The Role of Gender

Gender equality is a precondition for development

Gender is the societal aspect of being male or female. And uniqueness in gender is the sense of being mannish or girlish. According to the Children’s Health Encyclopaedia, "Gender identity is a person’s sense of identification with either the male or female sex, as manifested in appearance, behavior, and other aspects of a person’s life". Gender is not synonymous with women as it is normally assumed. It refers to both men and women, and to their position, in relation to each other. Gender and development are well-thought-out as an important areas in the gender and development studies in general and social sector issues in growth and development in particular. The chronological societal advancements have always placed women at idiosyncratically prejudicial and unfavorable position. Most of the historical, gender and development studies reflect that women have played a minimal role in the development of societies. 

Modern development theories characterize noteworthy participation by all sections of society in the development process. Women constitute almost half of human population, and their role in the development process cannot be ignored at all which has significance bearing upon the success or failure of nations. Be it a concept or category, gender has materialized to comprehend and figure out the intricacies of women’s subservience to society. It does not essentially refer to women as a group or class of society rather it is used as a logical and systematic social grouping to study the declarations of women. Development theories are closely linked to gender because women are largely excluded from the process of development. "Women and development’ is an inclusive term to signify concept and a movement whose long term goal is the well-being of society – the community of men, women and children " (Synder &Tadesse). According to Sen  societies need to see women less as submissive and passive recipient of help, and more as self-motivated and vibrant promoters of societal makeover because years of schooling, occupation and ownership rights of women have a powerful bearing on their capability to control their environment and contribute to growth and development prospects. Development studies with gender standpoint needs to be understood for the whys and wherefores that follow. The gender perception in development demonstrates the effort towards ensuring equitable distribution of income and output. The inkling of gender as a grouping has developed as an outcome of the prevailing disparity and discernment between men and women in almost all societies. Development and gender studies allow us to measure the development outcomes and efforts and reveals the relative factor shares of each segment of society in national income which helps in formulating sector specific strategies, procedures and goalmouths.

Role of gender in development can be defined as the performance, behavior and approaches, attitudes and outlooks expected from the male and female members of a society. It may vary from nation to nation, culture to culture and even in the same country from region to region subject to the well-defined and demarcated acuities and perceptions of people in that society. For example, in pastoral, countryside and bucolic societies the gender role of a woman is restricted to household tasks because of women’s exclusion from the educational framework, but in an urban environment, gender roles are defined in a different way, since, with better educational prospects and opportunities, women get involved in economic and political decision making. The gender role in a particular society or environment depends upon multiple factors. A speculative and theoretical approach to growth and development is not only a necessary condition but a sufficient condition to understand the evolution and fruition of development and policy. 

Farming being highly labour intensive activity where most of the field and post-harvest operations are performed by women, yet development initiatives in general and agriculture in particular from time to time have ignored the role of women in growth and development prospects of a country. The era of great depression (1930’s) largely ignored women and their role in development. The emphasis of development was on modernization and westernization, particularly, the adoption of western technology, institutions and beliefs. It is important to note that development was recognized with modernization and   modernization was matching with the western world. After the Second World War, Uncle Sam (US) became the model for third world countries which looked-for modernization. In the pursuit for such modernization and development, egalitarian approach in the third world countries was largely ignored. Both third world cream of the crop and western development mavens and experts assumed that western development policies would reduce the development gap so that third world will catch up to the income levels of the western world. 

It was believed that western development policies would place delicate third world economies on the stage of take-off, characterized by dynamic economic growth. It was questioned whether this prosperity would reduce disparity in the income, output and employment, extend equally to all classes, races, and gender groups. Many research findings reveal that most of the western development projects undermined women’s economic opportunities and autonomy. In reaction to this, a new approach towards development of women, gender equality and women empowerment was developed during the 1970s. It stressed the uniqueness of women’s knowledge, skills, work, goals, and responsibilities. Thus, gender equality began to be recognized. The Millennium Development goals recognized gender equality and women empowerment as the third international development goal. The three critical dimensions of empowerment and improved participation of women in development was recognized as : competences in the areas of education and health, access to opportunities and resources, women’s ability to participate in the decision making processes in political institutions and policy making. 


Women play a crucial role in household development as well as the development of a nation. Gender equality is neither a means nor just an end in itself. It is more than a goal in itself.  It is a necessary as well as sufficient condition for meeting the challenge of poverty alleviation, simultaneously achieving and promoting sustainable development goals and maintaining political economy thereby building the base for good economy and good polity/governance. If we have to find some objective parameter to judge women’s participation in economic development, it has to be measured on the access to education, access to  health, equal participation in work and labour, representation in political and economic institutions.


Binish Qadri is Research Scholar, Department of Economics, Central University of Kashmir & Academic Counsellor, IGNOU STUDY CENTRE 1209, S.P. College, Srinagar;