Shirley Malcom: Policy in Developing Nations Must Reflect Women’s Roles, Impact

In the developing world, women play central on-the-ground roles in fields ranging from agriculture to health and education. And so, if a nation wants strong, sustainable development, its policies must be shaped by an awareness of women’s impact, AAAS’s Shirley Malcom writes in

In a commentary published in the online news publication, Malcom said that in nations such as Rwanda and Namibia, tailoring government policy to reflect the important work done by women has helped build a supporting climate for development . But too many nations still do not focus on women—both their contributions and the challenges they face—as they craft development policy.


Shirley Malcom [Credit: Michael Colella]
Shirley Malcom | Credit: Michael Colella

“Research, policy and development programmes have, for the most part, failed to take women into account,” she writes. “But without separate and gender-specific assessment of these programmes, we will not know what works best—for both women and men.”


Malcom is director of Education and Human Resources at AAAS and co-chair of the Gender Advisory Board of the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development.

As more nations pursue development through science, technology, and innovation, collection of gender data and other gender analysis becomes critically important, she wrote. While some policy leaders in developing nations have shown deep commitment to gender equality, such efforts can be derailed when leadership changes.

“Baseline data, once available, can be used to help establish a case for gender-sensitive policymaking as well as to document its value,” she said. One hopeful sign: The UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development has begun a survey of the use of gender data and analysis in member countries.

But that’s only a first step. “At the end of the day,” Malcom writes, “leadership will be needed to act on the results of the survey—to invest in gender-sensitive policies and programmes, to understand and value women’s roles in development and to exercise the political will to translate data into deeds.”

Read Shirley Malcom’s commentary, “Counting on Women in Development,” in [PDF]

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