Goals and Principles of Governance in Gender Studies

Governance is a slippery term with various definitions depending on who is talking about it and the context in which it is used. Here, I am going to share with you the Goals and Principles of Governance in Gender Studies. These are helpful in preparing for the CSS exam.

Define Governance

Governance refers to decision-making by a range of interested people including those in positions of power and ordinary citizens. These decisions have a huge impact on the ways in which women and men lead their lives.

The rules they are expected to abide by, and the structures that determine where and how they work and live. They also shape how public resources are allocated and whether services take account of both women’s and men’s needs and interests.

Probably the first governance institution that comes to mind is government. In both the South and North, government decisions create and perpetuate gender inequalities. But governments remain a crucial part of the solution.

In turn, civil society organizations (CSOs) and citizens play a key role – putting pressure on governments to take action to challenge gender inequalities and hold them accountable for the commitments made.

Goals and Principles of Governance in Gender Studies

Many agencies and organizations see effective governance as the route to, for example, reduced poverty and more equal, democratic, corruption-free societies.

Some see economic growth and efficiency as the best way to achieve these end goals. For others, governance should promote social justice and gender equality, and further the realization of the rights of all citizens.

In turn, these different players assess how effective or good governance is on the basis of how accountable, transparent, inclusive, and responsive governance institutions are to their citizens.

These principles – if defined applied and measured in ways that reflect gendered concerns – can improve the performance of governance institutions.

Gender and Governance

Women are often excluded from decision-making, from the household up to the highest levels of government. Women’s equal participation in governance is therefore an important end in itself recognition of their right to speak and be heard.

Governance institutions shape perceptions of the roles that women and men play in society, as well as determine their access to rights and resources.

We need effective governance, underpinned by the principles outlined above, at all levels – from the global to local, and in the South and North.

While there has been some progress, policies, and legislation are still not eliminating gender inequalities. In fact, in some cases, they are creating further inequalities. One example is trade liberalization policies, led by the WTO, which have impacted women workers less able to claim labor rights.

There are still far fewer women than men with the power to make decisions in governance institutions. In 2018, the world average of women in parliaments was only 17.8 percent.

In the highest decision-making bodies of European Union central banks, there are five times as many men as women.


Indeed, the very working arrangements of governance institutions are usually inflexible, making it difficult for women to balance work in governance institutions with unpaid caring responsibilities. In turn, the participatory processes designed to engage citizens in decision-making such as participatory budgeting can exclude women, for example, by failing to provide crèches and other facilities.

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