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.

This report outlines the gender-focused questions found in common political economy analysis tools and uses gendered focused case studies to provide models of how gender can be included in future political economy analysis for development programmes.

This blog provides a short summary of the Gender in Political Analysis report by Browne (2014).

This guidance note highlights the absence of a gender focus in many politically engaged development projects, demonstrates the importance of incorporating gender in political economy analysis and provides guidance for adopting a gendered focus in practice.

This Concept Brief argues that ‘Gender’ is one of the most persistent causes, consequences and manifestations of power relations. Understanding gender can therefore significantly enhance our understanding of power and vice versa. Koester explores elaborates the policy and operational messages that follow from a focus on gender and power.

This report summaries key discussions amongst practitioners regarding working politically on gender in fragile and conflict-affected settings and then identifies practical implications that can be used in future research. 

Through an investigation into countries that have adopted legislation against domestic violence, this book proposes a new concept - ‘power domains’ - as a way to capture how inter-elite bargaining, coalitional politics, and social movement activism combine to shape policies that promote gender equity.

This paper provides guidance for future development programmes that are seeking to be gender aware and politically informed, by analysing previous political analysis case studies that have used a gender focus and picking out key practical lessons.

This report summaries five lessons that have been learned in practice from the challenges that have occurred in development programmes that have aimed to be politically informed whilst also being gender aware.