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 a traditional form of organizing society which often lies at the root of gender inequality. According to this kind of social system, men, or what is considered masculine, is accorded more importance than women, or what is considered feminine. Traditionally, societies have been organized in such a way that property, residence, and descent, as well as decision-making regarding most areas of life, have been the domain of men. This is often based on appeals to biological reasoning (women are more naturally suited to be caregivers, for example) and continues to underlie many kinds of gender discrimination.
Post-2015 Development Agenda
The Post-2015 Development Agenda refers to a UN-led process that aims to help define the future global development framework that will succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which expire in 2015. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has established a UN System Task Team to support system-wide preparations for the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda. It comprises 60 agencies, as well as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. In June 2012, it published the report “Realizing the Future We Want for All” which serves as an input to the work of the High Level Panel. Consultations are underway regionally, nationally and thematically with a broad range of actors. Regarding gender equality, debates center principally on whether to have a separate goal on gender equality, to ensure that gender is mainstreamed throughout all the goals, or both.
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.
Sex-disaggregated data is data that is cross-classified by sex, presenting information separately for men and women, boys and girls. Sex-disaggregated data reflect roles, real situations, general conditions of women and men, girls and boys in every aspect of society. For instance, the literacy rate, education levels, business ownership, employment, wage differences, dependants, house and land ownership, loans and credit, debts, etc. When data is not disaggregated by sex, it is more difficult to identify real and potential inequalities. Sex-disaggregated data is necessary for effective gender analysis.
Source: UNICEF, UNFPA, UNDP, UN Women. “Gender Equality, UN Coherence and You”; UNESCO (2003) Gender Mainstreaming Implementation Framework
Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)
Taken together, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) can be understood as the right for all, whether young or old, women, men or transgender, straight, gay, lesbian or bisexual, HIV positive or negative, to make choices regarding their own sexuality and reproduction, providing they respect the rights of others to bodily integrity. This definition also includes the right to access information and services needed to support these choices and optimize health.
Source: UNICEF, UNFPA, UNDP, UN Women. “Gender Equality, UN Coherence and You”.
Sexual orientation refers to each person’s capacity for profound emotional, affectional and sexual attraction to, and intimate and sexual relations with, individuals of a different sex/gender or the same sex/ gender or more than one sex/gender. Basically there are three predominant sexual orientations: towards the same sex/gender (homosexuality), towards the opposite sex/gender (heterosexuality) or towards both sexes/genders (bisexuality).
Source: Council of Europe, Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights (2010) Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, p. 7.
Sexual rights embrace human rights that are already recognized in national laws, international human rights documents and other consensus documents. These include the right of all persons, free of coercion, discrimination and violence, to: the highest attainable standard of health in relation to sexuality, including access to sexual and reproductive health care services; seek, receive and impart information in relation to sexuality; sexuality education; respect for bodily integrity; choice of partner; decide to be sexually active or not; consensual sexual relations; consensual marriage; decide whether or not, and when to have children; and pursue a satisfying, safe and pleasurable sexual life.
Source: World Health Organization, Gender and human rights.
Supportive policies (at the UN)
To achieve a balanced representation of women and men, the UN recognizes the necessity of having an environment and organizational culture conducive to the balancing of work and life responsibilities. To this end, the UN has some mandatory system-wide entitlements, such as maternity, paternity, sick and annual leave policies. Promulgation and implementation of other gender-friendly policies are suggested, leaving room for each agency to adopt its own variations. A list of these policies can be found on the websites of the Focal Point for Women in the UN system and also of the individual UN entities.
Time use is an important measure of women and men’s activities in their productive, reproductive, and community roles. Time use can be measured through surveys which are carried out on the activities people perform during a given period of time (usually a day or a week). While time use surveys can and have been used for a wide variety of purposes, the most common reason for carrying out such surveys in developing countries is to provide better information about the work performed by men and women, and to highlight the time spent on unpaid activities, which are often invisible in ordinary census data. This unpaid work, which includes work for others, is considered a major contributing factor to gender inequality and women’s poverty (Mohammed 2009).
In spite of the changes that have occurred in women’s participation in the labor market, women continue to bear most of the responsibilities for the home: caring for children and other dependent household members, preparing meals and doing other housework. In all regions, women spend at least twice as much time as men on unpaid domestic work. When unpaid work is taken into account, women’s total work hours are longer than men’s in all regions (UN 2010).
In many ways, the 24 hour day time use analysis signaled the end of the Women-In-Development (WID) approach and the desire to “put” women in development as if they were not already involved, and the beginning of a gender approach that more systematically analyzed the differences between women’s and men’s lives and reality.
Sources: Mohammed, Margaret (2009) Making invisible work more visible; gender and time use surveys with a focus in the Pacific and unpaid care work. Suva, Fiji: United Nations Development Programme Pacific Centre; United Nations, The World’s Women 2010, Trends and Statistics, UN, ST/ESA/STAT/SER.K/19
Paid labor refers to time spent on productive activities for which the individual receives payment in exchange for labor
Unpaid labor refers to time spent on productive activities in which the individual does not receive payment. This category predominantly refers to household maintenance and care work, including care for children, disabled and elderly persons.
Non-productive activities refer to personal and recreational activities such as learning, leisure and personal hygiene. Activities falling in this category are not part of the economy.
Source: Gross, Jocelyn and Swirski, Barbara (2002). Time Use Surveys and Gender Equality.