Over the years development programs have been criticized for ignoring gender roles and the impact it has on women in the global south. However we see a shift to integrate women into development programs in hopes of eradicating poverty and low social economical status. The six main theoretical approaches are: “(1) the welfare approach; (2) women in development (WID); (3) women and development (WAD); (4) gender and development (GAD); (5) the effectiveness approach (EA); and (6) mainstream gender equality (MGE). Martinez tries to understand the various outcomes and effectiveness of all 6 development theories.

 Despite the effort to reinforce gender mainstreaming into society we still see a vast number of gender inequality especially in the developing world. Women make up the 70% of individuals living in poverty and in sub-Saharan Africa 57% of HIV infected individuals are women. This also includes the disproportionate ratio of women to men in the job market and at leadership position, low level of education among women, and low socio-economic status among women.

 The term “Women, Gender and Development” could be seen a discipline much like ever other area of knowledge. However, what sets it apart from various disciplines is that, its major contributors are individuals that raise issues and concerns, concerning women, gender and development. These are academics, feminist activists and development practitioner.

 In 1972 Ann Oakley, was able to distinguish the difference between sex and gender. Gender refers to one’s sexuality based on masculinity and femininity and sex refers to the biological features of one physiology. With the rise and popularity of the term gender, came with its misusage of its actual meaning. For example, as Most development agencies and NGO’s supported its terminology, however they used it as a reference point when talking about mainly women issues. Today the term gender has become more popularized, that it is usually linked to a wide range of sectors like politics, economics, environment and health.

Social assistance or the “welfare approach” originated back 1950s to the 1970s during the era of decolonization and political transitioning in most African and Asian countries. The welfare approach was a response to most of the newly independent countries outcomes of inequalities among the local elites and the common man in each nation.

 Most international development agencies applied a very western approach towards helping these nations develop. Some of these theories where the modernization theory, and the Malthusian theory (Population vs. Resources). These brought about a negative impact and outcome towards most developing nations development and it also help to further impede on its progress.

 Women in development (WID) approach, was originated as a result of three major feminist moments/waves concerning feminine conditions.  The first two were due to the feminist waves. The first wave also known as women’s suffrage movement, originated in the North America back in the late 19th century, when women fought for the equal right to vote and participate in politics. The second-wave of feminism sought to deal with the remaining social and cultural inequalities women were faced with in everyday affair i.e. sexual violence, reproductive rights, sexual discrimination and glass ceilings. The second wave was very controversial however the women’s movement was very influential that the UN organized the first global conference on women back in 1975 at Mexico. The conference sought to address nations role on fighting gender inequalities and support women’s right. The third was influenced by Ester Boserup (1970) publication on “Women’s Role in Economic Development”. “The book sent a shock wave through northern development agencies and humanitarian organization” (pg 93). She states and gave empirical results of how increasingly specialized division of labor associated with development undermines or neglects the value of women’s work and status especially in the developing world.  As it explains why women were being deprived an equal share among men in social benefits and economic gains. Boserup book had an influence on making women more visible in development approach and as a specific category when addressing women in development. In 1973, the US congress implemented a bill, which required the USAID to include women in development programs. The WID approach helped to ensure, the integration of women into the workforce and increase their level of productivity in order to improve their lives. However some have criticized this approach as being very western. Since it is a perception of the global south from global north perspective, as it fails to acknowledge the collective and cultural concerns of women in the developing world. It approach has been tagged as being rather cumbersome on women, as it fails to understand the dynamics of the private sphere but focus solely on the public sphere. 

The women and development (WAD) approach originated back in 1975 in Mexico city, as it sort to discuss women’s issues from a neo-Marxist and dependency theory perspective. Its focus was to “explain the relationship between women and the process of capitalist development in terms of material conditions that contribute to their exploitation” (pg 95).  WAD is often misinterpreted as WID, however what sets it apart is that, WAD focuses specifically on the relation between patriarchy and capitalism. The WAD perspective states that women have always participated and contributed towards economic development, regardless of the public or private spheres.

The Gender and development approach originated in the 1980s by socialist feminism. It serve as a transitioning point in the way in which feminist have understood development. It served as a comprehensive overview of the social, economic and political realities of development. It origin relates back to the Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN) network, when it was first initiated in India. The DAWN program was then officially recognized in 1986 during the 3rd UN conference on women in Nairobi. The conference brought about activist, researcher and development practitioners globally. As the conference discussed about the achievements made from the previous decade’s evaluation of promoting equality among the sexes, and a full scope of the obstacles limiting women’s advancements, especially in the developing world. The forum discussed about the effectiveness of the continuous debt crisis and structural adjustment program implemented by the IMF and the World Bank, and how such concept of neoliberalism tend to marginalize and discriminate women more in the developing countries.  The diversity of this approach was open to the experiences and need of women in the developing world. Its two main goals were to prove that the unequal relationship between the sexes hinders development and female participation. The second, it sort to change the structure of power into a long-term goal whereby all decision-making and benefits of development are distributed on equal basis of gender neutrality. The GAD approach is not just focused on the biological inequalities among sexes: men and women, however on how social roles, reproductive roles and economic roles are linked to Gender inequalities of: masculinity and femininity. 

The Effectiveness Approach (EA) originated in the 1980s. Its ideas are linked to the concept surrounding WID, which was the inequalities women faced and how societies fail to acknowledge the impact of women in economic development. However EA sort to not just include women into development projects but also reinforce their level of productivity and effectiveness in the labor market. So this required the development of infrastructure and equipment that aided to increase women’s earnings and productivity (especially women in the rural areas).

 Mainstreaming Gender Equality (MGE) approach also commonly referred to, as gender mainstreaming is the most recent development approach aimed on women.  Gender mainstreaming ensures that all gender issues are address and integrated in all levels of society, politics, and programs. It originated in 1995 at the 4th UN conference on women in Beijing, China. At the forum, 189 state representatives agreed that the inclusion of both women and men in every development project was the only way to succeed and progress in a nation economic growth and development.  The WID approach had been drop by various aid agencies like CIDA, due to it negative interpretation from supporters as being too feminist and brought about hostility from men towards such programs. So basically organization like CIDA now has to include men and women in their annual development report concerning the allocation of fund’s spent towards education, health care, and employment of both sexes.


In conclusion to all the six main theoretical approaches.

1) It is important to note that no approach can be neutral in terms of its effect on the power relationship between men and women.

2) Second, gender inequality is highly linked with the power struggle that hinders the recognition of women as significant actors and negotiators of the development processes.

3) Finally, the need for including actual fieldwork results into theories of development. Basically, the collective needs of individuals need to be put into consideration when implementing various development theories.


Based on this weeks reading If I was to choose among the 6 theoretical approaches, the most applicable and non applicable approach in the developing world.

 Most Applicable in the global south: GAD

Non-Applicable in the global north: WID



  1. Pingback: A Sparkle of Success | ed4girls·

  2. My subject matter on my thesis is GAD mainstreaming on an organization dominated by men. Is there any standard programs as well as activities that an organization may follow as to deeply inculcate GAD and be able increase the level of acceptance and understanding of GAD. Thank you.

  3. I would love to
    1.Gender Analysis of Development Theories
    2.Detailed Gender Approaches to Development. Would you be kind enough to recommend books/articles/research papers?

  4. Pingback: A FEMINISM OF WID TO GAD | pamelam2015·

  5. I Feel That No Sooner Than Later, We Are To Have “Gender In Development” As A Last Resort, To Combating All The Atop “Failed Successes” !!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Hi! I really like your publication and i think it is a great material for studies. I kindly request to use your material as a reference for my class. Thank you

  7. Why gender mainstreaming is not the most applicable approach in this century? It includes both men n women n to keep societies stable n develop our focus should be on both sexes

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