Intersectionality and gender mainstreaming in international health: using a feminist participatory action research process to analyse voices and debates from the global south and north

Soc Sci Med. 2012 Jun;74(11):1825-32. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.08.025. Epub 2011 Sep 24.


Critiques of gender mainstreaming (GM) as the officially agreed strategy to promote gender equity in health internationally have reached a critical mass. There has been a notable lack of dialogue between gender advocates in the global north and south, from policy and practice, governments and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). This paper contributes to the debate on the shape of future action for gender equity in health, by uniquely bringing together the voices of disparate actors, first heard in a series of four seminars held during 2008 and 2009, involving almost 200 participants from 15 different country contexts. The series used (Feminist) Participatory Action Research (FPAR) methodology to create a productive dialogue on the developing theory around GM and the at times disconnected empirical experience of policy and practice. We analyse the debates and experiences shared at the seminar series using concrete, context specific examples from research, advocacy, policy and programme development perspectives, as presented by participants from southern and northern settings, including Kenya, Mozambique, India, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Canada and Australia. Focussing on key discussions around sexualities and (dis)ability and their interactions with gender, we explore issues around intersectionality across the five key themes for research and action identified by participants: (1) Addressing the disconnect between gender mainstreaming praxis and contemporary feminist theory; (2) Developing appropriate analysis methodologies; (3) Developing a coherent theory of change; (4) Seeking resolution to the dilemmas and uncertainties around the 'place' of men and boys in GM as a feminist project; and (5) Developing a politics of intersectionality. We conclude that there needs to be a coherent and inclusive strategic direction to improve policy and practice for promoting gender equity in health which requires the full and equal participation of practitioners and policy makers working alongside their academic partners.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Community-Based Participatory Research*
  • Congresses as Topic
  • Female
  • Feminism*
  • Global Health*
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Internationality*
  • Male
  • Organizations
  • Sex Factors
  • United Kingdom