Gender Equality Glossary

The UN Women Training Centre’s Glossary is an online tool that provides concepts and definitions with gender perspective structured according to the thematic areas of UN Women. It includes gender concepts as well as international conferences, agendas, initiatives and partnerships related to gender equality.

The glossary is also available in Spanish and in French.



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A

Access and control over resources

This concept has three parts: resources, access, and control. The first, resources, refers to means and goods, including economic (household income) or productive means (land, equipment, tools, work, credit); political means (capability for leadership, information and organization); and time. Access and control have slightly different meanings. Access refers to the ability to use and benefit from specific resources (material, financial, human, social, political, etc.) whereas control over resources also entails being able to make decisions over the use of that resource. For example, women’s control over land means that they can access land (use it), own land (can be the legal title-holders), and make decisions about whether to sell or rent the land. Access and control over resources is a key element of women’s empowerment, and by extension, the achievement of gender equality. 

Source: UN-INSTRAW (now part of UN Women), Glossary of Gender-related Terms and Concepts

Accession

The act whereby a state becomes a party to a treaty already negotiated and signed by other states. It has the same legal force as ratification. Accession usually occurs after the treaty has entered into force.

Adoption

Approval of the final text of a convention by the committee which wrote it. It is then open for signatures, ratification or accession.

Autonomy

The concept of autonomy refers to people’s capacity to make free and informed decisions about their lives, enabling them to be and act in accordance with their own aspirations and desires, given a historical context that makes those possible. Women’s autonomy is often conceptualized as having three dimensions:

  1. Physical autonomy (the freedom to make decisions regarding sexuality, reproduction and the right to live a life free from violence);
  2. Economic autonomy (right to work and earn one’s own income, distribution of paid and unpaid work between women and men); and
  3. Autonomy in decision-making (women’s participation in all branches of government, signing of CEDAW optional protocol, positioning of national machineries for advancement of women). 

Source: Gender Equality Observatory for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). Annual report 2011. Women’s autonomy: From the margins to the mainstream.

B

Beijing Platform for Action (BFA)

The Beijing Platform for Action is a landmark document that came out of the Fourth World Conference on Women: Action for Equality, Development and Peace, convened in Beijing, China in September, 1995. Member States, in dialogue with a vast mass of women and men representing civil society from around the world, reviewed past progress and new requirements to accelerate the global march towards gender equality and the empowerment of women. The articulation of their understanding and agreement was contained in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The Declaration embodies the commitment of the international community to the advancement of women and to the implementation of the Platform for Action, ensuring that a gender perspective is reflected in all policies and programs at the national, regional and international levels. The Platform for Action sets out measures for national and international action in critical areas of concern for the advancement of women for the five years leading up to 2000.

Source: UN Women, The United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women

C

Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Established in 1946, the CSW is dedicated exclusively to gender equality and the advancement of the status of women. It is the principal global policy-making body, meeting annually to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and the advancement of women worldwide.

CSW prepares recommendations and reports to ECOSOC on the promotion of women’s rights in all fields: political, economic, civil, social and educational. CSW also prepares recommendations to ECOSOC on problems relating to women’s rights that require immediate attention.

Source: UN Women, Commission on the Status of Women

Convention

An international agreement among nations. Such agreements may have different names: treaty, covenant, convention or pact.

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

CEDAW, which was adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, is also known as the international bill of rights for women. Currently, over 90% of the members of the United Nations are party to the Convention, making it the second most ratified convention, following the Rights of the Child.

CEDAW articulates the nature and meaning of sex-based discrimination and gender equality, and lays out State obligations to eliminate discrimination and achieve substantive equality. The Convention covers not only discriminatory laws, but also practices and customs, and it applies not only to State action, but also State responsibility to address discrimination against women by private actors. The Convention covers both civil and political rights (rights to vote, to participate in public life, to acquire, change or retain their nationality, equality before the law and freedom of movement) and economic, social and cultural rights (rights to education, work, health and financial credit). CEDAW also pays specific attention to particular phenomena such as trafficking, certain groups of women, such as rural women, and specific areas where there are special risks to women’s full enjoyment of their human rights, such as matters related to marriage and the family. CEDAW also specifies the different ways in which States Parties are to eliminate discrimination, including through appropriate legislation prohibiting discrimination, or positive action to improve the status of women. 

D

Decent work

Decent work is the availability of employment in conditions of freedom, equity, human security and dignity. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), decent work involves opportunities for work that is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men.

United Nations Economic and Social Council has also given a General Comment that defines decent work and requires satisfaction of Article 6 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Sources: ILO Decent work; United Nations Economic and Social Council (2006) The right to Work, General comment No. 18.

Decision-making and participation

Women’s participation in public life, specifically in the realm of public decision-making, is a key measure of the empowerment of women and a strategy for bringing about gender equality. The Beijing Platform for Action has two related strategic objectives:  Take measures to ensure women's equal access to and full participation in power structures and decision-making (G.1) and Increase women's capacity to participate in decision-making and leadership (G.2). Women's equal participation in decision-making is not only a demand for simple justice or democracy but can also be seen as a necessary condition for women's interests to be taken into account. Without the active participation of women and the incorporation of women's perspective at all levels of decision-making, the goals of equality, development and peace cannot be achieved.

It is important to recognize that decision-making refers to many different areas of public life, including but not limited to decision-making positions in Governments, legislative bodies, and political parties. It is also necessary to seek equal representation of women and men in decision-making positions in the areas of art, culture, sports, the media, education, religion and the law, as well as employer organizations and trade unions, transnational and national corporations, banks, academic and scientific institutions, and regional and international organizations, including those in the United Nations system.

Source: Beijing Platform for Action. Chapter IV. G. Women in power and decision-making.


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