resources and encouragement to drive forward work on gender; and more systematic gender mainstreaming throughout project cycles.

Phase two of the project commenced in June 2015 and is a two and a half year programme to allow for further knowledge sharing and the application of lessons from phase one; a continuation of PAL processes in the pilot countries; and an expansion to include new countries in the programme – WFP Lebanon, WFP Cambodia and WFP Benin joined the programme partnership in 2015.

The focus of Phase 2 continues to be on sustainable action learning processes owned and driven by WFP. The context across the seven participating country offices varies considerably however there are some unifying factors.

Critically the recent appointment of the Gender Results Network (GRN) WFP’s new gender policy and a set of new regional gender strategies have created a platform to collectively champion gender equality throughout WFP.

Key contacts

Project details

start date
1 June 2015
end date
30 November 2017


In partnership with
World Food Programme
Supported by

Recent work


IDS partnership boosts gender mainstreaming ‘from the field’

As part of a two-phase initiative that began in 2013, IDS helped WFP to develop and implement ‘Innovations from the field’ – a participatory action learning programme to capture, share and embed successful innovations for gender mainstreaming across the organisation.

4 July 2016