I am doing a series of articles on the book “Rethinking Canadian Aid” (University of Ottawa Press, 2015), and now it’s time for “Chapter 12: From “Children-in-Development” to Social Age Mainstreaming in Canada’s Development Policy and Programming? Practice, Prospects and Proposals” by Christina Clark-Kazak. In the interest of full disclosure, I knew Clark in a previous incarnation at CIDA, but as with my review of Swiss’ chapter, that probably won’t mean much in terms of my review of her material. I wanted to mention it upfront as I really like the theme of the chapter — mainstreaming “age” vs. “children-in-development”, the modern-day equivalent of old “women in development” programming.
Second, for biological or social reasons, people of different ages may experience poverty differently (Sumner 2010). For example, children under the age of five have specific nutritional needs that may not be adequately met in contexts of poverty. […] Third, development initiatives have differential impacts on people at different stages of the life course. For example, León and Younger (2007) and Himaz (2008) have assessed the impact of grants to poor households on children’s health in Ecuador and Sri Lanka, respectively. They conclude that increases in household income do not necessarily translate into better health outcomes for all members of a family.
I agree these are important, and perhaps not vastly different points, maybe two sides of the same coin, but it doesn’t convince me of the need for mainstreaming so much as a disaggregated approach for different age brackets. Interesting, but unconvincing.
Drawing on the importance of variations in social constructions of age across time and place, I have developed the concept of social age to complement the predominant focus on chronological age.
I am not convinced that this is a wholly “new” approach, maybe just not one that is not well-discussed in international development. Partly because international development regularly treats “international” as completely different from domestic policy. But health has always done “adjusted” ages based on biological factors such as premature birth or mental competence; social work regularly adjusts for the maturity of the individual, social-cultural norms, etc. It might be “new” to international, but not a new concept. And while there are ages in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, there is another element that is in CRC and fleshed out in full in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities — people (adults, children, PwD) should participate in decisions that affect them to the best of their capabilities, which would include age, mental defect, etc. I don’t disagree that an analysis of age and generational issues could be useful, but is it a full separate analysis or is it just a part of “social analysis”? Would it need to be fully mainstreamed?
The analysis that follows of the Children and Youth Strategy offers little evidence of anything. Lamenting the lack of reference to elders or old people is hardly relevant; it wasn’t written as an “all ages” strategy, it was about Children and Youth issues. Equally, the scope of the doc was not to be a fully comprehensive picture of everything that could ever be done for children and youth, nor all their issues. Choices were made, some things remained in and some were outside the scope. So it is hardly surprising that it doesn’t contain a whole host of other possible references, even if most of it is presented as “human becomings”. I also disagree with the analysis that talking about the “safety and security” of children paints them as victims rather than rights holders. While that complaint may, in some instances, hold water for a gender analysis by talking about the security of adult women, this is about children who are incapable in most instances of taking care of themselves. Put differently, they are not fully independently autonomous entities that are having their rights trampled if they are in need of assistance in being protected. Not all of the gender concepts translate directly.
Indeed, there are many critiques of mainstreaming in development policy. Although intended to effect deep organizational and structural change (Hartsock 1981), mainstreaming may actually depoliticize radical agendas by incorporating “language” into technocratic planning and programming without changing the reality on the ground (Hankivsky 2005). Mainstreaming has also been critiqued for its “fuzzy” approach (Booth and Bennett 2002), resulting in mixed or counterproductive application in practice, or being “everywhere but nowhere” (Tiessen 2007). In some cases, gender is simply equated with “women” without adequate attention to “the wider context of power relations caused by societally defined … gender roles” (Groves 2005, 7; see also Clark-Kazak 2009a). Finally, the complexity of mainstreaming requires a long-term, multi-staged process (Donaghy 2004; Moser 2005).
I love this paragraph. I don’t totally agree with the criticisms of mainstreaming, but it would be a powerful place to start this chapter. Perhaps a paragraph to explain gender mainstreaming and its importance, the limitations/criticisms, focus on how age mainstreaming could be done in a different way, perhaps explaining in a simplistic fashion (a table?) what WID gets you, what WID+ gets you, and what GE gets you. Followed by a similar table for CiD. One challenge I see is that most of the examples identify “issues”, but give very little concrete info on how that an analysis of that issue will result in different (and better!) development outcomes rather than just words in a report.
Interesting ideas, but mainstreaming is too undersold to me.