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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G

Gender

Gender refers to the roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society at a given time considers appropriate for men and women. In addition to the social attributes and opportunities associated with being male and female and the relationships between women and men and girls and boys, gender also refers to the relations between women and those between men. These attributes, opportunities and relationships are socially constructed and are learned through socialization processes. They are context/ time-specific and changeable. Gender determines what is expected, allowed and valued in a woman or a man in a given context. In most societies there are differences and inequalities between women and men in responsibilities assigned, activities undertaken, access to and control over resources, as well as decision-making opportunities. Gender is part of the broader socio-cultural context, as are other important criteria for socio-cultural analysis including class, race, poverty level, ethnic group, sexual orientation, age, etc.

Source: UN Women, OSAGI Gender Mainstreaming - Concepts and definitions

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 advisor

Responsibility for implementation of the gender mainstreaming strategy lies with the senior management in each United Nations entity, as clearly stated in the Letter from the Secretary-General to heads of all United Nations entities in October 1997. In many parts of the United Nations system Gender Advisor posts have been established to support management to undertake their roles in implementing gender mainstreaming.

Gender advisors promote and support gender-sensitive approaches to policy and program work within a given mission, office, team, etc. They provide strategic advice in planning and policy making processes, in coordination meetings and task forces, as well as through existing gender units or gender focal points. They may be responsible for strategies such as: advocacy and awareness raising; training and capacity building; monitoring and advising; evaluation and reporting; and technical advice and support. Their work often focuses as much on in-house operations as it does liaising with national and regional partners to ensure that gender issues are adequately addressed. 

Gender analysis

Gender analysis is a critical examination of how differences in gender roles, activities, needs, opportunities and rights/entitlements affect men, women, girls and boys in certain situation or contexts. Gender analysis examines the relationships between females and males and their access to and control of resources and the constraints they face relative to each other. A gender analysis should be integrated into all sector assessments or situational analyses to ensure that gender-based injustices and inequalities are not exacerbated by interventions, and that where possible, greater equality and justice in gender relations are promoted.

Source: UNICEF, UNFPA, UNDP, UN Women. “Gender Equality, UN Coherence and You”.

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.

Gender blindness

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

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.

De jure discrimination
E.g. In some countries, the law states that women (citizens) who marry foreign men lose their citizenship and/or property rights. On the other hand, men (citizens) married to foreigners do not lose their citizenship and/or property rights.
De facto discrimination
E.g. The practice of many immigration officials in various countries is to find a woman traveling alone with her minor children "suspicious" while men traveling with their children are seldom questioned.

Source: Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)

Gender diversity

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

Gender equity

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


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