Making Gender and Generation Matter


Gender is still largely considered to be about women rather than about a vital dynamic in society. And often gender issues are seen as a concern of the global north. The interlocking of production and social reproduction, the formal and informal sectors, and the constantly evolving relations between men and women, and between younger and older generations, are at the heart of this dynamic. A strong analysis of gender and generation is crucial to understanding power imbalances and being able to influence them.

This activity reflects the perspectives and work of our southern partners and of local organisations in the south, and contributes to the emerging debates on poverty reduction and sustainable development.

30 hommes et femmes arabes au puits blaharde


Social change is closely intertwined with the articulation between production and social reproduction. Both are essential for individuals, households, communities and wider societies to function. They are also related to gendered roles and responsibilities, where social reproduction is usually associated with women and production with men. However, this distinction is fluid, reflecting different ‘public’ provision of social reproduction services, women’s (and men’s) participation in labour markets, wealth and status inequalities, and the constantly evolving relations between men and women as well as between younger and older generations.

In times of economic instability, the state has traditionally curtailed its role in the provision of services, relying instead on households. This usually means an increase in the burdens traditionally shouldered by women, such as care for children and the elderly. While this mostly directly affects women, it also affects all household members as it becomes more difficult for women to reconcile productive and reproductive activities. Vulnerability to stresses and shocks thus increases as incomes decline. There can also, however, be unexpected consequences, for example the growing number of young women and girls who migrate to urban centres responding to demand for domestic service by urban households. In turn, their remittances are often a crucial element of rural livelihoods, especially in areas where family farming is under threat from environmental and socio-economic transformations.

Young woman participating in the discussion during the campus tour at the University of Abuja (from PLA 64). Credit: EVA

Project objectives

The project aims to bring together the work of IIED and its partners and develop the capacity to analyse and integrate gender and generation issues in all activities, and to engage and contribute to the emerging debates. The perspective and work of IIED's partners have a key role in driving the agenda for this activity.

The first stage of this project is expanding on-going activities and documenting case studies of IIED's and partner work which reflects on the role of gender and generation.


Watch a video on this issue produced by IIED. Marie Monimart (former International Fellow) and Michel Pimbert (formerly with the IIED Agroecology team) discussing whether agricultural research takes into account gender relations when analysing access and control over land and other natural resources.

Watch below, or follow the links to IIED's Youtube channel.

Quelle place pour le genre dans la recherche agricole? / What place is there for gender studies in agricultural research?

(in French - English subtitled)

Environment and Urbanization: Gender and urban change

Urbanization is often associated with greater independence and opportunity for women – but also with high risks of violence and constraints on employment, mobility and leadership that reflect deep gender-based inequalities. These issues are explored in this issue of Environment and Urbanization. It includes papers on: where and when urban women enjoy advantages over their rural counterparts; community savings schemes that build women’s leadership and support upgrading; how transport planning still fails to respond to women’s travel needs; how urban contexts can reduce gender-based violence, although often they can increase it; how income and ideology influence women’s decision-making in rural and urban areas in Nicaragua; the changes in women’s participation in labour markets in Dhaka and the tensions this can generate within households; what was learnt from a project working with girls and boys with disabilities in Mumbai; and the particular roles of women in seeking to get better services for their low-income/informal neighbourhoods in Bengalaru.

Mainstreaming gender and climate change in Nepal, Climate Change Working Paper no. 2, Jony Mainlay and Su Fei Tan

There is growing recognition that finding appropriate responses to climate change requires a broad understanding and approach beyond the scientific, and that policy reform must be part of a process of social and institutional change. This paper examines one dynamic which underpins this process of change - gender.  It provides an analysis of the extent to which gender differences are taken into account in the development of policies and plans for adaptation to climate change in Nepal and investigates the opportunities and progress made toward mainstreaming gender into policy more widely. The outcomes of this study are relevant to policymakers and other stakeholders concerned with devising and implementing gender sensitive policies and programmes. Whilst the recommendations presented in this report are particularly tailored for Nepal, they also have wider relevance to other contexts.

His REDD+, her REDD+: how integrating gender can improve readinessIsilda Nhantumbo, Linley Chiwona-Karltun

To change the ways people use forested land, we need to ask questions about the roles of men, women and children. Nearly 50 countries have begun preparing for readiness to reduce emissions from land use and land use changes under the UN-REDD and Forest Carbon Partnership Facility processes. Because gender disparities profoundly shape agriculture and other land use, REDD+ readiness plans should not only avoid harming women and other marginalised groups, but actively seek to address their needs and harness their strengths. Different genders and generations play different roles in value chains for products that use — or conserve — forest resources. Analysing these value chains provides the data to improve interventions. But planners also need to consider gender differences in control of resources, knowledge, decision-making structures and distribution of benefits.

Urban residents are more dependent on cash incomes to meet their essential needs than rural residents, and income poverty is compounded by inadequate and expensive accommodation, limited access to basic infrastructure and services, exposure to environmental hazards and high rates of crime and violence. This gives urban poverty a distinctive gendered dimension as it puts a disproportionate burden on those members of communities and households who are responsible for unpaid carework. Cash-based urban economies mean that poor women are compelled, often from a very young age, to also engage in paid activities. In many instances this involves work in the lowest-paid formal and informal sector activities which, at times of economic crises, require increasingly long hours for the same income. Cuts in the public provision of services, higher costs for food, water and transport, efforts to balance paid work and unpaid carework take a growing toll on women. A gendered perspective of urban poverty reveals the significance of non-income dimensions such as time poverty; and highlights fundamental issues of equality and social justice by showing women’s unequal position in the urban labour market, their limited ability to secure assets independently from male relatives and their greater exposure to violence.

Young citizens: youth and participatory governance in Africa: Participatory Learning and Action 64

All over the world citizens are starting to demand accountability from those in power. We are seeing exciting experiments in participatory governance. But are they working for young people? What spaces are most promising for the participation of children and young people in governance? Contributors to this special issue of Participatory Learning and Action demonstrate how this is changing. Young people in Africa are challenging the norms and structures that exclude them, engaging with the state and demanding accountability. This special issue describes how young people are exercising their right to participate and developing the knowledge, skills and confidence to affect to change. It explores methods of communication, appraisal, monitoring and research which are involving young people in decision-making spaces. It asks how can we re-shape how young people perceive and exercise citizenship? How can we redefine and deepen the links between young citizens and the state?

Also available in French. Order bilingual (English/French) CD Rom.

Gender and Generation Matter: a Reflect&Act Briefing

Existing research has amply demonstrated that analyses of gender and generation are important to the success of sustainable development initiatives, and many available tools and approaches already reflect this. Yet IIED’s work on gender and generation has been scattered and uncoordinated. This briefing gives an overview of the issue and highlights the activities already underway across research groups, emphasing the need to make this an institutional priority and a key objective in IIED’s five-year plan.


Reports and papers

Gender and Generation Case Studies:

These papers document existing work by IIED and partners on why gender and generation matter, how research was carried out and what lessons there are for sustainable development.

Gender and access to land and natural resources in Mali and Niger

This paper outlines research carried out in Mali and Niger on how women’s access to land and natural resources is changing. In depth case studies in many different agro-ecological regions were carried out. These ranged from densely populated areas with relatively high levels of rainfall, where crop cultivation is the main activity to more sparsely populated zones where rainfall is low and pastoralism is the main activity. The results were documented in reports, shared with communities in the case study sites, with local partners and in the case of Niger, published as a Drylands Issue paper.

Gender issues and Slum/Shack Dweller Federations

This paper documents the emergence of the first women-led slum dweller Federation, Mahila Milan, which was established in Mumbai, India with the support of a local NGO, the Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC). The methodologies adopted by Mahila Milan and members of the Slum Dwellers International (SDI) Federations change social relations both within and beyond the community and offer a gendered response to poverty.

Exploring mobility and migration in the context of rural-urban linkages: why gender and generation matter

This paper draws from research on rural-urban linkages conducted in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, with particular attention to work in northern Tanzania. The research explored ways in which mobility and migration intersect, changing relations between rural and urban areas, people and activities, and in the process transforming livelihoods and power inequalities at both intra and inter-household levels. Gender and generation are important factors in the exploration of rural-urban linkages affecting who migrates, their patterns of migration and their reasons for leaving their home settlements, as well as continued linkages to their families.

Raising the profile of Gender and Generation: The role of the Climate Change Media Partnership

The paper details the initiatives taken by the Climate Change Media Partnership (CCMP) to strengthen journalists’ understanding of the importance of gender and generation when reporting on climate change. Since 2007, the CCMP has run three programmes each supporting nearly 40 journalists from developing nations to attend the UN climate change negotiations in Bali, Poznan and Copenhagen. Among the many refinements that the CCMP team has made to its programme over the years, is a greater focus on gender and generation.