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Why look back? It's not where we are going: the value of history in understanding gender and development

Working papers

Written by Caroline Harper

Hero image description: Betty Nabiteeko, 38, teaches mothers with small children about nutrition at her home near Mityebili, Uganda Image credit:Stephen Gladieu/World Bank Image license:CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

‘Don’t look back – it’s not where you are heading’ seems to be a typical sentiment for policy and practice when thinking about gender norm change. Most suggestions for interventions are based on – at best – a cursory glance at the far past and a more in-depth study of recent experiences. This think piece highlights why looking back is crucial for providing insights into how to address gender inequalities, looking at past struggles and achievements on the long road towards gender justice. To do this, we look at the actual experience of achieving change, the effort involved in shifting norms, the time it takes and the areas that have proved most resistant.

Betty Nabiteeko, 38, teaches mothers with small children about nutrition at her home near Mityebili, Uganda
Image credit:Stephen Gladieu/World Bank ~ Image license:CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Caroline Harper