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Centre for Development, Environment and Policy (CeDEP)

Gender and Social Inequality

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Gender and social inequality are important spheres of academic study and analysis, and also of development and poverty reduction policy. Gender and social relations within and between different groups of people are critical to people’s well-being and to the processes by which people’s well-being changes. They are both critical determinants of people’s ability to influence, participate in and benefit from social, economic and material change, as well as intrinsic to people’s sense of identity.

This module examines gender and social inequality from both an analytical and a practical perspective. It explores the historical roots of academic and policy interest in these matters and considers why gender and social inequality matter. It examines different ways of analysing social and gender relations and the relationship between academic and policy work in this field. It then investigates current thinking and concerns relating to the practice of social development and to the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment, and it describes tools and frameworks to inform policy-making and practice.

This module is aimed at students and researchers from the academic world and at development practitioners – from government departments, international development agencies or non-governmental organisations (NGOs) – who work to promote development and poverty reduction. The module aims to assist students to understand how social relations, and particularly gender relations, affect people; how they can be analysed; and how they have influenced development policy and practices and the outcomes of development interventions. The module also aims to assist students to develop their practical skills in addressing gender and social inequality in analysis and in policy design and implementation.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

By the end of this module, students should be able to:
  • understand the importance of gender and social inequality, and particularly gender relations, in development and poverty reduction processes, and different ways in which these have been addressed in development policy and practice
  • understand and apply critical concepts and theories regarding gender relations and change
  • be able to critique development policies from social development and gender relations perspectives
  • be able to use specific tools for gender analysis in the design, implementation and evaluation of development policies and projects, and to interpret the outcomes
  • understand and critically evaluate the main gender and social inequality challenges in specific development situations, policies and interventions.

Scope and syllabus

The course is broadly structured in three parts. The first three units explore ideas of gender, sex and feminism, showing these to be constructed categories with complex meanings, and they introduce the scope and history of gender and feminist ideas. Units 4 to 6 explore critical concepts and theories regarding social and gender relations and change. The final four units focus more on issues and tools in applying social and gender analysis to development policy and practice. The material in the three parts is, however, closely related.

Part I: The first unit sets the scene for the course with an overview of ideas of gender and sex, which we will see are problematic and not necessarily straightforward to define. Units 2 and 3 focus respectively on social development and women’s interests / gender equality. They explore historical origins, changing perspectives and current debates on incorporating these issues into development policy and planning

Part II: Unit 4 explores social and gender differentiation at the micro level, looking at the conceptualisation of categories of social and gender difference, of household forms and of intra-household relations. It also examines gender and social development perspectives on livelihoods and community analysis.

Unit 5 is concerned with how specific forms of social and gender discrimination and exclusion persist over time, through institutionalisation in the formal and informal structures of society. Unit 6 then examines how social and gender relations change, considering the role played by social structures and individual agency, individual and collective power and empowerment, and development interventions.

Part III: Unit 7 summarises and critiques, from a social development and gender relations perspective, international development policies designed to increase the impact of aid on poverty reduction. Unit 8 introduces some of the social and gender analytical tools and processes used in the context of development policies and projects. Unit 9 looks at the concept of participation and the ways this has been reinvented in the current aid environment to focus on rights and citizenship. Unit 10 looks at development institutions and organisations, considering the ways in which they reflect in their own staffing and culture the inequalities present in wider society. It looks at the ways social development and gender equality advocates have sought to promote attention to equality issues in the work of the organisation as well as internally.

Module sample

P540 module uses a core text which is specially written and will take you through your self-directed study. Exercises, assignments and other activities, such as self-assessment questions, film clips and animations are included to help you with learning. Most module study guides are now provided in electronic format on a USB flash memory stick, but can also be downloaded from the online learning environment. Click the linked image below to view a sample of our e-study guide: