1963-2018 - 55 years of Research for Social Change

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Gender Justice and Development

🔵 See the programme prospectus

For more than three decades, UNRISD has been exploring the gendered power relations found at the centre of institutions and policies, political and social life, and how such dynamics shape unjust gender outcomes. The work has tracked advances towards a more equal distribution of labour, care, power and well-being; but equality gains can be lost very quickly—and gender justice has proven more elusive. Gender justice, a perennial concern of global South feminists, located in wider debates around social justice, points to the necessity of transforming the development agenda from a feminist point of view. It raises the importance of gendered biases that limit women’s capacities to profit from equal opportunities—or even “unequal” special access privileges.

Work in the Gender Justice and Development Programme aims to contribute to understanding and addressing the economic, social, cultural and political barriers to the kinds of transformations—in individuals and in institutions—necessary not only for equality or empowerment, but for justice and for leaving no one behind.

The programme’s work seeks to understand, analyse and engage with processes of policy change around the following types of questions.
  • How is the phenomenon of gender backlash or anti-genderism seen in different parts of the global South? Where, why and how is it playing out in different places and for different categories of people?
  • How are changes in the world of work, whether from ongoing innovation, technological shifts or Covid-19, affecting women’s work? Which occupations will become “feminized” or “defeminized”? What are the implications for employment, social services and social protection delivery?
  • What would a feminist environmental policy look like? How could it be designed and implemented? How can gender research and feminist perspectives support the coalitions and collaborations working to deliver social, economic and environmental justice for communities across the globe?

Areas of Research

The government of Spain is providing funding to the programme of work, with a priority placed on identifying pathways for building the agency, access and participation of women and girls
in social, economic and political spheres. The work focuses in particular on the most marginalized, including indigenous women, rural women, workers in the informal sector, and women facing discrimination due to situations of poverty, disability, race, ethnicity, or SOGIESC.

One of the programme's workstreams undertakes research to explore the strengthening of women’s agency for their political participation. Research outputs include papers on backlash against women’s rights in Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and Africa, as well as an edited volume on the politics of sexuality. A second workstream undertakes research into practices at the regional level that aim to support women's voice and action in the area of climate change mitigation. A third workstream is looking at women in the world of work in the post COVID-19 era, with a focus on economic opportunities for the most marginalized women. The programme's activities include the co-creation and exchange of knowledge with local and regional research institutions, national government offices and women's organizations; as well as training and capacity building in areas such as intersectionality.

Networking and Partnering

Partnering and building networks are important ways that the Gender Justice and Development programme seeks to co-create mutual benefits. A range of joint initiatives under the three workstreams described above are being carried out with:
  • Asian Development Bank (ADB)
  • Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales (CLACSO)
  • Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC/CEPAL)
  • FundaciĂłn Carolina
  • International Labour Organization (ILO)
  • United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
  • Universidad Nacional AutĂłnoma de MĂ©xico (UNAM)

Other Programme Activities

→ Conversación 'El Estado de bienestar que necesitan las mujeres', dentro del ciclo 'América es mujer' de la Casa de América (el 7 de julio)

→ Blog—Why Intersectionality is Critical for UNRISD's Work (28 Jun 2021) | Carolyn H. Williams, Francisco Cos-Montiel. Going forward, the Institute intends to apply an intersectional approach across all of its research programmes. Find out why intersectionality is so important to UNRISD's mission...

→ UNRISD at LASA 2021 Virtual Congress: Crisis global, desigualdades y centralidad de la vida (26-29 May 2021).
UNRISD presented five sessions at the XXXIX International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association. The sessions were designed with an intersectional approach, ranging from Indigenous women’s rights to Afro feminisms and transvestites / trans’ voices. 22 out of our 24 event speakers are from the global South; and one of the two Canadians is an Indigenous leader from Quebec.

→ ¿Puede la crisis de trabajo y cuidados de la Covid-19 transformarse en un opportunidad para las politicas de igualdad? Una reflexiòn feminista (26 marzo 2021) | Francisco Cos-Montiel (also available in English and French)

→ Video—“Feminism Frees Women But Also Frees Men”. Interview with Francisco Cos-Montiel, Lead of UNRISD’s Gender Programme (16 Dec 2020)

→ Blog—Gender Justice in Development: UNRISD’s Contribution to the Global Project of Gender Equality (16 Dec 2020) | Francisco Cos-Montiel


The programme has received funding from the Government of Spain, through the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID). The feminist research carried out under the programme will build the evidence base informing Spain's decision making for and support to its partner countries to accelerate the achievement of SDGs 5, 8, 10 and 13.

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Photo: Keith Fox (public domain via Unsplash)