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