Add ‘Women’ and Stir: Critiques of Gender Mainstreaming in Environmental Conservation and Rural Development

In the 1960s, the Women in Development (WID) approach called for more inclusion of women in development projects. Stemming from this initial approach, gender mainstreaming, or the inclusion of gender as an essential concern at all levels of planning and implementation, tried to move beyond the mere ‘add gender and stir’ approach of WID. However, the reality remains that many international development and conservation strategies still consider the inclusion of ‘women’ in general as a sufficient fix to gender issues. In other words, gender mainstreaming is still often limited to a ‘check-box’ approach of including women, which de-politicizes and trivializes the complexities of gender (Bock 2015).


The international networks of development and conservation are highly intertwined and, we argue, often treat the inclusion of women as synonymous with gender equality. The conflation is dangerous because it rests on the problematic universal category of woman (see bell hooks 1984, Chandra Mohanty 2003, Audre Lorde 1984) and ignores how women’s relationships to the environment are constructed in very particular ways through everyday practices that are wrapped up in relations of power around gender, race, and class (Elmhirst 2011, Sundberg 2004, Harris 2008, Nightingale 2006, Sultana 2009, Lau and Scales 2016). One way through which scholars have addressed this issue is by emphasizing the importance of social heterogeneity and intersectionality in their analyses around gender (Radcliffe 2015, Sultana 2014).


This call for papers seeks to bring together scholars investigating the impacts of gender mainstreaming in development and conservation work in order to think through ways in which we can draw attention to “how gender is intersected by other axes (e.g. class, caste, age, etc.) as well as a relational analysis of both women and men across social categories in a changing climate” (Sultana 2014, p. 374). We are inspired by these scholars and others who challenge us to question ‘woman’ as a category of analysis both in scholarship and international conservation and development policies. In this call for papers, we ask: How do these women-focused projects revolve around particular gender narratives? How do they affect landscapes and rural spaces? How might we think critically about conservation and development beyond ‘inclusion’? We call for papers based on field research addressing the myriad ways in which gender is employed and reconfigured in international networks of development and conservation.


Suggestions include:

  • Political economic decisions within gendered institutions, nations and economies (Radcliffe 2006)

  • Discourses of ‘improvement’ or ‘empowerment’

  • The effects of new capital flows through rural spaces, creating markets

  • Climate change policies’ shift to considerations of gender

  • Economic subjectivity

  • Financialization

  • Labor (domestic, care, divisions of labor in the family)

  • Gender identity/gender roles

  • Agro-economic practices

  • Effects of engaging global markets

  • Reconfiguring rural-urban relationships/divides

  • Changing private and public spaces

  • Post/decolonial contexts (Escobar, Radcliffe, McEwan, Mohanty, Fanon)

Please submit your abstract, name, and institutional affiliation by December 1 to Brittany Cook ( or Manon Lefèvre at (




Bock, Bettina B. (2015). “Gender Mainstreaming and Rural Development Policy; the Trivialisation of Rural Gender Issues.” Gender, Place & Culture 22 (5):731–45.


Elmhirst, R. (2011). “Introducing new feminist political ecologies.” Geoforum 42: 129-132.


hooks, bell. (1984). Feminist theory from margin to center. Boston, MA: South End Press.


Lau, Jacqueline D. and Scales, Ivan R. (2016). “Identity, subjectivity and natural resource use: How ethnicity, gender and class intersect to influence mangrove oyster harvesting in The Gambia.” Geoforum 69: 136-146.


Lorde, A. (1984). Sister outsider : Essays and speeches (Crossing Press feminist series). Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press.


Mohanty, C. (2003). Feminism without borders : Decolonizing theory, practicing solidarity. Durham: Duke University Press.


Nightingale, A. (2006). “The nature of gender: work, gender and environment.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 24, 165–185.


Radcliffe, Sarah A. (2006). “Development and Geography: Gendered Subjects in Development Processes and Interventions.” Progress in Human Geography 30 (4):524–32.


———. (2015). Dilemmas of Difference: Indigenous Women and the Limits of Postcolonial Development Policy. Duke University Press.


Sultana, F. (2009). “Fluid lives: subjectivities, gender and water in rural Bangladesh.” Gender, Place and Culture 16:4: 427-444.


Sultana, F. (2014). “Gendering Climate Change: Geographical Insights.” The Professional Geographer, 1–10.


Sundberg, J. (2004). “Identities in the Making: Conservation, Gender, and Race in the Maya Biosphere Reserve, Guatemala.” Gender, Place and Culture 11, 1: 43-66.



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