Trickle-down or Rising Tide? Lessons on Mainstreaming Gender Policy from Colombia and South Africa


Beall, Jo. 2002. “Trickle-down or Rising Tide? Lessons on Mainstreaming Gender Policy from Colombia and South Africa.” Social Policy & Administration 32 (5): 513–34.

Author: Jo Beall


As a result of the United Nations Decade for Women (1976-1985) many member states of the United Nations in the South put in place some form of national macinery for the advancement of women. This paper considers that process, identifying three main phases. The first was heavily overlaid by the agendas of international development agencies and coincided with efforts to advance a "women in development" or WID agenda within international development cooperation. The second, explored here in relation to Colombia, saw a shift towards attempts to institutionalize gender awareness in development policy, the so-called "gender and development" or GAD approach. Against this background, the later South African experience is evaluated. It is argued that this potentially represents a third and distinguishable phase in the establishment of national machineries. Here structures were set up in the context of less aid dependence than many other countries and as a result of a process that was largely internally driven. Nevertheless, South Africa enjoyed tremendous support from international women's networks and lessons were learnt from past experience alsewhere, both positive and negative. The South African approach to advancing gender equality is arguably the most progressive to be found anywhere. What remains to be seen is whether it will be possible to implement, given the persistence of poverty and inequality nationally and South Africa's increasing identification with international neo-liberal agendas. 

Keywords: women, gender development policy, Columbia, South Africa

Topics: Development, Economies, Poverty, Gender, Women, Gender Mainstreaming, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, International Organizations Regions: Africa, Southern Africa, Americas, South America Countries: Colombia, South Africa

Year: 2002

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