Contextualizing Gender Equality: Gender Mainstreaming between Global Governance Frameworks and National and Institutional Policy Agendas in Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (Agenda 2030) represents the first universal global framework of socio-political, economic, and environmental goals. A departure from traditional paradigms of international development, Agenda 2030 calls for country ownership, gender equality, and prioritization of historically marginalized groups. This research project examines Agenda 2030’s potential to transform policy approaches to international development commitments, particularly those pertaining to gender equality. Embedded in decolonial feminist political studies and international development critiques, this research consists of interpretive policy analysis based on the insight of over 190 stakeholders collected through 172 interviews, 11 focus group discussions, and 3 workshops, mainly in Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda. Agenda 2030’s domestication emerges as a dynamic process in which its global commitments are not only adopted but also re-interpreted, contested and re-politicized across national and sub-national policy arenas. Perceived as highly legitimate across diverse institutions of national governments, multilateral organizations, and civil society, Agenda 2030’s domestication is favouring national agenda setting through the formation of more integrated planning and coordination mechanisms of international and national actors. For gender equality advocates, these new arenas offer an unprecedented access to mainstream policy negotiations in which they can leverage local gender expertise to re-politicize gender equality objectives. However, government donors have failed to fundamentally transform their mechanisms of agenda-setting, funding, and accountability, thereby interrupting the paradigm shift triggered by Agenda 2030 and the attempts at institutional reforms across multilateral and local organizations. Gender equality agenda is seen as undermined by broader mechanisms of international development whose structures do not reflect the normative principles of Agenda 2030’s commitments. Overall, Agenda 2030’s transformative potential is seen as operationally limited yet politically significant, legitimizing those calling for more de-colonial approaches to international development. Building on feminist theories and international development critique, this research offers a critical analysis of often ignored technical processes of global policy interpretation and integration, revealing how slow and uneven reforms of traditional international development mechanisms perpetuate the colonial legacy of this field. This research highlights policy implications relevant for development practitioners but also contributes to the foundational development scholarship on feminist solidarity and global gender justice.