Skip to main content

2. The Road from WID to GAD: Key Differences for Gender and Development


  • Articulate the difference between WID (Women in Development) and GAD (Gender and Development)
  • Present historical dynamics that led from WID to GAD
  • Explore implications of this change in a Transformational Development process
  • Understand the difference between gender equity and gender equality
  • Learn key definitions related to Gender and Development

(Estimated Session Time: 1 hour and 40 minutes)

Session Flow and Description - 15 minutes


  • Share session objectives.
  • Ask participants to share an experience in a development scenario that had a gender focus.
Plenary Group Presentation - 25 minutes

Handout 3.2a, The Road from WID to GAD


  • Reasons for Change from WID to GAD
  • Historical Process
    • Emergence of WID
    • Deficiencies noted in development projects
    • Legal equality and social equality in WID and GAD
    • Social realities women face

Discussion Question

  • What examples of both WID and GAD have you participated in during your work with ADPs and communities?

Small Group Discussion - 20 minutes

Activity 3.2a, Basic Differences Between WID and GAD

Discussion Questions

Plenary Group Presentation - 15 minutes

Handout 3.2b, Essential Gender and Development Definitions

Include definitions of:

  • Gender inequality
  • Gender equality
  • Gender equity
  • Gender-sensitive
  • Gender analysis
  • Gender integration
  • Gender mainstreaming
Pairs or small groups - 10 minutes

Ask pairs or small groups to list three examples of gender equity and three examples of gender equality to share with the group.

Plenary Group Presentation - 10 minutes
  • Close this session with examples from the small groups. In each case, determine whether the example has the appropriate focus and make any modifications if necessary.

  • Use each of the GAD definitions in a sentence. Ask participants for an additional sentence using each definition.

Post-Session Assignment: Becoming a Gender Equity Witness - 5 minutes
  • Find colleagues in other organisations involved in GAD.
  • Meet with them and establish a collegial and/ or mentoring relationship. Ask them how the change from WID to GAD has affected their work? Has it led to transformed gender relations?


Handouts and Activities

  • Handout 3.2a, The Road from WID to GAD
  • Handout 3.2b, Essential Gender and Development Definitions
  • Activity 3.2a, Basic Differences Between WID and GAD 

Facilitator Preparation

  • Talk to someone who worked in this field when WID was transitioning to GAD. Gather historical anecdotes and examples to share with the group.
  • Reflect on the discussion questions – be prepared with your own examples of gender equity and gender equality.
  • Prepare appropriate sentences for each definition. These should demonstrate a clear meaning of each of the words or concepts.
  • Make copies of Handout 3.2a, Handout 3.2b and Activity 3.2a for all participants.
  • Create a presentation based on Handouts 3.2a and 3.2b.
  • Prepare copies of discussion questions and assignments for small group work.

The Road from WID to GAD

Women in Development Theory and Approach

One result of the world’s attention to women’s issues in the 1970s was emergence of an approach to social change called “Women in Development” (WID). The theory was based on new evidence that development affected women differently than men, and often harmed women instead of benefiting them. Development workers proposed that women were an untapped resource, able to contribute to economic development if allowed into the process. This new theory attempted to take women into account when planning programmes, and generated many projects focused specifically on women.

As WID became a part of mainstream development theory and practise, several criticisms arose. One pointed out that when women were integrated into pre-existing development projects, social structures that reinforced their inequalities were never challenged. The approach also focused more on women’s productive work, without considering their additional social and reproductive responsibilities.

So a project might offer women a chance to start a small business enterprise, but with their burden of household chores, they did not have free time available to become involved.

Proponents of WID argued for legal reforms abolishing all discriminatory laws and policies. Women must be accorded legal equality with men, according to WID, and it was believed that once this even and level playing field was created or established, women would be able to assume positions of equality. Levelling the playing field meant that women must be accorded equal access with men to education, employment, credit and other resources. The WID approach facilitated identification of inequalities in the content of laws and is, thereby, one of the drivers of legal reform in recent decades.

The main weakness of the WID approach proved to be its assumption that if legal equality exists, factual equality will follow. In fact, formal or legal equality did not of itself yield social or factual equality. Another difficulty in the WID approach was that it took little or no account of women’s special needs – focusing on frameworks rather than on mechanisms of implementation and practicalities of daily life. Employing the WID approach left women’s lived realities in social, legal and cultural contexts unexplored. Bereft of women’s actual needs, expectations and experiences, exclusive employment of the WID approach left the great diversities of societies, women and customs unexplored.21

Gender and Development Theory and Approach

The “Gender and Development” approach (GAD) emerged as a response to WID deficiencies.

GAD looks at development dynamically – at the relationship between men and women – rather than maintaining a narrower focus on women. GAD examines how relationships and structures at both household and community levels affect women and men differently.

For example, a project might be intended to increase girls’ educational levels in a particular area.

If regional culture places a low value on girls, in holistic terms, and expects them to marry at an early age, these educational efforts may fail until or unless the community comes to consider education for girls to be essential. Informed by the GAD approach, a project’s strategy may adapt to include a focus on changing cultural attitudes through educating parents about the benefits of sending their daughters to school. Rather than focusing solely on girls involved in the project, as WID would, GAD takes into account family members’ attitudes and the broader community’s cultural practises.

GAD views women as change agents, not merely recipients of development

GAD attempts to address inequality as a by- product of the gender construct. Based on the definition of gender as socially constructed, and, therefore, able to be socially de-constructed,

GAD proposes to influence society to change its attitudes towards women through massive structural changes that benefit both men and women. GAD links the relations of production to the relations of reproduction, taking particular challenges and responsibilities of women’s lives into account.22

21 Kebokile Dengu-Zvobgo, et al., Inheritance in Zimbabwe: Law, Customs and Practice (Harare, Zimbabwe: Women and Law in Southern Africa Research Trust, 1994), pp.17-18.

22 Dengu-Zvobgo, et al., Inheritance in Zimbabwe, pp. 20-21.

Projects based on a GAD approach involve encouraging women to bring about positive change for the entire community through women’s organisations and activism. GAD puts less emphasis on legislating for gender equality and more emphasis on empowering women themselves to work to change and transform structures that contributed to their subordination.23

“Development is viewed as a complex process involving the social, economic, political and cultural betterment of individuals and of society itself. Betterment in this sense means the ability of the society and its members to meet the physical, emotional and creative needs of the population at a historically acceptable level. In examining the impact of economic development (planned or unplanned) on any particular society or group within a society, proponents of the Gender and Development approach ask the question: who benefits, who loses, what trade-offs have been made, and what is the resultant balance of rights and obligations, power and privilege between men and women, and between given social groups.”

Basic Differences Between WID and GAD

Women in Development


Gender and Development



  • Women
  • Relations between women and men


  • The exclusion of women (half of productive resources) from the development process
  • Unequal relations of power (rich and poor, women and men) that prevent equitable development and women’s full participation


  • More efficient, effective development
  • Equitable, sustainable development with women and men as decision makers


  • Integrate women into the existing development process
  • Empower the disadvantaged and women
  • Transform unequal relations


  • Women’s projects
  • Women’s components
  • Integrated projects
  • Increasing productivity among women
  • Increasing income for women
  • Increasing ability of women to look after the household
  • Identifying/addressing practical needs determined by women and men to improve their condition
  • At the same time, addressing women’s strategic interests
  • Addressing strategic interests of the poor through people-centered development

Essential Gender and Development Definitions

Gender equity is the process of being fair to women and men in distribution of resources and benefits. This involves recognition of inequality and requires measures to work towards equality of women and men. Gender Analysis is necessary for gender equity.

Gender equality is a Transformational Development goal. It is understood to mean that women and men enjoy the same status on political, social, economic and cultural levels. It exists when women and men have equal rights, opportunities and status.

Gender equity is the process that leads to gender equality.


Socially learned roles and responsibilities assigned to women and men in a given culture and the societal structures that support these roles.

A Transformational Development goal. It is understood to mean that women and men enjoy the same status on political, social, economic and cultural levels. It exists when women and men have equal rights, opportunities and status.

The condition of fairness in relations between women and men, leading to a situation in which each has equal status, rights, levels of responsibility and access to power and resources.

Being aware of differences between women’s and men’s needs, roles, responsibilities and constraints.

An organised approach for considering gender issues through the entire process of programme or organisational development. The purpose of GenderAnalysis is to ensure that development projects and programmes fully incorporate roles, needs and participation of women and men. Gender Analysis requires separating data and information by sex (known as disaggregated data) and understanding how labour, roles, needs and participation are divided and valued according to sex (whether one is a man or a woman). Gender Analysis is done at all stages of development projects.

Gender integration is an organic process, akin to a living tree. At the root of the process is political will. An organisation with strong political will, like a tree with strong roots, can support three vital branches: technical capacity, accountability, and a positive organisational culture. Integrating gender into an organisation’s activities and structures has both external and internal implications. Externally, gender integration fosters participation of and benefits to women and men in an organisation’s initiatives or services. Internally, gender integration promotes women’s leadership and equality in an organisation’s own policies and structures.

Mainstreaming a gender perspective is the process of assessing implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in all areas and at all levels. It refers to a strategy for making women’s and men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension of design and implementation, monitoring and evaluating policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres so that women can benefit equally and inequality is not perpetuated. The ultimate goal is to achieve gender equality.