Accepted paper:

The ownership and control of 'Gender Mainstreaming': feminist transformation or neo-colonial appropriation?


Suzanne Clisby (University of Hull)

Paper short abstract:

The success of feminist discourses of development and their incorporation into international development agendas, largely in the guise of ‘gender mainstreaming’ should be celebrated, but with some caution. This paper explores the ownership and control of gender mainstreaming and asks to what extent these discourses have been appropriated by neo-colonial politics.

Paper long abstract:

This paper provides a critical introduction to this panel. It initially explores the emergence and growth of gender mainstreaming in global development and suggests that the success of international feminist movements and analyses in forcing gender onto the development agenda should be celebrated, but with some caution. The second part of this paper then outlines a number of reasons for caution. This is a critical period in the 'mainstreaming' debate, and without continued vigilance, gender mainstreaming could become - or, more critically, remain as - a purely mechanistic, semantic 'reclothing' of WID as GAD (Pearson, 2005:160). As I have argued elsewhere (Clisby, 2005:32), it is all too easy to provide a gendered discourse at the policy level, but with little concomitant 'engendering' of development processes. Moreover, questions need to be raised as to the extent to which the requirement for 'gender mainstreaming' in international development discourse has become an extension of a neo-liberal/neo-colonial project to control and 'civilise' developing economies. Is a putative concern for gender equality in development being used as another means to distinguish between the modern, civilised 'One' and the colonial, traditional 'Other'? Through raising and beginning to explore these questions, this paper provides an introductory framework for the subsequent panel papers.

panel P35
Gender mainstreaming: the appropriation of feminist discourses in development?