An Integrated Development Approach for Gender Parity

By Julie Snyder

2016 is shaping up to be the year of the woman across the globe. With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015, gender equality has been pushed to the top of the 2030 agenda. Evidence suggests countries that support gender equality and women’s rights are more stable and more prosperous.

At the World Economic Forum meetings in Davos this January, the topic of gender inequality arose repeatedly, becoming the third most tweeted topic, following refugees and climate change. Globally, gender inequality remains an enormous challenge; according to the World Bank, only two countries out of 130 have reached gender parity at all levels of education, and women hold only 16.2 percent of ministerial-level positions globally.

These problems persist because gender is a highly complex socio-economic variable. Because gender intersects with many other variables, including class, education, and political systems, addressing the challenges associated with gender inequality requires coherent, deliberate solutions. Improving gender equality is key not only to enforcing and upholding human rights, but also to enabling economic development across the globe. Integrated development – intentional approaches to connect multi-sectoral, cross-disciplinary programs at each stage to magnify the intended effect – could be one answer to the multifaceted challenge of gender inequality.

While traditional development often manifests as discrete projects with a singular focus and funder, integrated development encourages collaboration and coordination across funders and sectors to address the complex, multivariable challenges inherent in many developing countries. In particular, integrated development has shown to be particularly useful for evolving ingrained behaviors associated with established gender roles. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has already incorporated integrated development approaches into its policy on gender equality and female empowerment. In Nepal, USAID’s Suaahara Project combines female empowerment, nutrition, and maternal health as its focus areas to counteract rampant malnutrition and constraining gender norms.


Nepalese women participating in the USAID Suaahara project shown with their young children. Suaahara, which takes an integrate development approach, has provided nutrition, hygiene, and maternal health training to Nepalese women since 2012. Photo by Valerie Caldas, USAID Suaahara Project.

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