Rural poverty, violence, and power: Rejecting and endorsing gender mainstreaming by food security NGOs in Armenia and Georgia

Anna Jenderedjian, Anne C. Bellows

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Gender mainstreaming (GM) is a strategy to empower women and promote gender equality. Using mixed-methods, this study draws on perspectives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Armenia and Georgia to investigate NGOs’ resistance to, versus embrace of, GM in rural development and agriculture (electronic surveys, 215 NGOs; in-person interviews, 53 NGOs). Applying Bourdieu's theory of field-habitus, and intersectionality as critical praxis, we suggest that NGO leaders' social belonging along with field-related experiences explain how GM is understood and endorsed. In Armenia and Georgia, GM without intersectionality – the critical inclusion of rural women's empowerment and equality – enforces a reductionist interpretation of social classifications. Analysis reveals that social belonging of NGO leaders is a determinant for choosing constituents: female NGO leaders include rural women; male leaders, rural men. Field practices are pivotal for formal adoption of GM (e.g. adhering to funders’ requirements, affiliation to international NGOs, engagement in feminist activism). Concurrently, internalization of social power structures grounds NGO leaders' thinking about gender equality. Respondents express three distinct narratives on GM urgency depending upon leaders' gender and organizations' self-reported feminist orientation. First, only female leaders of self-identified feminist NGOs support GM necessity in response to economic and political shocks that reinforce patriarchal dynamics. For feminist NGOs, violence against women intertwines with other rural livelihood threats. Intersectionality as critical praxis guides addressing gender-based rural inequalities. Second, female leaders of non-feminist NGOs employ GM primarily to improve rural households' wellbeing by targeting women in unpaid and new ventures. Rural household vulnerability outweighs gender-based inequality concerns. Third, interviewed male NGO leaders do not identify as feminist. They grudgingly accept GM as funders’ burdensome requirement that, given other rural challenges, overemphasizes women's equality and engagement. Beyond discussion of “how to do” gender or equality mainstreaming, this study emphasizes agents' identity and orientation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105270
JournalWorld Development
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Civil society
  • Eastern Europe
  • Intersectionality
  • Rural development
  • South Caucasus
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


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