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    'Staff publications' contains references to publications authored by Wageningen University staff from 1976 onward.

    Publications authored by the staff of the Research Institutes are available from 1995 onwards.

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Record number 569039
Title ‘Doing gender’: impacts of local meaning making on gender mainstreaming in agricultural and climate change policy in Uganda
Author(s) Acosta, Mariola
Source Wageningen University. Promotor(en): P.H. Feindt, co-promotor(en): M. van Wessel; S. van Bommel. - Wageningen : Wageningen University - ISBN 9789463954341 - 199
Department(s) Strategic Communication
Publication type Dissertation, internally prepared
Publication year 2020
Availibility Full text available from 2021-09-02

Women constitute a key part of the workforce for agricultural production in the Global South and are an important pillar for food systems across the globe (Malapit et al., 2020). However, women face fundamental constraints and barriers with regards to, inter alia, ownership and access to land, access to improved agricultural inputs, decision-making power in production and domestic activities, access to extension services, access to financial credit, and division of labor (Quisumbing et al., 2014). Climate change is expected to further widen these gender inequalities in agriculture (Nyasimi & Huyer, 2017), potentially putting rural women at a disadvantage in their ability to respond to, and cope with, changing weather patterns (Kristjanson et al., 2017).

Considering these gender inequalities, governments, development agencies, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations have over the last few decades gradually adopted sector-specific approaches in the context of global gender-equality strategies (Ampaire et al., 2019). However, despite high levels of attention to gender issues in policy-making and the influence of the gender equality norms in development policy agenda setting, reductions of gender inequality and changes to the underlying social factors that disadvantage women have been limited (Alston, 2014).

Using a discursive approach to policy analysis (Feindt & Oels, 2015; Wagenaar, 2015) this thesis explores the apparent disconnect between the firm dominance of gender equality discourse in agricultural and climate change adaptation policy, and the limited visible effects in reducing gender inequalities. The thesis draws particular attention to the role of interpretation in processes of norm translation, i.e. the practices through which policy ideas are negotiated and adapted to different contexts (Mukhtarov, 2014). It places interpretive translation processes as fundamental in understanding why global norms often do not yield the expected results when adopted in different contexts. In particular, the thesis shows the strategic importance of local meaning making processes for the performance of gender equality strategies. The four empirical chapters of this thesis contribute to address the overarching research question: How does local meaning making shape policy and practice on gender equality in agricultural and climate change policy in Uganda?

The first study draws attention to the role of narratives in micro-processes of policy-making that support, perpetuate or create resistance against the concept of gender mainstreaming. It re-constructs stories and narratives that policy-makers use when describing issues of gender equality in agriculture in the context of a changing climate, and shows how, despite a clear dominance of a gender equality narrative, other narratives emerge in their verbal accounts. The paper describes shifts from the gender equality to other narratives, revealing a discursive engagement with gender equality that is accompanied by simultaneous resistance, deconstruction and revocation. These narrative shifts exercise distinct power effects: They (1) shift blame for ineffective gender implementation; (2) legitimize policy inaction; (3) foreground and naturalize patriarchy; and (4) promote the diversion of resources. Overall, the discursive effect of the narrative shifts constitutes a widespread, and rather subtle, disempowerment of the equality discourse.

The second study takes a discourse-analytical perspective on gender policy and budgeting, with a focus on the translation of the international norm of “gender mainstreaming” into domestic norms and policies. Through an in-depth, inductive analysis of policy documents in Uganda, the study examines how the gender-mainstreaming norm has been translated at three administrative levels: national, district and sub-county. The analysis finds five processes that reduce the norm’s transformational potential: neglecting gender discourse, gender inertia, shrinking gender norms, embracing discursive hybridity and minimizing budgets. Overall, the study finds that gender mainstreaming largely stopped at the discursive level, and often paradoxically depoliticized gender issues.

The third study focuses on the concept of “joint decision making”, exploring how the concept is usually understood in Ugandan policy, where it suggests an equal say of both spouses in a specific decision. This meaning is compared to how the concept is understood by women and men on the ground. Women report joint decision making more often than men, who present themselves more as sole decision makers. Reconstructing the meanings that women attached to joint decision making, it shows how it included a range of practices from no conversation among partners to conversations where female spouse’s ideas were considered but the man had the final say.  The findings suggest that local interpretations of joint decision making differ widely from the understanding used in Ugandan policy, indicating that local interpretations of joint decision making can limit its potential for assessing women’s empowerment.

The fourth study examines the potential of locally crafted solutions for more effective strategies for gender equality in agriculture and climate change. It contribute to discussions on gender and norm localization, and builds on the conceptualization of “the local” in gender and development discourse. The study shows how policy actors largely adhere to global discourses on gender when asked about context-specific solutions to gender inequality. However, even though local norms and culture were largely identified as one of the main barriers for gender equality, the proposed solutions did not directly challenge local patterns of gender inequality. The study concludes that a focus on “the local” does not necessarily entail improved gender strategies, unless local patterns of gender inequality are thoroughly addressed.

Overall, through the empirical studies, the thesis uncovers significant tensions between generalized discourses on gender equality in agricultural development policy and practice, and local meaning making processes that often naturalize inequality and depolitize gender equality. It shows how gender mainstreaming and other global gender equality strategies might be helpful but not sufficient for advancing gender equality in local contexts. Efforts at influencing and changing local social norms that perpetuate gender inequality will thus have to come hand in hand with an improved understanding of local discursive processes, and with an examination of the associated micro-processes of resistance to gender equality. Furthermore, these efforts will need to capitalize and learn from approaches that are already successful in shaping gender relations in local contexts, and increase the influence and capacity of decentral feminist movements in local policy-making processes that could hold government and other policy actors accountable.

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