Gaps persists between theory and practice to integrate gender in international development projects.•
Paradox theory explains the difficulty that organizations face when attempting to effectively integrate gender into projects.•
Paradoxes between the IDHA project management approach and the gender and development approach are identified.•
For each paradox, tensions and the cycles of reinforcement and polarization are explained using a qualitative methodology.•
Alternative strategies are proposed in order to foster the implementation of gendered research and projects.
Despite the proliferation of studies and guides to integrate gender in international development projects, a large gap persists between the theory as explained in the literature and practice as it unfolds in the field. This article attempted to identify, using a qualitative approach (documentary content analysis and empirical theory construction), a new analysis chart to better understand the rupture and the difficulty of integrating gender in all steps in the project life cycle. This article drew on paradox theory to explain the rupture between theories and practice that is manifested in the complexity of the integration of gender in international development and humanitarian action (IDHA) projects. Paper shows that IDHA project management and the gender equality perspective are fundamentally completely different approaches, subject to tensions and resistances, and presents difficulty that IDHA organizations face when attempting to effectively integrate gender in projects. Alternative strategies are proposed in conclusion to integrate gender into IDHA projects in order to foster the implementation of gendered projects in research and action.