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Understanding circulations of dominant gender discourse in development interventions: the case study of Zimbabwean agricultural extension services

Ciampi, L. ORCID: (2021) Understanding circulations of dominant gender discourse in development interventions: the case study of Zimbabwean agricultural extension services. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00098924


Social inequalities between women and men, found throughout the globe, have recently started to narrow, yet critical gaps remain. These persistent, multi-dimensional gender disparitieslie at the heart of global inequalities and poverty, directly limiting development interventions due to income, opportunity, access, and agency inconsistencies. The lack of progress on dealing with structural issues that underpin gender inequality are noted as a primary obstacle in achieving the fifth Sustainable Development Goal. This is particularly evident in developing nations undergoing multiple structural challenges that perpetuate poverty such as in the focus country of this study: Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is a highly patriarchal society, struggling to develop for a myriad of systemic issues including political, economic, and societal problems. Widespread gender inequality hinders overcoming the extensive poverty levels throughout the country, particularly in the highly gendered agricultural sector of which 70% of the population rely on. One of the main reasons that gender inequalities persist is that norms or expectations based on gender (commonly referred to as the dominant gender norms) are continually circulated through and reinforced by social structures and institutions implying a need to examine them in a holistic manner. To sustainably alter the course of gender disparities and improve the effectiveness of development interventions, there is a need to be able to identify dominant gender narratives across society. An integrated examination of the role that communication plays in enabling and sustaining gender norms is essential to successfully examine this phenomenon. Rooted in the conceptual understandings behind the phenomenon of the circulation of dominant gender discourses, this study presents a novel framework called the Dominant Gender Discourse Deconstruction Framework (DGDDF) which embraces conceptual understanding and transforms it into an applied methodology. The DGDDF has been designed to enable contextually positioned institutional analysis that systematically identifies and evaluates the interconnected nature of gender and communication approaches being implemented, and the effect that these approaches have on their target audiences. By engaging in the structural context, the institutional functionality and the effects of this on institutional target audiences, the DGDDF exposes how and why dominant gender discourse is being reinforced throughout society. Given this, the application of the DGDDF on the Zimbabwean agricultural extension institutions supports vital research to improve gender equality in the agricultural arena, and generates findings that add to development theory, practice and policy in rural iv communication and wider agricultural development – a fundamental pathway to sustainable development. Working alongside research participants affiliated with three case study institutions, primary qualitative data was collected via a mixed methodological approach and analyzed using discourse analysis. The findings from this show that the DGDDF successfully identifies the gender and communication approaches used by agricultural extension institutions enabling a systematic evaluation of these on gendered access and engagement. This evaluation presents nuances between different intervention approaches, illustrating how dominant gender discourses remain largely unchallenged by current development institutional arrangements, thereby directly affecting information access and experience for male and female farmers. It also demonstrates that the framework exposes the complex, interconnected cycles of dominant gender discourse throughout different levels of societal structures and that these directly dictate institutional gender and communication structures. Finally, the study shows that agricultural extension institutions are in a primary position to alter the course of dominant gender discourses by incorporating a more complex understanding of gender structures and actively challenging dominant gender discourses which are hindering effective development. The findings presented in this study add to national Zimbabwean policy recommendations, but also to wider discussions about the effectiveness of development interventions which provide a starting point for opening discussions about how to make meaningful changes to deal with the persistent gender inequalities found throughout the globe.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Cardey, S. and Macready, A.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Agriculture, Policy & Development
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development > Department of International Development
ID Code:98924
Date on Title Page:2020


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