Gender transformative approaches, power inequalities, and a checklist for addressing these

Making Waves members and colleagues in other organisations recently wrote about the importance of gender-transformative approaches in the context of the current pandemic, asking Why is gender mainstreaming so vital right now? In this article, we outlined some of the problems caused for women, girls and gender-diverse people by pandemic responses that are not gendered. We adapted the values checklist contained in the ALIV[H]E framework, to produce a checklist to ensure that every stage and level of policy-making and programming, during the Covid-19 response and beyond, meaningfully involves women, girls and gender-diverse people, supports their movements, networks and organisations, and transforms power dynamics and intersectional gender inequalities.

What is a gender-transformative approach?

WHO (2011) defines a gender-transformative approach as one ‘that addresses the root causes of gender-based health inequities through interventions that challenge and redress harmful and unequal gender norms, roles, and unequal power relations that privilege men over women’.

Gender norms and roles affect us all – men, boys, women, girls, and trans, non-binary and other gender-diverse people. Men and boys are affected by gender norms and roles, both positively and negatively. However, a feminist, gender-transformative approach focuses on changing the power dynamics that privilege men over women, and place men at the top of a hierarchy. Women, girls, and gender-diverse people experience structural inequalities and gender discrimination. This is especially the case when gender intersects with other aspects of identity, such as race and ethnicity, age, gender identity and expression, and sexuality. Gender-transformative responses challenge patriarchy, structural racism and other power inequalities, and unfair and unequal distribution of resources, and promote positive norms and equitable roles and relationships. A truly transformative approach does this at both individual or group levels, and at institutional, policy and structural levels. 

Taking a gender-transformative approach is not just about changing the policies and systems of others. It also requires us to change our own organisations and ways of working. It means overcoming ‘us’ and ‘them’ power dynamics and supporting approaches led by communities of women, girls and gender-diverse people. It means ensuring that men and boys are part of the response in ways that transform gender power relations – which is too often not the case (see for example Ruane-McAteer et al, 2020). It especially means valuing and foregrounding lived experience, and collective action by communities of people with that lived experience. Who decides, leads on and monitors initiatives for change is as important as what we do.

You can find the article here:

Ellen Kajura Bajenja, Emma Bell, Fiona Hale, Longret Kwardem, Rebecca Mbewe, Rahayu Rahmat, Martha Tholanah, MariJo Vázquez, Lucy Wanjiku Njenga, Alice Welbourn (2020) Why is gender mainstreaming so vital right now? Apolitical, the global learning platform for government. August 10, 2020.

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