It has become a cliché to say that women and girls are the the best investments in development.  The 2012 World Development Report argues that greater gender equality can enhance productivity, improve development outcomes for the next generation, and make institutions more representative.  But it also says that gender equality is a core development objective in its own right.

In the latest edition of Development Drums, Andrea Cornwall of IDS and Prue Clarke of New Narratives explore the relationship between working for women and girls, empowerment and development. They accuse development agencies of ‘putting women to work for development’ in a series of piecemeal interventions rather than working to change power relations and assumptions about women.  Too often we ask ‘what can women do for development? instead of ‘what can development do for women?’

Prue Clarke and an interviewee
Prue Clarke interviewing

This is a compelling diagnosis, but what is the prescription?  It is hard enough to change power relations from with a society, let alone to know how to be effective from the outside. Nobody could disagree that people in developing countries should determine their agenda for themselves, but how can development agencies bypass existing elites without themselves choosing alternatives?  Andrea Cornwall and Prue Clarke discuss these challenges in Development Drums.

Andrea Cornwall
Professor Andrea Cornwall

You can hear the interview on the Development Drums website, or you can subscribe free in iTunes. Alternatively you can read the full transcript.  And if you want to discuss this episode, find out about what is coming up and suggest questions for the guests, or suggest future topics, please visit the Development Drums page in Facebook.


Published by Owen Barder

Owen is Senior Fellow and Director for Europe at the Center for Global Development and a Visiting Professor in Practice at the London School of Economics. Owen was a civil servant for a quarter of a century, working in Number 10, the Treasury and the Department for International Development. Owen hosts the Development Drums podcast, and is the author Running for Fitness, the book and website. Owen is on Twitter and

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