Gender and Participation

Published on 1 January 2002

Concepts of  ‘participation’ and ‘gender’ have been a part of emancipatory discourse and practices for the last decade. Advocates of these concepts have claimed that they allow the representation of the most marginalised groups – women and the poor.

However both approaches have also been accused of being co-opted and providing lip service to the interests of the most marginalised sections that they claim to represent. A common mistake of some applications of gender and participation approaches is the failure to be aware of conflicting interests between groups.

Both approaches have had to encounter a similar set of questions from critics, such as: to what extent can gender take account not only of the differences between men and women, but also of differences between women, and between men, along the axes of class, age, ethnicity, race, caste, sexuality etc?

And to what extent have participatory methods allowed expression of divergent voices along the lines of gender, as well as other differences? The similarity of questions posed in both cases has now led people using both approaches to take a critical note of and learn from each other.

This report looks at convergences between approaches to gender and to participation, how these have been played out, and how they have been or could be constructively integrated into projects, programmes, policies, and institutions. In the following section, background is given on the concepts of gender and participation, why there has not been more interaction in the past, and attempts for learning across these two approaches.

Part three looks at efforts to combine participatory methodologies and gender in projects. Part four describes ways in which the two have been used to influence policy and to what extent measures have been institutionalised. Part five concludes the paper, draws out recommendations for policy, projects and programmes, and identifies gaps in research on this area.

This report forms part of the Cutting Edge Gender Knowledge Pack on Gender and Participation which also includes a summary of this report, a copy of the BRIDGE bulletin in brief on the same theme and a collection of supporting resources.

Publication details

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