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.
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This term refers to the failure to recognize that the roles and responsibilities of men/boys and women/girls are assigned to them in specific social, cultural, economic, and political contexts and backgrounds. Projects, programs, policies and attitudes which are gender blind do not take into account these different roles and diverse needs. They maintain the status quo and will not help transform the unequal structure of gender relations.
Source: UNICEF, UNFPA, UNDP, UN Women. “Gender Equality, UN Coherence and You”.
Gender discrimination is defined as: “Any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on the basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.” [United Nations, 1979. ‘Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women’. Article 1]
Discrimination can stem from both law (de jure) or from practice (de facto). The CEDAW Convention recognizes and addresses both forms of discrimination, whether contained in laws, policies, procedures or practice.
Gender diversity is a term that recognizes that many peoples' preferences and self-expression fall outside commonly understood gender norms.
Source: Gender Spectrum, Understanding Gender
Gender equality (Equality between women and men)
This refers to the equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities of women and men and girls and boys. Equality does not mean that women and men will become the same but that women’s and men’s rights, responsibilities and opportunities will not depend on whether they are born male or female. Gender equality implies that the interests, needs and priorities of both women and men are taken into consideration, recognizing the diversity of different groups of women and men. Gender equality is not a women’s issue but should concern and fully engage men as well as women. Equality between women and men is seen both as a human rights issue and as a precondition for, and indicator of, sustainable people-centered development.
Source: UN Women, OSAGI Gender Mainstreaming - Concepts and definitions
The preferred terminology within the United Nations is gender equality, rather than gender equity.Gender equity denotes an element of interpretation of social justice, usually based on tradition, custom, religion or culture, which is most often to the detriment to women. Such use of equity in relation to the advancement of women has been determined to be unacceptable. During the Beijing conference in 1995 it was agreed that the term equality would be utilized.
This was later confirmed by the CEDAW committee in its General Recommendation 28: “States parties are called upon to use exclusively the concepts of equality of women and men or gender equality and not to use the concept of gender equity in implementing their obligations under the Convention. The latter concept is used in some jurisdictions to refer to fair treatment of women and men, according to their respective needs. This may include equal treatment, or treatment that is different but considered equivalent in terms of rights, benefits, obligations and opportunities”.
Sources: UN Women, OSAGI Gender Mainstreaming - Concepts and definitions; Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (2010), General recommendation No. 28 on the core obligations of States parties under article 2 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
Gender focal point
Gender focal points are change agents whose overriding role is one of advocating for increased attention to and integration of gender equality and women’s empowerment in his or her agency’s policy and programming and in the related work of development partners. Gender focal points serve as a hub for new information on gender equality and as a conduit for information on what has worked well in the organization. The role of gender focal points differs somewhat from country to country and agency to agency, depending on where she or he is placed within the organization and what kind of gender architecture the organization has in place. A gender focal point is not, however, intended to serve as a substitute for a full-time institutional gender specialist. The focal point’s role is often more one of advocacy and facilitating communication and connections related to gender equality and women’s empowerment, but may at times involve providing gender expertise or assisting colleagues and development partners to identify potential national or international consultants or organizations that have this expertise. Basic functions may include: coordinating the organization/office/program gender mainstreaming strategy; contributing gender information and technical support for inclusion of gender issues; supporting capacity development on gender equality within the organization; knowledge management; and coordination on interagency initiatives, among others.
Source: UN Women and ITC-ILO. 2013. Blended course for UN System Gender Focal Points.
The term gender gap refers to any disparity between women and men’s condition or position in society. It is often used to refer to a difference in average earnings between women and men, e.g. “gender pay gap.” However, gender gaps can be found in many areas, such as the four pillars that the World Economic Forum uses to calculate its Gender Gap Index, namely: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment.
Source: See Hausmann, Ricardo, Laura D. Tyson, Saadia Zahidi, Editors (2012). "The Global Gender Gap Report 2012". World Economic Forum, Geneva, Switzerland.
Gender identity refers to a person’s innate, deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond to the person’s physiology or designated sex at birth. It includes both the personal sense of the body, which may involve, if freely chosen, modification of bodily appearance or function by medical, surgical, or other means, and other expressions of gender, including dress, speech, and mannerisms.
Sources: UNFPA and Promundo (2010). Engaging Men and Boys in Gender Equality and Health. A Global toolkit for action; UNAIDS (2011). UNAIDS Terminology Guidelines.
Gender inequality index (GII)
In 2010, the UNDP developed a new index for measuring gender disparity, called the Gender Inequality Index (GII). This index is a composite measure which shows the loss in human development due to inequality between female and male achievements in three dimensions: (1) reproductive health, (2) empowerment, and (3) the labor market. The index ranges from zero, which indicates that women and men fare equally, to one, which indicates that women fare as poorly as possible in all measured dimensions. The new index was introduced in the 2010 Human Development Report as an experimental measure to remedy the shortcomings of the previous, and no longer used, indicators, the Gender Development Index (GDI) and the Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM), both of which were introduced in the 1995 Human Development Report. According to the index, there is no country in the world where women are equal to their men. In other words, gender equality remains a distant reality still.
Source: UNDP, Gender Inequality Index
Gender mainstreaming is the chosen approach of the United Nations system and international community toward realizing progress on women’s and girl’s rights, as a sub-set of human rights to which the United Nations dedicates itself. It is not a goal or objective on its own. It is a strategy for implementing greater equality for women and girls in relation to men and boys.
Mainstreaming a gender perspective is the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programs, in all areas and at all levels. It is a way to make women’s as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programs in all political, economic and societal spheres so that women and men benefit equally and inequality is not perpetuated. The ultimate goal is to achieve gender equality.
Sources: UNICEF, UNFPA, UNDP, UN Women. “Gender Equality, UN Coherence and You”, ECOSOC agreed conclusions 1997/2