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Gender Concepts Dictionary
(emerging from the Caribbean Community Special Meeting of Ministers Responsible for the Integration of Women in Development,
Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, 24 November 1996 -

some definitions have been adapted further )


Gender The term gender has transcended its earlier "grammar-based" usage of classifying nouns as male, female and neuter. It is not used to describe the biological sexual characteristics by which we identify females and males but to encompass the socially defined roles, attitudes and values which communities and societies ascribe as appropriate for one sex or the other.

In this specific sense, it was first used as a phrase, "the social relations of gender", for which gender has become a kind of shorthand. The social relations of gender seeks to make apparent and explain the asymmetry which appears in male/female relations in terms of power sharing, decision-making, the division of labour, and return on labour both within the household and in the society at large. The phrase directs our attention to all the attributes acquired in the process of socialization : our self and group definitions, our sense of appropriate roles, values and behaviours and, above all, expected and acceptable interactions in relationships between men and women.


Gender Relations These are the socially constituted relations between men and women which are shaped by norms and values held by members of a given society. Central to these relations and around these notions are acceptable socially determined behaviours for each of the genders. They are contextually specific and often change in response to altering economic, social or political circumstances.


Gender Roles These are roles which are classified by sex, where this classification is social, and not biological. For example, if child-rearing is classified as a female role, it is a female gender role, not a female sex role since child-rearing can be done by men or women.


Sex Roles These are therefore contrasted with gender roles, since sex roles refer to an occupation or biological function for which a necessary qualification is to belong to one particular sex category. For example, pregnancy is a female sex role because only members of the female sex may bear children.


Gender Role Stereotyping This is the constant portrayal, such as in the media or in books, of women and men occupying social roles according to the traditional gender division of labour in a particular society. Such gender role stereotyping works to support and reinforce the traditional  gender division of labour by portraying it as "normal" and "natural". It may not, however, reflect current societal realities.


Gender Division of Labour This refers to an overall societal pattern where women are allotted one set of gender roles, and men allotted another set. Unequal gender division of labour refers to a gender division of labour where there is an unequal gender division of reward. Discrimination against women in this sense means that women get most of the burden of labour, and most of the unpaid labour, but men collect most of the income and rewards resulting from labour. In many countries, the most obvious pattern in the gender division of labour is that women are mostly confined to unpaid domestic work, unpaid food production and low paying/low status jobs, whereas men dominate commercial agricultural production, public decision-making and higher status jobs.


Gender Equality This means that there is no discrimination on grounds of a person's sex in the allocation of resources or benefits, or in the access to services. Gender equality may be measured in terms of whether there is equality of opportunity, or equality of results. (Note : The Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, defines justice for women in terms of gender equality).


Gender Equity An approach using gender equity is directed towards ensuring that development policies and interventions leave women no worse off economically or in terms of social rights and responsibilities than before the intervention. This approach tries to make equity* visible by using indicators which reveal the human cost of many activities : provision of fuel, water etc.

This approach tries to ensure that women have a fair share of the benefits, as well as the responsibilities of the society, equal treatment before the law, equal access to social provisions; education; equal pay for work of the same value.

*Equity : fairness and justice in the distribution of benefits and responsibilities, while recognizing the specific conditions and characteristics of each individual or group. It involves the recognition of diversity without discrimination. Equity also means "having a stake in" or "having a share of". It is, therefore, an important component of equality. Technically, equality before the law often does exist without those deemed to be "equal" really "having a stake in". 


Structural Gender Inequality Exists where a system of gender discrimination is practised by public or social institutions. Structural gender inequality is more entrenched if it is maintained by administrative rules and laws, rather than by only custom and tradition.


Gender Discrimination Means to give differential treatment to individuals on the grounds of their gender. In many societies, this involves systematic and structural discrimination against women in the distribution of income, access to resources, and participation in decision making.


Gender Sensitivity This is the ability to recognize gender issues, and especially the ability to recognize women's different perceptions and interests arising from their different social location and different gender roles. To be gender sensitive means to be open to, aware of, and responsive to those issues which have to do with the social relations between women and men, within specific societies.

Gender sensitivity is the initial phase of gender awareness, which is more analytical, critical and "questioning" of gender disparities.


Gender Awareness This is the ability to identify problems arising from gender inequality and discrimination, even if these are not very evident on the surface, or are "hidden" - i.e. are not a part of the commonly accepted explanation of what and where the problem lies.


Gender Issues Arise where an instance of gender inequality is recognized as undesirable, or unjust. Three aspects of gender issues are gender gaps, gender-based discrimination and women's subordination.

Some current examples of gender issues are : sexual harassment, gender-based (especially family and domestic) violence, and counting of unremunerated work.


Gender Analysis Means a close examination of a problem or situation in order to identify the gender issues, that is, it helps bring into focus the roles, resources, responsibilities and needs of women and men within the system under analysis. It refers to a systematic way of looking at the different impacts of development on women and men. Gender analysis of a development program involves identifying the gender issues within the problem which is being addressed and in the obstacles to progress, so that these issues can be addressed in all aspects of the program - in project objectives, in the choice of interventions and in the methods of program implementation and evaluation.

As development programmes have actively sought to reach women, we have learned that gender has a lot to do with what work we do, how much time we have to do it, and how much money we have to do it with. Gender analysis therefore requires separating data by sex, and understanding how labour is divided and valued. Gender analysis must be done at all stages of the development process; one must always ask how a particular activity, decision or plan will affect men differently from women.


Women in Development (WID) This is an approach which originated in the early 1970s and developed throughout the United Nations Decade for Women (1975-1985). WID recognizes that women are active if often unacknowledged participants in the development process, providing a critical contribution to economic growth. This approach argues that women, as an untapped resource, must be integrated into the development process. Initiatives emerging from this approach have tended to target women specifically to increase their access to basic needs and social services, reduce their work burdens, and enhance their productive capacity and economic independence.


Gender and Development
Emerged out of a growing recognition of the limitations of focusing on women in isolation, and highlights the importance of considering how the social relations between the genders, within the broader socio-economic and political context in which they live, shapes both women's and men's ability to participate in and benefit from the development process. GAD recognises that both men and women are key actors in the development process and therefore should have access to corresponding decisions, resources and benefits. This approach, therefore, calls for overall development strategies which respond to the specific needs of men and women, and support actions which ensure their access to and control over the resources and benefits of development.


Development Is used here to mean both the improved material well-being (welfare) of people and the process by which this improved well-being is achieved. The concept of development also includes an element of equality - that material benefits from the development process should be fairly distributed, especially to benefit those most in need - the disadvantaged and the most vulnerable. Therefore, the special interest in women's development arises because women are a majority amongst the most disadvantaged.


Empowerment Is an important element of development, being the process by which people take control an action in order to overcome the obstacles of structural inequality which have previously put them in a disadvantaged position. Empowerment is an essential process for women's advancement. it is the process by which women mobilize to understand, identify and overcome gender discrimination, so as to achieve equality of welfare, and equal access to resources.


Equality of Opportunity Means that everybody has an equal chance, especially for equal access. In other words, equality of opportunity means that there is no structural discrimination standing in the way of any individual or social group. Equality of opportunity for women would mean ending all gender discrimination.


Mainstreaming Used in connection with women's development, this entails addressing gender issues in all development projects and programmes, irrespective of sector or type of project. Mainstreaming is therefore the very opposite of a strategy of segregating gender issues into separate "women's projects".

The term "mainstreaming" is currently used in two rather different ways, depending on the user's perspective. For those who interpret women's development as being merely concerned with improving women's access to resources and productivity, the strategy of mainstreaming may be interpreted by adding gender objectives to existing programmes. This involves some adaptation, but not transformation of the development process.

By contrast, a stronger sense of the term mainstreaming is used by those who see women's development as being essentially concerned with women's participation and empowerment, to address issues of gender inequality. From this perspective, the mainstreaming of gender issues entails the transformation of the development process.


Patriarchy Is the male domination of ownership and control, at all levels in society, which maintains and operates in the system of gender discrimination. This system of control is justified in terms of patriarchal ideology - a system of ideas based on a belief in male superiority, and sometimes the claim that the gender division of labour is based on biology or even based on scripture.


Gender Planning Means taking account of gender issues in the planning process. In development planning, it means that gender issues are recognized in the identification of the problem and addressed in development objectives.

Essentially, this means catering for, and involving women and men at levels of development : thinking, planning and implementation.


Gender Training Means providing people with formal learning experiences in order to increase their gender awareness. The overall purpose of training is to provide the knowledge and skills necessary to recognize and address gender issues in the programming process. At the centre of this learning process is conscientization, involving the ability to recognize the underlying issues of gender inequality which form a pervasive obstacle to program/project progress.


Gender Disaggregated Data This is information collected - via questionnaires, observation or other techniques - that reveals the different roles and responsibilities of men and women. Having data disaggregated by gender is extremely important to being able to design is extremely to be to design gender-sensitive projects.


Resources on the Web

World March of Women 2000

The Gender Web Project

Women's World Summit Foundation Logo

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Other Useful Links:

University of Natal's Centre for Gender Studies
Certified Male
Family Violence Page
Father's Rights Network Team
Father's World Web Ring
Gender & Race in Media CyberSpace
World March of Women 2000
Gender and Sexuality
Gender and Women's Links
Gender Resources - Above and Beyond

Men Against Sexual Assault
Men Against Domestic Violence
Men for Change
Men's Issues and Men's Rights Links
Men's Media Network
Men's Movement Organisations
Men's Rights Inc.
National Organisation of Men Against Sexuality

Rape, Abuse and Incest Network
Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Centre

Stuart Binks' Gender Page
The Gender Web Project
The National Organization For Men
UNDP (Port-of-Spain, Trinidad) Gender Page
You and Me, Babe! Sex and Advertising




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Ato Jabari Boldon | Brian Charles Lara | Trinbago Carnival 1999

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