City Research Online

The challenge of gender mainstreaming for a contemporary non-governmental organisation: The International Planned Parenthood Federation

Jensen, K. F. (2003). The challenge of gender mainstreaming for a contemporary non-governmental organisation: The International Planned Parenthood Federation. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


This thesis has two main aims; firstly, to clarify the nature of gender mainstreaming and secondly to articulate the challenge for a contemporary NGO, The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), to incorporate this increasingly popular strategy. During the 1970s and 1980s insights from Western women’s movements were fed into the thinking and practice of development aid, resulting first in WID (Women in Development) and later in GAD (Gender and Development). Up to a certain point it looked like a 'success story' culminating in the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. Yet, at Beijing it became apparent that there was no clear evidence that progress had been made, despite the fact that many NGOs had improved their stated goals and strategies, incorporating a commitment to improve women's conditions and to promote the empowerment of women. Consequently, gender mainstreaming was adopted as a new strategy and became part of the Platform for Action and thereby part of a broader international agenda.

Yet, from its very inception, there has been a paradox at the heart of the gender mainstreaming strategy - whilst 'gender' is a concept of plurality derived within the post-modern school of thought, ‘mainstreaming’ is a strategy based upon modernist interpretations, which are neutral with regard to organisational structures. Promoting the role of women in development and putting women’s values at the centre of development work means reaching into the 'heart' of the development discourse and reconstructing from the bottom, the very concepts that shape that same discourse. Throughout this thesis I argue that by using gender mainstreaming as a strategy there is a tendency to build upon the overtly modernist theses of WID and GAD, through the adoption of a logical, technical and top-down methodology. Implicit in this strategy is that change can happen by adding on post-modern terms such as 'empowerment' and 'participation' onto existing modernist and bureaucratic structures. Often these attempts have failed to 'take account' of gender in a way, which adequately accounts for the plurality of 'lived experiences', which compose and define the notion of gender.

This thesis is about this very paradox and will attempt to deconstruct IPPF and its gender sensitization efforts in order to understand and illustrate how the Federation has tackled the conceptualisation and practical application of gender mainstreaming. My overall argument is that as an NGO, IPPF has knowingly driven its gender sensitization process through focusing primarily on the mainstreaming element within gender mainstreaming. Consequently the notion of gender as an articulation of 'difference' has been subsumed within the overtly modernist terms of mainstreaming. Here mainstreaming rather than being the strategic function of gender has effectively re-conceptualised gender on its own terms so that gender in the context of IPPF’s efforts also derives from a modernist framework of understanding where 'women' are abstracted and universalised.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > School of Policy & Global Affairs Doctoral Theses
School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
Doctoral Theses
[thumbnail of Jensen thesis 2003 PDF-A.pdf]
Text - Accepted Version
Download (10MB) | Preview


Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login