Gender, Sexuality and Development
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Kent
Unit of AssessmentLaw
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Medical and Health Sciences: Public Health and Health Services
Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration, Other Studies In Human Society
Summary of the impact
Dr Kate Bedford's work has demonstrated the limits of existing frameworks for addressing gender
and sexuality in development policy and has had a significant impact in four main ways. First, it
has supported and influenced the work of the major NGOs (including Sexuality Policy Watch, and
the Bretton Woods Project/Action Aid) in holding development institutions to account on questions
of gender equality. Second, it has had substantial influence on the work of transnational public
bodies (including UNRISD), challenging conventional wisdom and stimulating debate among
policymakers. Third, it has had considerable impact on how development practitioners are taught,
in the UK and beyond. Finally, it has enjoyed a sustained influence in shaping a new area of
critical public debate, improving public understanding of sexuality and development and engaging
diverse international audiences. In the light of increased global attention to gender and
development (evident across several leading international institutions), Bedford's research has
stimulated important debate about policy orthodoxy and has directly influenced several campaigns
for policy change.
Bedford has produced a large body of original research, emphasising the need to foreground
considerations of gender and sexuality in development policy. The case study centres on three
strands of this work: two projects undertaken entirely since Bedford's appointment to Kent (in June
2007) and one started before her arrival, with significant data analysis and further library based
research undertaken at Kent to bring it to completion.
a) Gender and development policy in the World Bank's post-Washington Consensus
development lending (2002-2009): explored the gender policies of the world's largest and
most influential development institution as it embraced a reformulated approach to neoliberal
economic development focusing on inclusion of the poor, strengthening institutions, and
ensuring the social sustainability of structural reform. The research assessed how World Bank
gender policy in Latin America had changed in light of this macroeconomic policy shift.
Research involved analysis of policy and loan documents; stakeholder interviews; and fieldwork
on loans in Ecuador and Argentina.
b) The `Doing Business' Initiative of the International Finance Corporation (2008-2009): one
of the few pieces of gender research conducted on the IFC (the private sector arm of the World
Bank Group), this involved analysis of key policy reports and the Africa regional case study of
c) The Commission on the Status of Women (2009-2010): a study of this key UN policy-making
body focusing on its efforts to promote equal sharing of care responsibilities between men and
women. Research involved analysis of expert papers, official statements and officially agreed
conclusions of the Commission's 53rd session; and interviews with 18 member state
representatives, UN officials, and NGO participants.
Taken together, this body of research demonstrated that:
- Gender policy frames with apparently universal appeal (e.g. invoking sharing loving partnership
between men and women) can have unintended exclusionary effects. These are most
significant for the poor and racially marginalized.
- An important shift towards prioritising increased partnership between men and women in the
gender policy of the Commission and World Bank makes the need for frank discussion about
the costs and benefits of gender sharing frames especially pressing.
- Research on sexuality has a far wider significance to development practice and scholarship
than has hitherto been assumed, especially in addressing how policies may reflect sexualised
assumptions about gender sharing. Notably, the research extended existing scholarship beyond
a focus on HIV/AIDS and reproductive health to include employment, care, and poverty policy.
References to the research
1. Developing Partnerships: Gender, Sexuality and the Reformed World Bank (University of
Minnesota Press, 2009). 978-0-8166-6540-2. Published by leading, university publisher
following anonymous peer review; positively reviewed in four leading journals; REF 2.
2. `Gender and Institutional Strengthening: The World Bank's Policy Record'. Contemporary
Politics 15.2 (2009) 197-214. Refereed.
3. `Doing Business with the Ladies: Gender, Legal Reform, and Entrepreneurship in the
International Finance Corporation'. Labor, Capital and Society 42 (2010) 1-2. Refereed.
4. Harmonizing Global Care Policy? Care and the Commission on the Status of Women (2010)
Peer-reviewed, commissioned and partly funded by UNRISD. REF 2.
All publications were supported by a £125,000 RCUK competitively awarded fellowship (2007-12).
Details of the impact
a) Significantly influencing the work of NGOs holding transnational development
institutions to account regarding gender equality. The research has provided significant
resources, which have been relied upon by key activist and advocacy organizations to challenge
conventional wisdom about development. For example:
Sexuality Policy Watch. This Ford Foundation funded global forum of researchers and activists
aims to contribute to sexuality-related global policy debates and to promote effective linkages
between local, regional and global campaigns for policy change. In 2009 the Rio de Janeiro-based
secretariat commissioned Bedford to conduct research into a gender equality initiative of the World
Economic Forum (a group comprised of over 1,000 leading companies aiming to improve the world
economy). The resource (source 1) was made available on the group's website and promoted in
their newsletter. It is underpinned by the analytic critique of gender equality statistics and sharing
models of coupledom developed in outputs 1 and 3. It highlights the transgressive uses to which
gender indexes can be put by development activists, while critiquing the limited measures of
women's empowerment being deployed in this instance. The resource has been used by SPW in
their campaigns to challenge the gender equality policies promoted by free market institutions such
as the World Economic Forum: SPW notes that it made "a wonderful contribution to this ongoing
conversation [about gender equality in global economic debates] which calls attention to gaps and
potential pitfalls of mainstream gender and development indicators" (foreword to source 1).
Bretton Woods Project/Action-Aid/Oxfam. BWP, supported by Action Aid, is an advocacy group
offering oversight of, and a campaigning role relating to, the World Bank and International
Monetary Fund. It invited Bedford to write a report for non-academics to stimulate debate about the
Bank's 2012 World Development Report on gender and to contribute to campaigns for a reformed
approach. This report (source 2), based on outputs 1, 2 and 3, was distributed widely (including to
2,176 print subscribers and 8,321 electronic subscribers), and was regarded as a "terrific
contribution" to debates on gender equality and unpaid care within development by the President
of Gender Action (an international organization promoting gender justice in international financial
institutions, source 3). Action Aid subsequently increased their work on unpaid care, and, in
collaboration with Oxfam, hosted the London launch of the UN special rapporteur's report on
unpaid care work and women's human rights, due to be submitted to the UN General Assembly in
October 2013. Bedford was invited as one of three panel discussants at the official launch on the
grounds that her research on the limits of gender sharing as a solution to care burdens would
enable participants "to get a different perspective" (source 4).
b) Advising global public policy bodies on sexuality and development. Bedford's research
has assisted organisations working towards poverty alleviation, enhanced social care provision,
and gender equality within development. In particular, she was commissioned by the United
Nations Research Institute of Social Development (UNRISD) to investigate the relevance of
sexuality and diverse family formation to the 2009 meetings of the UN's Commission on the Status
of Women meeting about care. The subsequent working paper (output 4) has been widely read
(downloaded over 2,000 times between March 2010 and July 2013 (source 5); cited in a Human
Development Report research paper for UNDP (source 6); and publicised in the International
Council on Social Welfare's European region Newsletter (March 2010). The research was a key
driver in pushing international bodies like UNRISD to think more seriously about the unintended
exclusions that can stem from development policies that rest on sharing coupledom as a normative
foundation. In May 2013 Bedford was invited to speak in Mexico at an International Expert Meeting
on Time Use and Unpaid Work, organized by UN Women, intended to guide the institution in
effective measurement of the economic value of unpaid care.
c) Significant impact on teaching and professional practice. In 2011, Bedford was one of 14
international experts invited to teach on the Certificate in Advanced Studies in Gender, Justice, and
Globalization (University of Bern), a course for professionals in the fields of development, national
and international government, teaching, and the media, where she drew heavily on outputs 1 and 4
to discuss the institutional constraints within which transnational feminist policy entrepreneurs
operate. A summary of her World Bank research was also published in the Institute of
Development Studies bulletin for development practitioners (source 7), and a non-academic
summary of her Commission on the Status of Women research was published in the journal
Reproductive Health Matters in 2011 (this journal, translated into seven languages, is distributed
free to 3,500 individuals, groups and organisations in the Global South).
Bedford has also been invited to address and inform representatives of policy making bodies,
including at a workshop on sexuality and development in Brighton (April 2008); an event on
challenging the development industry in Cape Town (August 2009), and a panel on masculinities
convened at the House of Commons by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Debt, Trade and Aid
(November 2009). These activities have been grounded in a long-standing relationship with the
sexuality and development group at the Institute of Development Studies, a stakeholder hub that
brings together development funders, policymakers, NGOs, and academics and that includes
many members who campaign for policy change around gender and sexuality in development.
In May 2013, Bedford was asked to serve as one of two experts (along with the Senior
International Officer for Stonewall) on the advisory board for the Sexuality, Law and Poverty
segment of a four-year, £11.1 million Department For International Development (DFID)
Accountable Grant given to the Institute of Development Studies (IDS). The grant will fund advice
to both the UK and the global development community in seven key policy areas. The sexuality
area received £1.25 million, the largest amount ever awarded by DFID to research the links
between sexuality and development. Bedford's work is widely cited in the outputs produced from
the stream so far (i.e. source 8), and, drawing on her research, she has advised the coordinators of
the sexuality theme on several key issues, including the importance of ensuring effective links
between gender research and sexuality research; the value of a legally pluralist approach to
exploring norms about gender and sexuality in developing countries and the limits of mainstream
policy approaches to the links between sexuality and poverty (all outputs). Particularly significant
aspects of Bedford's research in her engagements with development practitioners, including those
within IDS, include her analysis of the relationship between sharing coupledom and neoliberalism
and her critique of assumptions that poor and racialized men are especially violent. For example,
her research has been used by development practitioner and gender activist Alan Grieg (IDS) in a
UN-funded project done in collaboration with local NGOs in India, Kenya, and Uganda to mobilise
men to challenge gender-based violence in institutions (source 9). Bedford was consulted on the
research design for this initiative and gave feedback on a draft programme evaluation, using her
research to support this key example of intersectional programming on men's issues.
d) Sustained broader influence on critical public debate. Bedford's research has made an
influential contribution to campaigns which have generated, shaped and informed critical public
debate about sexuality and development and has improved democratic participation in such debate
(including by reaching out to new stakeholders). For example, her research has been used to
enhance public engagement about sexuality and development via you-tube, as part of IDS's
Pathways to Women's Empowerment project (source 10). She initiated a policy and activist debate
about economic justice and sexuality at the Barnard Center for Research on Women (see
http://bcrw.barnard.edu/publications/toward-a-vision-of-sexual-and-economic-justice), co-organizing a public lecture (attended by over 300 people) and a colloquium bringing together
people working on global economic justice and global sexual justice in late 2007. Drawing on
contributions from artists, public intellectuals, and development practitioners, she co-edited a
special issue of The Scholar and the Feminist Online (source 11) in 2008. This provides "a forum
for scholars, activists, and artists whose work articulates the ever-evolving role of feminism in
struggles for social justice" and is widely read (while no data is gathered on specific pages viewed,
from May 2012-July 2013 the journal as a whole had 127,000 page views from 152 countries).
Bedford's introduction, based partly on analysis developed in output 1, discusses the conceptual
foundations for better collaboration between sexual and economic justice activism. This
intervention significantly shaped the direction of subsequent work with activists. For example, the
success of the initiative on sexual and economic justice led the organisers of a later event on
domestic work (done in collaboration with activist groups), to centre "intimate labor" as a key
mobilizing concept. It also resulted in a follow-up, 2013 initiative on gender, justice, and neoliberal
transformations featuring photo and video activism on sexual violence. Again, these activities show
Bedford's work as a strong influence in advancing critical debates in the area.
In sum, Bedford has worked closely and collaboratively with leading stakeholders in gender and
development policy over an extended period, and has played a key, ongoing role in foregrounding
and advancing recognition of the importance of attention to sexuality in its formulation. Her work
has also been used by diverse activists, in many countries, who are challenging policy orthodoxy.
Sources to corroborate the impact
http://www.sxpolitics.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/working_paper_kate_final.pdf. SPW note
the "wonderful contribution" of the research to conversations about gender equality.
- K. Bedford. `Gender and the World Development Report: Limits, Gaps, and Fudges.' At Issue
update 79. http://www.brettonwoodsproject.org/2012/02/art-569646/, drawing heavily on the
research outlined above.
- Email dated 27/2/2012 from Elaine Zuckerman, President of Gender Action, describing the
"terrific contribution" of Bedford's research to debates on gender equality within development.
- Invitation by Rachel Moussie of Action Aid to act as a discussant at the official launch of the UN
Expert Report on Unpaid Care and Women's Human Rights. On file with author.
- E-mail dated 27/9/2013 from UNRISD Technical Team, noting the high downloads of output 4.
- M. Desai, 2010. Hope in Hard Times: Women's Empowerment and Human Development.
Human Development Research Paper 2010/14. UNDP, citing output 4 at 73.
- K. Bedford. 2008. `Holding It Together in a Crisis' IDS Bulletin 39.6. Invited contribution to
journal widely read by development practitioners, evidencing interest in her research.
- Waldman, Linda. 2013. Literature Review Concept Note on Sexuality, Law and Development.
Produced for the DFID Accountable Grant, showing extensive use of Bedford's research to
inform IDS' current work on sexuality, law, and development.
- A. Greig, IDS. E-mail 9 August 2012, asking for feedback on the research questionnaire being
used in a project to mobilise men to challenge gender-based violence in institutions. Evidences
employment of Bedford's intersectional research approach by development practitioners.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=5urqkGgAz58, showing use of the research to enhance public
engagement with issues relating to sexuality and development.
The Scholar and the Feminist Online. http://bcrw.barnard.edu/publication-sections/sf-online/.
See issues 7.3 (towards a vision of sexual and economic justice); 8.1 (valuing domestic work)
and 11 (gender, justice and neo-liberal transformations), showing the impact of Bedford's
research on activists and artists.