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Gender and rural community development III: tools and frameworks for gender analysis

Christine King

PO Box 621 (BC), Toowoomba, Qld, 4350


This paper highlights a variety of tools for undertaking gender analysis in projects and organisations. The paper begins with a brief introduction on gender analysis. Three tools are then introduced (i) Gender Analysis Matrix (GAM), (ii) Women’s Empowerment Framework, and (iii) The Social Relations Approach. The paper concludes that there is a fundamental need for gender analysis to be incorporated into rural community development projects and activities, and within agencies that carry out this work. This is paper III of a three paper series for this conference on Gender and Rural Community Development. Paper I provides a critical analysis of different policy approaches to development that can be applied in both the Australian and Global contexts. Paper II illustrates gender issues that exist within the Australian rural community development domain, concluding the necessity for gender analysis in projects and organisations.


Women are critical to agricultural production, but gender barriers often constrain their access to resources and effective technologies. In addition, government agencies working toward rural community development (CD) can also be ‘gender blind’. This can lead to detrimental effects on the design and implementation of effective rural community development projects. Recognition of this is growing rapidly within the agricultural research and development community, particularly in the “developing world”. In Australia however, a variety of studies (see Paper II) suggest that we are somewhat ignorant of the need to incorporate gender as an analytical variable in the equation. Feldstein and Poats (1989) state that achieving this goal requires agricultural professionals to have a new set of conceptual and analytical perspectives and skills in order to deal with the spectrum of projects in which they become involved.

In paper II, a variety of gender issues that exist within the Australian rural CD context were highlighted and the paper concluded that (i) there is a fundamental need for gender analysis to be incorporated into rural community development projects and activities, (ii) addressing gender issues require the involvement of both women and men, and (iii) there is also a need for gender analysis to be undertaking within agencies that implement rural community development initiatives. This paper provides a variety of tools for gender analysis that can be used to address these needs.

Tools for gender analysis

There are a variety of tools for gender analysis available. Although numerous gender analysis methods exist, and different methods may be appropriate for different contexts, Parker (1993) suggests that gender analysis usually involves four key components. These are based on the premise that development interventions often impact on women and men differently:

Sex disaggregation

In gender analysis, data should be separated out by sex so that it is in a form that enables the impacts on women to be identified separately from impacts on men.

Social construction

The social origins of the historical subordination of women are also important to understand. These are usually manifestations of sexual domination, language and myths. For example, the concepts of masculinity and femininity have been changing throughout history and continue to be changed by society.

Division of labour

Gender analysis includes understanding the division of labour and its implications for equity. The type of work that women and men do and how that work is valued is largely determined by how society organises gender roles. Although, women’s work is generally less valued than men’s work, the division of labour between women and men varies with and between cultures, and changes over time. Therefore it is not “natural” but is determined by society.


It is also important to differentiate between access (such as being able to farm on someone else’s land) and control (owning that land, being able to decide how that land is used). Having women control the means of production or the decision making process is key to bringing about change.

In summary, gender analysis frameworks are tools for considering the impact that a development program or activity may have on women and men, and on the economic and social relationships between them (gender relations). Following Parker (1993) they consist of:

  • Activity profile: Who does what, within the household and community (gender division of labour)
  • Access and control profile: Who has what
  • Analysis of factors and trends: what factors influence this gender division of labour, and access to resources
  • Program cycle analysis: analysing and applying all of the above information to all stages of the program cycle

There are a number of tools for gender analysis available today. A particularly useful reference is March, C., Smyth, I. And Mukhopadhyay (1999) A Guide to Gender-Analysis Frameworks, published by Oxfam in London.

In this paper, I present three tools, namely, the Gender Analysis Matrix (GAM), Women’s Empowerment Matrix, and the Social Relations Approach. I have chosen these three approaches as I have found them particularly useful in my own practice of CD at the community, team and organisational level.

Gender Analysis Matrix (GAM)

The Gender Analysis Framework (GAM) was developed by Rani Parker (1993) to fulfil a need for a framework appropriate to grass roots work. Parker (1993) describes GAM using What, Why, Who, When and How:

What: The GAM is a tool for gender analysis of development projects at the community level. That is, it helps determine the different impact development interventions have on women and men, by providing a community-based technique for identifying and analysing gender differences.

Why: The GAM is used to determine the different impacts of development interventions on women and men. It separates out the different impacts (and other vulnerable groups) so development practitioners may accommodate the different needs and interests of these groups.

Who: A representative group in the community does the analysis. Where possible, the group should include women and men in equal numbers. If the culture does not permit women and men to work together, then each gender should meet separately, and the analysis should be shared with the other gender.

When: The GAM can be used at the planning stage, to determine whether potential gender effects are desirable and consistent with program goals. The GAM also can be used in the design stage, where gender considerations may change the design of the project. For monitoring, the GAM can be used to periodically verify expected impacts and identify unexpected results so that they can be addressed. During evaluation, GAM can help to determine gender impacts.

How: to use the GAM (Parker, 1993)

  • Describe the project in a few sentences
  • Identify the groups that the project is intended to benefit. Try to be specific.
  • Restructure the matrix (see below) to ensure that these groups are represented. Keep the Matrix as simple as possible. The key is to ensure the Matrix facilitates a process of analysis, rather than serving as a comprehensive database
  • Fill out the matrix by asking what the project’s potential impact is on women’s time, labour, physical resources and social and cultural contexts. Next ask the same question for the men, the household and the community.
  • The categories provided in the Matrix may be further sub-divided as needed. For example, labour could be household labour domestic), productive labour (own business), wage labour (paid for work) and unpaid labour (done out of social necessity). The question for this category would be: “What effect would the project have on women’s household labour, productive labour, wage labour and non-wage labour?”
  • As needed, the levels of analysis can also include (depending on the project goals and the community in question) age group, class, ethnic groups, or other relevant categories determined by the analysing group.
  • If there is disagreement about the impact among the group, note all the views (this can then be resolved on the basis of actual outcomes in the future). After all the blocks have been filled out, determine whether the effect listed in each box is desirable or not with respect to your program’s goals, and mark with a + or – or ?.
  • Use the signs as a visual picture of the areas where expected impacts will be consistent with program goals, and areas where impacts may be contrary to program goals. Do not add up the signs to determine the net effect.
  • Consider the effects on those who do not participate in the project. Will they also benefit, or will they lose? What adjustments can be made to prevent a negative result to those who cannot or do not which to participate?
  • In the monitoring and evaluation phase, review the analysis and verify the expected impact at least once a month for the first few months of a project and at least once every three months thereafter. Identify unexpected results so that they may be addressed.






Adolescent Girls


Other women








This tool is very much influenced by the reality and ideology of participatory planning (Parker, 1993). It is based on the premise that (i) all requisite knowledge for gender analysis exists among the people whose lives are the subject of the analysis, and (ii) gender analysis does not require the technical expertise of those outside the community, except as facilitators. In this sense it is a transformatory learning tool that is used to initiate a process of analysis by the community themselves, encouraging critical thinking about gender roles and the different values society places on women’s and men’s labour.

Women’s Empowerment Framework (Longwe)

This method was developed by Sara Hlupekile Longwe as a way of analysing development projects (Williams et al., 1994). The aim of the framework is intended to help planners question what women’s empowerment and equality means in practice and assess critically to what extent a development intervention is supporting this empowerment.

The framework is based on five different ‘levels of equality’. The degree to which these are present in any area of social or economic life determines the level of women’s empowerment. The framework also allows gender and development workers to analyse development organisations degree of commitment to women’s equality and empowerment. March et al., (1999) outline the two main tools of Longwe’s Framework:

Tool 1: levels of Equality

The Longwe Framework’s five ‘levels of equality’ indicate the extent to which women are equal with men, and have achieved empowerment. The levels of equality are:

  • Control: This term refers to women’s control over the decision making process through conscientisation and mobilisation, to achieve equality of control over the factors of production and the distribution of benefits. Equality of control means a balance of control between men and women, so that neither side dominates.
  • Participation: The framework considers women’s equal participation in the decision making process, in policy-making, planning, and administration. It is a particularly important aspect of development projects, where participation means involvement in needs-assessment, project formulation, implementation, and evaluation. Equality of participation means involving women in making the decisions by which their community will be affected, in a proportion which matches their proportion in the wider community.
  • Conscientisation: This is understood in the Longwe Framework as a conscious understanding of the difference between sex and gender, and an awareness that gender roles are cultural and can be changed. ‘Conscientisation’ also involves a belief that the sexual division of labour should be fair and agreeable to both sides, and not involve the economic or political domination of one sex by the other.
  • Access: This is defined as women’s access to the factors of production on an equal basis with men; equal access to land, labour, credit, training, marketing facilities, and all public services and benefits. Longwe points out that equality of access is obtained by applying the principles of equality of opportunity, which typically entails the reform of the law and administrative practice to remove all forms of discrimination against women.
  • Welfare: Longwe defines this as the level of women’s material welfare, relative to men. Do women have access to resources such as food supply, income and, medical care?

In this framework, the levels of equality are hierarchical. March et al (1999) suggests that if a development intervention focuses on the higher levels, there is greater likelihood that women’s empowerment will be increased by the intervention. If the intervention focuses only on welfare it is very unlikely that the women will find the project empowering.

Tool 2: Level of recognition of ‘women’s issues’

Longwe also suggests that it is important to establish whether women’s issues are ignored or recognised by identifying the extent to which project objectives are concerned with women’s development. In this context, women’s issues relate to all issues concerned with women’s equality in any social or economic role, and involving any of the levels of equality. That is, an issue becomes a women’s issue when it considers the relationship between men and women, rather than simply at women’s traditional and subordinate sex-stereotyped gender roles (March et al., 1999).

This tool assumes that women’s empowerment is the concern of both women and men. March et al (1999) describes the three levels of recognition (defined by Longwe) in project design as:

  • Negative Level: the project makes no mention of women’s issues. Experience has shown that the project is likely to be detrimental to women (ie. women are very likely to be left worse by the project).
  • Neutral level: Project objectives recognise women’s issues, but concerns remain that the project intervention does not leave women worse off than before.
  • Positive level: the project objectives are positively concerned with women’s issues, and with improving the position of women relative to men.


Levels of Recognition

Level of Equality














This method is particularly useful in illustrating how the role of empowerment is intrinsic to the process of development. It highlights to the practitioner and the community (in an effort to change attitudes), aspects of development work that were not previously recognised or appreciated.

The Social Relations Approach

The Social Relations Approach to gender and development planning has been developed by Naila Kabeer in collaboration with policy makers, academics, and activists, primarily from the South (March, et al., 1999). Key elements of the approach are (i) the goal of development as human well being; (ii) the concept of social relations; and (iii) institutional analysis.

This approach is intended as a method of analysing existing gender inequalities in the distribution of resources, responsibilities, and power, and for designing policies and programs which enable women to be agents of their own development. The framework uses concepts rather than tools to concentrate on the relationships between people and their relationship to resources and activities – and how these are re-worked through ‘institutions’ such as state or the market. March et al (1999) describe this concepts as follows:

Concept 1: Development as increasing human well being

Human well-being concerns survival, security, and autonomy (the ability to participate fully in those decisions that shape one’s choices and chances). Broader goals of survival, security and human dignity are just as important as technical efficiency. The concept of production includes all tasks that people perform to reproduce human labour (caring, nurturing, and looking after the sick) which people perform in caring for their environment to assure their livelihood. It is not merely market production.

Concept 2: Social relations

Social relations are the structural relationships that create and reproduce systemic differences in the positioning of different groups of people. These determine who we are, what our roles and responsibilities are, and what claims we can make. They determine our rights, and the control we have over our own lives and the lives of others. They determine what tangible and intangible resources are available to groups and individuals. Social relations are not fixed. Poor women, for example, are often excluded from formal allocations of resources, so they draw on other resources (such as networks of family and friends) for managing their workload. Resources of this kind, available through social relations, can be critical for survival.

Concept 3: Institutional Analysis

The underlying causes of gender inequality are not confined to the household and family but are reproduced across a range of institutions, including the international community, the state and the market place. Five aspects of social relations shared by institutions:

  • Rules: How things get done. What is done; how it is done; by whom it will be done and who will benefit.
  • Activities: What is done? Who does what? Who gets what? Who can claim what?
  • Resources: What is used, what is produced? Institutions also mobilise and distribute resources. These may be human (labour), material (food) or intangible (information)
  • People: who is in, who is out, who does what? Selectivity is about who is allowed in and who is excluded; who is assigned various resources, tasks and responsibilities; and who is positioned where in the hierarchy.
  • Power: Who decides, and whose interests are served? Institutions embody relations of authority and control. There are few egalitarian institutions, even if it is claimed to be.

Examining institutions on the basis of these five aspects helps to understand who does what, who gains and who loses (ie. which men and which women). This is undertaking an institutional analysis.

Concept 4: Institutional Gender Policies

Kabeer classifies policies into either gender blind policies (policies recognise no distinction between the sexes and therefore incorporate biases in favour of existing gender relations) or gender aware policies (policies that recognise that men and women are part of development and that they are constrained in different and often unequal ways as potential participants and beneficiaries). Gender aware polices are separated into three types (although not mutually exclusive), depending on the degree to which they recognise and address gender issues:

  • Gender neutral policy approaches: use the knowledge of gender differences in a given society to overcome biases in development interventions. They work within the existing gender division of resources and responsibilities
  • Gender specific policies: use the knowledge of gender differences in a given context to respond to the practical gender needs of either women or men; they also work within the existing division of resources and responsibilities
  • Gender-redistributive policies: are interventions, which intend to transform existing distributions to create a more balanced relationship between women and men. They may target both or only one group. These policies touch on strategic gender interests.

Concept 5: Immediate, underlying and structural causes

The framework explores the immediate, underlying, and structural factors, which cause the problems and their effects on the various actors involved. That is, each of the three factors can be analysed in relation to the four types of institutions: household, community, market and state.

The Social Relations Approach is a useful approach in that it can be applied for many purposes and at many levels. It is particularly helpful in providing a gender analysis framework to address the third point raised in paper II: there is also a need for gender analysis to be undertaking within agencies that implement rural community development initiatives.

Opportunities and Limitations of Frameworks

March et al., (1999) comments extensively on these approaches in relation to opportunities and limitations with regard to gender analysis (Table 1).

Table 1. Opportunities and Limitations of Gender Analysis Tools (adapted from March et al., 1999)



Gender Analysis Matrix

  • Designed specifically for community-based development workers
  • Simple and systematic; uses familiar categories and concepts
  • Transformatory as well as technical
  • Fosters ‘bottom-up’ analysis through community participation
  • Considers gender relations between women and men, as well as examining what each category experiences separately
  • Levels of analysis can be added to in order to suit particularly interventions
  • Includes intangible resources
  • Can be used to capture changes over time
  • Helps anticipate resistance, and encourages consideration of what support should be offered for those at risk
  • Includes men as gendered beings, so can be used in interventions that target men
  • Can be used for participatory impact assessment
  • Quick data gathering

Gender Analysis Matrix

  • Needs a good facilitator
  • Some factors can get lost because categories have many aspects
  • Requires careful repetition in order to consider change over time
  • Does not seek out the most vulnerable community members
  • Excludes macro- and institutional analysis
  • Difficulties defining a community
  • Subordination is often no explicit
  • Risk of misleading outcomes due to power relations between funders and community members

Women’s Empowerment Framework

  • Moves beyond the concept of practical and strategic gender needs to show them as a progression
  • Emphasises empowerment
  • Strongly ideological
  • Useful in identifying the gap between rhetoric and reality in interventions

Women’s Empowerment Framework

  • Not a ‘complete framework
  • Hierarchy of levels may make users think that empowerment is a linear process
  • Hierarchy of levels does not allow for relative importance of different resources
  • Hierarchy of levels does not allow for relative importance of different resources
  • Hierarchy of levels does not help to differentiate between marginally different impacts
  • Defining development only in terms of women’s empowerment can tempt users to focus only on women rather than on gender relations
  • Strongly ideological

Social Relations Approach

  • Gives a holistic analysis of poverty
  • Aims to place gender at the centre of an entirely new framework for development theory and practice
  • Concentrates on institutions
  • Links analysis at all levels
  • Can be used in a dynamic Analysis
  • Highlights gender relations and emphasises women’s and men’s different interests and needs

Social Relations Approach

  • Emphasises structure rather than agency
  • Gender may become subsumed in a complex examination of cross-cutting inequalities, posing obstacles for political action
  • Complexity may intimidate
  • Difficult to use with communities in a participate way
  • Complexity means very detailed knowledge of context is need
  • In reality, institutions do not have definite boundaries
  • Difficulty in determining what is an institution


This paper illustrates a variety of tools for gender analysis, their method, and implications on addressing gender issues in the context of (but not limited to) rural community development. Women are critical to agricultural production, but their access to resources and effective technologies is often constrained by gender barriers. In addition, government agencies working toward rural community development can also be gender blind. This can lead to detrimental effects on the design and implementation of effective rural community development projects. This paper offers three tools as a means of incorporating gender in the rural community development equation. Achieving this goal requires agricultural professionals to have a new set of conceptual and analytical perspectives and skills in order to deal with the spectrum of projects in which they become involved.


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