6. Gender and political economy analysis
Until relatively recently, gender considerations were not always systematically included in political economy analysis (Browne, 2014a; Browne, 2014b). Despite practitioners and donor organisations acknowledging the importance of power dynamics and structures in political economy analysis, gender was often ignored, despite it often being one of the most important dimensions along which power is exercised (Haines & O’Neil, 2018).
However, there is now some excellent literature on the relationship between gender and power relations. For example, Koester (2015) explores the meaning of power and how a gender perspective help us understand it, as well as the meaning of gender and how a power perspective help us understand it. She then elaborates the policy and operational messages that follow from a focus on gender and power.
Moreover, development programmes that use political economy analysis have increasingly adopted a gender lens to their analysis. Castilljo, Domingo, George, and O’Connell (2020) pull together discussions from practitioners working on gender equality in conflict-affected environments. They argue that a deeper understanding is needed of gender issues in these contexts and suggest changes to the organisational culture, systems, practices and tools within donor organisations to achieve this. Nazneen, Hickey, and Sifaki (2019) analyse domestic violence legislation in developing countries. They propose a new concept which they call ‘power domains’. Power domains can be used as a way to capture how inter-elite bargaining, coalitional politics, and social movement activism combine to shape policies that promote gender equity.
Some papers also offer practical guidance for how development programmes can better analyse gender issues. Derbyshire, Siow, Gibson, Hudson, and Roche (2018) draws together reflections, approaches and practical lessons from 15 development programs that are seeking both to be gender aware and to understand and engage with power and politics. Similarly, Derbyshire, Gibson, Hudson, and Roche (2018) analyse previous political analysis case studies that incorporated gender into their analysis and make suggestions for improvements. The authors assess and evaluate programmes in Indonesia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Tonga and draw out lessons from each study. By using a bottom-up approach, development projects could ensure local ownership and focus on gender inequality issues within a specific context. Consequently, practices would be strengthened, and development results would be improved.