gender planning

Need for gender planning

In most contexts, women and men (girls and boys) play different roles at household, community and societal levels. In order to perform their roles, they need different resources (natural, economic, political, and social). Often however, women or men cannot play the roles they want and/or access the resources they need because of their gender. Women, in particular, face difficulties accessing and controlling resources and their social and economic contributions are often undervalued.

In order to identify gender relations we need to look at the attribution and organization of roles; responsibilities, resources and values attached to women and men in order to assess the differences and inequalities between them and to map out their specific interests, opportunities, constraints and needs in development. In order to fulfil the different needs of women in society, gender planning is important in the development process. Women’s practical needs and strategic needs must be considered during gender planning which will cover the women’s ethnicity, class, culture and religion.

Practical and strategic needs

People have a wide range of needs. Certain needs are universal. The most basic needs have to do with survival and security. Once those are met, at least at a minimal level, it is possible for men and women to think about their other needs such as identity, autonomy, and self-actualization. The ways of satisfying these needs are innumerable and vary from culture to culture and at different times in the same culture. It is important to distinguish between needs and satisfiers. The way women and men satisfy the fundamental human needs are, in fact, the basis of their culture. It can be argued that most cultures have given women the status of second-class members. Development being a process in which a community of people strives to make it possible for all its members to satisfy their fundamental human needs and enhance the quality of life has to deal with culture. Cultural
change has to occur as a community finds new ways of satisfying its needs.

Thierry Verhelst defines culture as “the sum total of the original solutions that a group of human beings invent to adapt to their natural and social environment. Therefore, culture includes every aspect of life’s know-how, technical knowledge, customs of food and dress, religion, mentality, values, language, symbols, sociopolitical and economic behaviour, indigenous methods of taking decisions and exercising power, methods of production and economic relations”.

The best programmes are recognizing that it is not enough to introduce development models that impose western values and practices. Participatory methods encourage development to draw on the values and energies within people’s own culture as they seek to rebuild communities and societies in which human needs are met without discriminating against women and other marginalized groups.

Caroline Moser and other scholars have discussed women’s needs in terms of practical gender needs and strategic gender needs. Practical needs are immediate and material and relate to what people need in order to perform their current roles more easily. Some examples of actions that address women’s practical needs include technologies that reduce their workload (fuel-efficient stoves), provision of clean water supply, credit, and access to financial services etc.

Strategic interests or needs are long-term, related to equalizing gender-based disparities in wages, education, employment, and participation in decision-making bodies. Examples include issues around legal rights, empowerment, sharing of family responsibilities, supportive legislation, and overall involvement in policymaking. Addressing strategic interests may challenge the prevailing balance of power between men and women.

When working with stakeholders to meet their needs, it is important to keep in mind that survival or practical needs must be met first. When people prioritize their own needs, they start on the basis of what they have. If they have insufficient food, they will put that as their first priority.

Once basic needs are met, people can invest resources in responding to their needs for identity, autonomy, and self-actualization. Differences based on gender or other attributes must also be taken into consideration. For example, many women all over the world find themselves in situations that limit their autonomy. The elderly may lose status or respect in a community because of changing family set-ups. Minority ethnic groups or refugees may be marginalized in the decisionmaking process because of political situations. An understanding of ‘needs’ is critical to development planning and requires those involved in planning to have a sensitivity and understanding of the types of needs different groups have. Planning for women from the developing, low-income countries must be based on their prioritized concerns. Planning must differentiate between women’s interests (deriving often from an assumed homogeneity based on biological similarity) and gender interests (based on social position). Hence, we must consider differences between women based on culture, class, ethnicity and religion.

Practical gender interests primarily involve human survival and immediate material needs. Strategic gender needs seek to change women’s socio-economic and political status and thereby women achieve equality, equity and independence. During the planning process, interests defined as prioritized concerns can be translated into planning needs.

A. Practical needs for human survival include:
Provision of water, healthcare and education

B. Strategic needs are concerned with:
• Freedom of choice;
• Nature of relationship between men and women;
• Women’s control over their bodies;
• Access to credit, land rights, control over resources, ameliorative measures
combating domestic violence, equal wages, abolition of gendered division
of labour