Engaging a gender equality, disability, and social inclusion (GEDSI) lens in research and development projects

In line with the SDGs' rallying call, “leave no one behind”, SUMERNET Young Professionals Network (SYP) organized a training session on Gender Equality, Disability Inclusion, and Social Equity (GEDSI).

Khaing Su Lwin By Khaing Su Lwin - Mar 21, 2024

This training, featuring experts and young researchers from Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), aims to serve as an entry point to a better understanding of the importance of GEDSI in promoting inclusive research and development projects in diverse disciplines for early and mid-career professionals.

Understanding GEDSI

Our trainers shared the conceptual knowledge of GEDSI elements, emphasizing the intricated nature of these notions. Gender equality does not simply mean amplifying women’s voices but ensuring equal rights and opportunities for all genders. Social inclusion nurtures meaningful participation in decision-making and implementation by creating an enabling environment, especially for disadvantaged and marginalized groups. Disability inclusion emphasizes equal opportunities to participate in society and accommodate diverse needs and abilities, noting that not all disabilities are visible, such as mental health conditions.

Our experts have also reiterated the cruciality of realizing intersectionality in these GEDSI components, which means power relations, privileges, and discrimination that one may experience are shaped and influenced by various intertwining factors, including age, educational status, culture, race, etc., rather than by a single factor such as gender or social identity.


The training showed that intervention design should incorporate the Do-No-Harm principle to ensure they are genuinely inclusive, empowering, and transformative, preventing unintended negative impacts. Critical analysis of interventions is crucial to mitigate potential harm and truly empower the targeted groups.

Six principles for integrating GEDSI

The following six principles were outlined during the training to guide participants in integrating GEDSI into their research and development projects. 

  1. Looking through an intersectional lens: The concept is multifaceted with various dimensions – gender, age, ethnicity, language, etc. The intersectional leans approach helps researchers better investigate how these interrelated components shape an individual’s experiences of privilege, power, or discrimination.
  2. It integrates GEDSI at all phases, from proposal development to implementation and evaluation. Project teams must check in by looking at team composition, whether it is diverse, and whether social and gender expertise is present throughout so that it can prevent GEDSI from being neglected at any stage of the project and being added as an afterthought.
  3. Transformative gender awareness: Move beyond being “gender blind,” where gender and social inequalities are overlooked or disregarded, which is often excused as “gender neutral.” However, since there are always injustices and disparities in society, it is impossible to be “gender neutral.” Research projects can potentially reinforce these imbalances by not considering GEDSI analysis.  Acknowledge inequalities and avoid exploitative practices. The most desirable approach is the “transformative approach,” which recognizes the root causes of disparities and works towards ultimately transforming the norms and barriers in a community.
  4. Multiscale analysis: Analysis with GEDSI lens across multiple scales, including access to resources and benefits, decision-making power, formal and informal structures, and gender division of labor. The situation should be assessed by asking who, why, and what. For example, who has access to resources and benefits and holds the decision-making power? Are they equally distributed? This framework can be adapted depending on the nature of the projects.
  5. Outcome evaluation: The actual level of intended outcomes can be assessed as reach, benefit, and empowerment. “Reach” means mere participation, which does not necessarily translate to benefiting from the project. Benefits result in the actual access and utilization of resources and opportunities from the project. Often, benefits can be misconceived as empowerment. However, empowerment is when participants have a strengthened voice and ability to act on their informed choices that affect their lives, not just having access to and being able to use resources, technology, or information.
  6.  “Reflexivity” reminds researchers that they are an integral part of the process. It urges researchers to be aware of unequal settings where the research is carried out and the power dynamics innate in the researcher-participant relationship. Researchers should critically reflect on their roles, biases, privileges, and power, which can unintentionally worsen inequalities.

This piece is based on the online training event “Understanding the Importance of Integration of gender equality, disability, and Social Inclusion (GEDSI) Lens into your Work: A training for early and mid-career researchers from all backgrounds” featuring three senior and young researchers from SEI to share their knowledge and insights. The training was organized by SUMERNET Young Professionals Network in collaboration with the Mekong Thought Leadership and Think Tanks Network program on 29 January 2024.

Our sincere thanks to Dr Chantana Wungaeo, Chairperson of SUMERNET Steering Committee who gave welcoming remarks and our trainers - Dr. Sizwile Khoza, Research Fellow at SEI, SUMERNET Gender Advisory Group, Mr.  Sovannarong Tim, Mekong Think Tanks (MTT) GEDSI Fellow, and Ms. Isabelle Mallon, Research Associate - SEI, SUMERNET Gender Advisory Group.

The insights from the group discussions are in the attached PDF for download.

The complete training is available here.

*Photo 1: Vietnamese woman rowing boat in the Mekong River Delta, Vietnam. Photo: hadynyah / Getty Images.

*Photo 2: Training module on Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Responsive Anticipatory Action. Photo: The ASEAN Secretariat.

*Photo 3: Examples of identity and social position variables and dimensions, as well as processes of oppression, discrimination, privilege, and power, can be included in intersectional analyses based on a Canadian context. Photo: Government of Canada.

Tags: gender

Sustainable Mekong Research Network

Building research for policy towards sustainable development in the Mekong Region

Read more about SUMERNET

Sign up for our newsletter

Join us! Apply to become a member now