From “Gender Equality” to “Equality between Women & Men”


The shift in language about women and gender equality witnessed at the former CIDA under the former Harper government provoked significant concern and discussion at the time.  The prime concern here was that eschewing talk of gender equality was likely to have a negative effect on the prioritization of these issues in Canada’s aid program.

Figure 1.
Figure 1. Percent of Active Projects by CIDA GE Marker Category, 2005-2012 (HPD Dataset)

A former student (Jessica Barry) and I decided to examine whether that shift in language was borne out in the spending patterns seen immediately prior to and following this shift in discourse.  To answer this question, we analyzed the available data on Canadian aid spending to see if more or less aid was being spent on issue of gender equality in this period. The takeaway from our analysis was that the discursive shift did not appear to translate to a noticeable decline in spending on gender at the former CIDA, suggesting that the aid agency showed some resilience to the politicization of language it faced.

This research will soon appear in Rebecca Tiessen and Stephen Baranyi’s new edited book  Canada’s commitments to gender and development in the Global South to be published later this year by McGill-Queen’s University Press.



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