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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Sex (biological sex)

The physical and biological characteristics that distinguish males and females. 


Sustainable development

There are many definitions of sustainable development, including this landmark one which first appeared in the 1987 United Nations Brundtland Report: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”  The United Nations 2005 World Summit Outcome Document refers to the “interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars” of sustainable development as economic development, social development, and environmental protection.

Sources: United Nations (1987) "Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development." General Assembly Resolution 42/187, 11 December 1987; World Health Organization (2005) 2005 World Summit Outcome Document.


Adoption

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


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


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.

 

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.


Temporary special measures

This term refers to actions aimed at accelerating de facto equality between women and men that may, in the short term, favor women. Other terms that are often used to refer to such “special measures” in their corrective, compensatory and promotional sense are the terms “affirmative action”, “positive action”, “positive measures”, “reverse discrimination”, and “positive discrimination”. However, the preferred term within the UN system is temporary special measures.

The CEDAW convention (Article 4, paragraph 1) clarifies that “Adoption by States parties of temporary special measures aimed at accelerating de facto equality between men and women shall not be considered discrimination as defined in the present Convention, but shall in no way entail as a consequence the maintenance of unequal or separate standards; these measures shall be discontinued when the objectives of equality of opportunity and treatment have been achieved.”

The concept consists of three parts:

  • Temporary: Such measures should therefore not be deemed necessary forever, even though the meaning of “temporary” may, in fact, result in the application of such measures for a long period of time. Temporary special measures must be discontinued when their desired results have been achieved and sustained for a period of time.
  • Special: The term “special”, though being in conformity with human rights discourse, also needs to be carefully explained. Its use sometimes casts women and other groups who are subject to discrimination as weak, vulnerable and in need of extra or “special” measures in order to participate or compete in society. However, the real meaning of “special” in the formulation of article 4, paragraph 1 of CEDAW, is that the measures are designed to serve a specific goal.
  • Measures: The term “measures” encompasses a wide variety of legislative, executive, administrative and other regulatory instruments, policies and practices, such as outreach or support programmes; allocation and/or reallocation of resources; preferential treatment; targeted recruitment, hiring and promotion; numerical goals connected with time frames; and quota systems. The choice of a particular “measure” will depend on the context in which article 4, paragraph 1, is applied and on the specific goal it aims to achieve.

Source: General recommendation No. 25, on article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, on temporary special measures.


Quotas

Quota systems have been viewed as one of the most effective special measures or affirmative actions for increasing women’s political participation. There are now 77 countries with constitutional, electoral or political party quotas for women. In countries where women’s issues had always been relegated to the lowest priority, increases in the number of women in decision-making positions help move women’s agendas up to a higher priority level.

Source: United Nations Development Programme and National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. 2012. Empowering Women for Stronger Political Parties: A Guidebook to Promote Women’s Political Participation.


Gender (or sexual) division of labor

This is an important concept in basic gender analysis that helps deepen understanding about social relations as an entry point to sustainable change through development. The division of labor refers to the way each society divides work among men and women, boys and girls, according to socially-established gender roles or what is considered suitable and valuable for each sex. Anyone planning a community intervention needs to know and understand the division of labor and allocation of assets on a sex-and-age disaggregated basis for every community affected by development interventions. Within the division of labor, there are several types of roles:

  • Productive roles: Activities carried out by men and women in order to produce goods and services either for sale, exchange, or to meet the subsistence needs of the family.
  • Reproductive roles: Activities needed to ensure the reproduction of society’s labor force. This includes house work like cleaning, cooking, childbearing, rearing, and caring for family members. These tasks are done mostly by women.
  • Community managing role: Activities undertaken primarily by women at the community level, as an extension of their reproductive role, to ensure the provision and maintenance of scarce resources of collective consumption such as water, health care and education. This is voluntary unpaid work performed during “free” time.
  • Community politics role: Activities undertaken primarily by men at the community level, often within the framework of national politics. This officially-recognized leadership role may be paid directly or result in increased power or status.
  • Triple role:This refers to the fact that women tend to work longer and more fragmented days than men as they are usually involved in three different roles: reproductive, productive and community work.

Gender audit

A participatory gender audit is a tool and a process based on a participatory methodology to promote organizational learning at the individual, work unit and organizational levels on how to practically and effectively mainstream gender. A gender audit is essentially a “social audit”, and belongs to the category of “quality audits”, which distinguishes it from traditional “financial audits”. It considers whether internal practices and related support systems for gender mainstreaming are effective and reinforce each other and whether they are being followed. It establishes a baseline; identifies critical gaps and challenges; and recommends ways of addressing them, suggesting possible improvements and innovations. It also documents good practices towards the achievement of gender equality. A gender audit enhances the collective capacity of the organization to examine its activities from a gender perspective and identify strengths and weaknesses in promoting gender equality issues. It monitors and assesses the relative progress made in gender mainstreaming and helps to build organizational ownership for gender equality initiatives and sharpens organizational learning on gender. The International Training Centre of the ILO offers a certification process for gender auditors.

Source: ILO (2008) ILO Participatory Gender Audit: A tool for organizational change. Geneva.



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