WID, WAD, and GAD Approaches in Gender Studies

Women in Development (WID), Women and Development (WAD), and Gender and Development (GAD) are famous approaches in Gender Studies. In this article, I am going to discuss these approaches in detail.

Women in Development (WID) Approach

The popular discourse, “Women in Development” (WID) is associated with the wide range of activities concerning women in the development domain, in which donor agencies, governments, and NGOs have become involved in since the 1970s.

The 1975 World Conference of the International Women’s Year at Mexico City, and the United Nations Decade for Women, gave expression to the major preoccupations of women around the world: improved educational and employment opportunities; equality in political and social participation; and increased health and welfare services. In sum, the WID movement that emerged during this period demanded social justice and equity for women.

The Origin of WID

The term “women in development” was coined in the early 1970s by a Washington-based network of female development professionals.

On the basis of their own experiences in overseas missions, they began to challenge “trickle-down” theories of development, arguing that modernization was impacting differently on men and women.

Instead of improving women’s rights and status, the development process appeared to be contributing to a deterioration of their position.

Drawing on such evidence, women’s circles in the United States lobbied for Congressional hearings, resulting in the 1973 Percy Amendment to the US Foreign Assistance Act.

Assistance granted by the United States was thereby required to help “integrate women into the national economies of foreign countries, thus improving their status and assisting the total development effort”.

A major formative influence on WID was the resurgence of the women’s movement in northern countries in the 1970s. In addition to the WID agenda, there was the simultaneous effort by liberal feminists to get equal rights, employment, equity, and citizenship for women in the United States -in other words, the idea of getting a just political system in place for American women.

One important theme of the feminist movement in this period, especially in the United States, was equal employment opportunities for women.

The second formative influence on WID was the emerging body of research on women in developing countries. The work of the Danish economist, Ester Boserup, was the most influential.

As WID advocates emphasis on women’s productive roles meant that women’s subordination (and by implication, overcoming that subordination) was seen within an economic framework.

WID arguments aim to provide a rationale for directing scarce development resources to women.

Impact of WID

The impact of the early WID movement can be seen on two fronts. First, in terms of the discussions and research that it generated; and second, in the impetus, it gave to the growth of institutional machinery within development agencies and governments, their mandate is to integrate women into development.

An anomaly has been WID’s 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.

Divorcing welfare concerns from policy discourse on women may in fact generate as many problems as women’s severance from production did in an earlier generation of development projects and programs.

Women and Development (WAD) Approach

Women and development (WAD) is a theoretical and practical approach to development. It was introduced into gender studies scholarship in the second half of the 1970s, following its origins, which can be traced to the First World Conference on Women in Mexico City in 1975, organized by the UN.

It is a departure from the previously predominant theory, WID (Women in Development), and is often mistaken for WID, but has many distinct characteristics.

Theoretical Approach

WAD arose out of a shift in thinking about women’s role in development, and concerns about the explanatory limitations of modernization theory.

While previous thinking held that development was a vehicle to advance women, new ideas suggested that development was only made possible by the involvement of women, and rather than being simply passive recipients of development aid, they should be actively involved in development projects.

WAD took this thinking a step further and suggested that women have always been an integral part of development, and did not suddenly appear in the 1970s as a result of exogenous development efforts.

In this sense, WAD is differentiated from WID by way of the theoretical framework upon which it was built. Rather than focusing specifically on women’s relationship to development, WAD focuses on the relationship between patriarchy and capitalism.

Practical Approach

The WAD paradigm stresses the relationship between women and the work that they perform in their societies as economic agents in both the public and domestic spheres.

It also emphasizes the distinctive nature of the roles women play in the maintenance and development of their societies. The understanding is that purely the integration of women into development efforts would serve to reinforce the existing structures of inequality present in societies overrun by patriarchal interests.

In general, WAD is thought to offer a more critical conceptualization of women’s position than does WID.

The WAD approach emphasizes the distinctive nature of women’s knowledge, work, goals, and responsibilities, as well as advocating for the recognition of their distinctiveness.

Gender and Development (GAD) Approach

The gender and Development approach focuses on the socially constructed basis of differences between men and women and the need to challenge existing gender roles and relations.

This approach was majorly influenced by the writing of academic scholars such as Oakley and Rubin which emphasize the social relationship between men and women.

These relationships they argue have systematically subordinated women. This departs from WID which perceived women’s problems in terms of their biological differences rather than gender.

Influenced by this work, by the late 1970s, some practitioners working in the development field started questioning the adequacy of focusing on women in isolation.

GAD challenged the WID to focus on women as the important target group and “untapped resources” for development.

GAD marked a shift in thinking about the need to understand how women and men are socially constructed and how “those constructions are powerfully reinforced by the social activities that both define and are defined by them.

GAD focuses primarily on the gender division of labor and gender as a relation of power embedded in institutions.

Consequently, two major frameworks Gender roles and social relations analysis is used in this approach.

Unlike WID, the GAD approach is not concerned specifically with women, but with the way in which society assigns roles, responsibilities, and expectations to both women and men.

GAD applies gender analysis to uncover the ways in which men and women work together, presenting results in neutral terms of economics and efficiency.

However, GAD has been criticized for emphasizing the social differences between men and women while neglecting the bonds between them and also the potential for changes in roles.

Another criticism is that GAD does not dig deep enough into social relations and so may not explain how these relations can undermine programs directed at women.

Development agencies still advance gender transformation to mean economic betterment for women.

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