Gendered Politics of Securing Inclusive Development

Political settlement frameworks are gender blind. In this study, we interrogate the nature of gendered political settlements through analysing selected country case studies of the gendered nature of political and policy-making processes and identifying the different contextual and structural factors that promote gender-inclusive development policies and outcomes. These factors include elite support for a gender equity agenda; the ability of the women’s movement to contain oppositional elite or non-elite groups; transnational discourse and actors creating space for the gender equity agenda; the presence of male allies and “femocrats” within the state apparatus; and policy coalitions exerting pressure on the state. The political opportunity structure and the history of how women’s political entitlement was established to influence the dynamics between these factors. Based on the analysis, the paper argues that a political settlement framework stands to gain from using a gender lens as it allows for exploration of the role played by (gendered) ideas, (gender) ideology, informal relations, policy coalitions, and bottom-up strategies in how settlements are reached and sustained.

Researchers: Sohela Nazneen; Maheen Sultan

Timeline: 2012

Status: Completed

Contact: Maheen Sultan;



Women’s right to equality with men is accepted and promoted by all modern, progressive states and societies around the world. Yet, establishing women’s representation, participation, and voice in politics and policy processes—two interlinked areas— has proven difficult. An analysis of the gendered policy processes and the gendered nature of politics may help unpack: a) how states and elites in different political contexts perceive women as development/political constituency, how they interpret women’s needs and gender equity concerns, and how their interpretations influence policy outcomes; and b) how these interpretations are challenged and expanded by women and their allies in formal politics through social movements and organised activisms.

To see if gendered politics and policy processes promote or hinder gender-inclusive development, the researchers asked: 1) how does a commitment to a gender equity approach become embedded in government policy—from its inception to the implementation—and what political and other conditions enable this; 2) what are the politics that help achieve gender equity in political processes and institutions; 3) is there any evidence of gendered concerns being integrated within political settlements or at key moments of state formation, 4) how can the shift from inclusion to influence be achieved regarding women’s participation in political and policy-making processes; 5) What role do women’s movements and coalitions play in this process? Which strategies and tactics are most successful in which contexts, and how they can be further enabled?

This study is relevant to SDG 5 (Gender Equality) and SDG 10 (Reduced Inequality), particularly to achieving gender equality, empowering all women and girls and reducing inequality within and among countries.


The study is primarily centred on the case studies of specific policy processes or interventions that ensure women’s representation and participation in formal politics and policy processes. The case studies were mainly selected based on (but not limited to) geographical areas where the Research Program Consortium on the Effective States and Inclusive Development (ESID) planned to conduct its research. Following this strategy, the study largely focused on countries in South Asia and Sub Saharan Africa. It also included countries from Asia and Latin America to highlight some of the points they make about gendered politics.

Findings and Recommendations

The analysis of different case studies shows how the nature, incentives, and interests of different actors such as political or social elites, institutions, state, non-state, etc. influence gender-inclusive development. The role and influence of these actors vary across different contexts and historical junctures.

The range of actors identified through this analysis provides a list of factors that enable women’s inclusion in politics. They include a) elites’ support for women’s inclusion and gender equity; b) policy coalitions exerting pressure on political elites and the state; c) the presence of male allies within the state bureaucracy, civil society, and policy spaces; d) willingness of “femocrats” and women politicians to advocate the gender agenda; e) strength of women’s movements in raising demands and resisting other elite/non-elite actors opposing gender equity; f) supportive transnational actors creating space for and pressure on the political elite and the state for the promotion of gender equity, and g) transnational gender discourses creating legitimacy and space for women’s demands.

The dynamics among these factors and their influence in delivering gender-inclusive development were mediated by the existing “political opportunity structure” and women’s role during critical junctures of state formation/crisis periods, such as anti-colonial struggle, independence struggle, revolutionary upheaval, etc. Apparently, the role of informal relations between elite and non-elite actors, bottom-up movements, informal institutions, and ideologies are crucial to shaping gender-inclusive development.

This study, by drawing attention to the gaps in feminist literature, also argued that feminist debates on the gendered nature of politics and policy processes can be enhanced through a political settlement perspective. Such a perspective allows for systematic, context-specific, and historical analysis of how gender-inclusive development is negotiated between different social and political actors, where the centres of power may lie, and how power relations shift.