What is the Problem of Gender Inequality Represented to be in Inter-National Development Policy in Burkina Faso?

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This article contributes to critical policy analysis scholarship from a post-structuralism perspective. Employing the ‘What’s the problem represented to be’ (WPR) framework, a Foucault-influenced post-structural approach, we investigate what is the problem of Gender Inequality (GI) represented to be in development in Burkina Faso. Based on systematic analysis of selected (inter)national development policy documents and in-depth stakeholder interviews, our results show two main categories of problem representations: a) local culture/ informal structures that strengthen and are strengthened by patriarchy, and b) women’s weak agency that undermine their effective participation. These problem representations are framed from two different but overlapping standpoints: rights and development. Furthermore, the informal structures are presented as the source of the problem of GI while formal structures are portrayed as the solution. The underlying assumptions ignore the gendered impacts of history, colonial legacies, the interconnectedness and often-conflicting state policies and globalisation. Consequently, the problem of GI is depoliticised, rendered local, technical, and static. This deflects responsibility in solving the problem, limits local agency and the exploration of effective cultural and bottom-up policy responses. Alternatively, GI could be represented as a problem of structural unequal power relations–rather than a simplistic blame of local culture.

Original languageEnglish
JournalForum for Development Studies
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)71-100
Number of pages30
Publication statusPublished - 2024
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

    Research areas

  • critical policy analysis, decolonisation, development, feminist foreign policy, gender inequality, WPR approach
  • Sustainability education