React to the assertion that, “Where gender equality is the main concern, the WID approach falls too short of the GAD approach”.


Women in Development (WID) and Gender and Development (GAD) are sometimes used interchangeably, but there are some basic differences. The WID approach was developed in the 1970s, with the objective of designing actions and policies to integrate women fully into development. The GAD approach was developed in the 1980s with the objective of removing disparities in social, economic and political equality between women and men as a pre-condition for achieving people-centered development. Both approaches are still in use and are applicable in different situations (Tu, 2015). The chart below highlights the main differences.

The chart below highlights the main differences.

  Women in Development



Gender and Development (GAD)


The Approach An approach which views

women’s lack of participation as the problem

An approach to people centered development


The Focus Women Relations between women and men
The Problem The exclusion of women (half

of the productive resource) from the development process


Unequal relations (between women and

men, rich and poor) that prevents equitable development and women’s full participation

The Goal More efficient, effective


Equitable, sustainable development with men and women sharing decision-making and power.
The Solution Integrate women into existing


Empower the disadvantaged and women

Transform unequal relations and structures

The Strategies Women only projects

Women’s components

Integrated projects

Increase women’s productivity

Increase women’s income

Increase women’s ability to

manage the household

Identify/address practical needs determined by women and men to improve their condition

At the same time address strategic gender needs of women and men

Address strategic needs of the poor through people centred development



Source: Introductory gender analysis & gender planning training module for UNDP staff

The Approaches

The term Women in Development (WID) has been used to describe all actions that involve women in the development processes. More specifically WID is a perspective on women in development, the way women were integrated into development in the 1970s. When it was noticed that development isn’t effective if women are not taken into consideration, women were in a way added to the prevailing development thinking and the development projects. The development model and men’s dominant role in it were not reconsidered (Menon, 2018). Women were not integrated into all development projects but there were quite a few so called women projects planned and implemented either separately or as a separate part of a larger project.

WID perspective is based on the modernization theory that assumes that traditional societies are authoritarian and male-dominated and that modern societies are democratic and egalitarian. The assumption is that if society becomes modern, inequalities will lessen. WID perspective concentrates on productive sphere of life and promotes the women’s need to access cash income. Women’s organization into collective groupings is promoted in order to increase women’s bargaining power in the prevailing economic system (Tu, 2015). It has been argued that WID perspective focuses narrowly on inequalities created by sexual indifferences and ignores the structural and socio-economic factors that cause inequalities between genders (Visvanathan 1997, 21).

In the 1980s it was noticed that it wasn’t enough to integrate women into the development projects. The ‘Gender and Development’ (GAD) perspective started to become more popular, and the focus was shifted from women issues into gender issues and the roles men and women have in the society. It was acknowledged that in order to achieve equality between men and women there must be changes in the structures of the society. (Jacquette, 2017) GAD perspective looks at women’s lives as a whole, including both private and public spheres. It emphasizes the need for women to organize themselves, not just to improve their position in the market, but to increase their political power within the economic system. GAD perspective does not assume that women would automatically know what is best for them (Tu, 2015) but promotes active participation and sensitivity for gender relations and interactions (Menon, 2018).


WID and GAD Focus

The WID approach is normally viewed as crucial to gender equality due to its direct focus on women. Menon (2018) states that WID has been effective in improving gender equality because of it recognizes that women are currently below men in the socio-cultural structures in most if not all countries. The approach has created an urgency when it comes to addressing the challenges women are facing in societies around the world.

However, the statement of the research question is accurate in that the GAD approach specifically looks at the relationship between men and women in society. This direct approach is perhaps more crucial, as the subject of gender equality also focuses on men and how they interact with women. Gender and Development (GAD) differs from these approaches by adding to WID to include both women and men. Development policies and plans are frequently based on the assumption that men alone support families, but in reality it is women and men together who do so; in the growing number of female-headed households, it is women alone who do so. Experience and research supports the assertion that the fundamental elements of effective development management—sustainability, productivity, and equitability—are strengthened through explicit attention to gender. A better understanding of gender as a variable in rural and urban livelihood systems can be gained by using a variety of analytical tools that fall loosely under the rubric of gender analysis.

The GAD approach sees women as agents of change rather than as passive recipients of development, and it stresses the need for women to organize themselves for more effective political voice. It recognizes the importance of both class solidarities and class distinctions, but it argues that the ideology of patriarchy operates within and across classes to oppress women. Consequently, socialist feminists and researchers working within the GAD perspective are exploring both the connections among and the contradictions of gender, class, race and development (Jacquette, 2017).

A key focus of research being done front a GAD perspective is on the strengthening of women’s legal rights, including the reform of inheritance and land laws. Research also is examining the confusions created by the co-existance of customary and statutory legal systems in many countries, and the tendency for these to have been manipulated by men to the disadvantage of women.

The GAD approach goes further than the WID approach in questioning the underlying assumptions of current social, economic and political structures. A GAD perspective leads not only to the design of intervention and affirmative action strategies, which will ensure that women are better integrated into ongoing development efforts. It leads, inevitably, to a fundamental reexamination of social structures and institutions and, ultimately, to the loss of power of entrenched elites, which inevitably will affect some women as well as men. Not surprisingly, a fully articulated GAD perspective is less often found in the projects and activities of international development agencies, although there are some examples of partial GAD approaches.

Menon (2018) also adds that projects designed from a GAD perspective would question traditional views of gender roles and responsibilities and point towards a more equitable definition of the very concept of “development” and of the contributions made by women and by men to the attainment of societal goals.

The Problem

By highlighting women’s participation in production, researchers have provided a timely challenge both to the definition of “work” (and “active labor”) and to the methods of data collection used for generating official statistics (Jacquette, 2017). The aim has been to make visible areas of valorized or non-market production that tend to be disproportionately allocated to women. An important component of this endeavor has been the attempt to deal with the much-debated category of “family labor”, which is also rendered culturally invisible by falling under the category of “housework.”

Tu (2015) states that a further anomaly has been WIDís neglect of welfare concerns. As we have suggested above, a major preoccupation of WID advocates has been to establish women’s issues as a serious “developmental concern”. To do so it was deemed necessary for the “welfare approach” to give way to the “developmental approach” (Buvinic, 1986).



Tu, J., 2015. A study on the impacts of gender mainstreaming on men and women in the world.

Menon, N., 2018. Unit-26 Gender and Development. IGNOU.

Jaquette, J.S., 2017. Women/Gender and Development: the Growing Gap Between Theory and Practice. Studies in Comparative International Development52(2), pp.242-260.

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