The practice of Feminist Evaluation

The volume deepens understanding on the theory and practice of feminist evaluation highlighting the importance and relevance of connectedness while intervening the inequitable systems & social norms. Authors : Rajib Nandi & Ratna M. Sudarshan 

From Gender and Development to Gender, intersectionality, rights and development- From GAD to GIRD



The prelude: Gender and development approach

Gender and Development emerged as an approach to examine and address women’s development in the late 1980s.  In her seminal article Gender Planning in the Third World, Caroline Moser[1] argued that the Gender and Development approach (GAD) approach conceptualised that women were not the problem, but the socially constructed roles between women and men.  She argued that the furthering GAD approach required not just small projects for women’s development, but gender mainstreaming in policies and plans, and creating of gender units in institutions for mainstreaming.  She proposed using the concept of triple roles (productive, reproductive and community managing) and practical and strategic gender needs in planning, with practical gender needs arising out of existing gender division of roles, and strategic gender needs (preferable) challenging them.   

The GAD approach was indeed popular in the 1990s and 2000s, with agencies like the World Bank following these recommendations in their policies and plans[2].  Yet, there were critique of this approach, pointing that woman were embedded in social relations apart from gender like race, caste, class, ethnicity, religion, age, location and marital status, and a social relations approach was crucial.  While Moser pointed to addressing strategic gender needs through gender policy and planning, there were others like Naila Kabeer[3] who called for strengthening negotiating power of women/marginalised women in household, community, market and the state.  Saskia Wieringa[4], in her critique of Moser method, commented that processes are as important as outcomes, and that the process of addressing practical gender needs can lead to strategic changes in gender norms (like women engaging in protests over water, bringing them into leader roles).  One could similarly argue that progressive legislation around gender, while important, may not automatically lead to strategic gender needs being promoted unless rights holders are made aware of their rights, mobilise themselves and hold duty bearers to account.

Gender and Intersectionality

In the decade of 2010s intersectionality started being discussed in development, though promoted by Kimberle Crenchaw[5] in academia in 1989.  She argued that the law seemed to forget that black women are both black and female, and thus subject to discrimination on the basis of both race, gender, and often, a combination of the two.  Black women do not just experience more discrimination as White women or Black men, but experience discrimination differently and more intensely than both.  It is similar to Naila Kabeer’s interlocking gender and social relations, but the stress was perhaps on “more discrimination” (like greater distance of Dalit women to drinking water points than other castes) than “both more and different discrimination” (not being allowed to access water in some drinking water points, while poor woman from dominant caste can access).  Further, a gender and intersectionality approach implies recognising that for women gender need not always be the most oppressive identity at all points.  Addressing gender and intersectionality in development entails a human rights approach- that is, working with marginalised women as rights holders to not only claiming “their” rights but understand and acting on intersecting oppression that other marginalised women face and simultaneously working with duty bearers to make them accountable to addressing gender and intersecting oppressions.   Further, intersectionality also entails recognising that women who are oppressed through some identities (race, caste, abilities, trans, sexual orientation, minority status, age etc) may oppress other women/girls and men/boys through their other identities (able bodied, heteronormative, mothers in a society where hierarchical parenting is the norm etc)   


Gender, Intersectionality, rights and development  

Shifting from gender and development to intersectionality, rights and development would entail the following:

  1. Organisations constantly analyse the context they want to change from a gender, intersectional and rights lens,
  2. Organisations frame objectives which seek to address oppression/marginalisation from a gender, intersectional and rights lens,
  3. Organisations move form “gender strategy and gender action plan” to “gender, intersectionality, development and rights action plan”- in which gender equality is one important action point, but not the only one,
  4. Organisations Intervene to work to strengthen rights holders (individually, institutionally) and to strengthen duty bearers to address (shifting) intersectionality,
  5. Organisation’s rethink “gender units and facial points” to “gender, intersectionality and rights upholding structures” (but not combining with individual development sectors like health, education, climate change etc),
  6. Organisations evolve Input, output, outcome and impact indicators on gender, intersectionality and rights,
  7. Organisations recruit staff – women and men- representative of identities that it seeks to empower, and ensure that they are in management and governance as well,
  8. Organisations build staff capacity on gender, intersectionality and rights including capacity of anti-sexual harassment committees. These issues may be integrated into job description and performance evaluation of staff, and
  9. Budget be earmarked keeping in mind gender, intersectionality and rights are cross cutting issues

Ultimately, gender, intersectionality and rights approach to development is about changing power relations. This is only possible in deliberative democracy, free press and media and a development model which values equity and sustainability over economic growth.  


[1] Moser, C, 1989, Gender planning in the third world: Meeting practical and strategic gender needs,

World Development, Volume 17, Issue 11, 1989,

[2] Moser, C., A., Tonrqvist and B. Van Bronkhorst, 1989, Mainstreaming Gender and Development in the World Bank, Progress and Recommendations, The World Bank, Washington.

[3] Kabeer, N., 1994, Gender Hierarchies in Development Thought, Verso, UK

[4]Wieringa, S.,  2004, Women's Interests and Empowerment: Gender Planning Reconsidered, Development and Change, Volume 25, Issue 4

[5] Crenshaw, Kimberle, 1989 "Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics," University of Chicago Legal Forum: Vol. 1989: Iss. 1, Article 8.

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Comment by Ranjani K.Murthy on February 8, 2022 at 15:25

Thanks Rituu for your encouraging comments. Over the coming weeks I will be writing on what such a perspective would mean for pollcy, planning, monitoring and evaluation. Best Ranjani

Comment by Rituu B Nanda on February 6, 2022 at 20:54

Hi Ranjani, I found this blog extremely useful for my work with communities. I will be more intentional in facilitating conversation between population around intersectionality. Thank you very much!

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