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Gender Concepts and Approaches

Gender equality

Gender equality means that women and men enjoy the same status within a society. It does not mean that men and women are the same, but rather that their similarities and differences are recognized and equally valued. Gender equality means that women and men experience equal conditions for realizing their full human rights, and have the opportunity to contribute to and benefit from national, political, economic, social and cultural development. The factors that affect gender inequality are a complex combination including economic structure, politics, culture, society, history, and geography specific to a country and region.


Gender and Development (GAD)

The Gender and Development (GAD) perspective emerged in the late 1980s as an alternative to the Women in Development (WID) approach which prevailed during the UN Decade for Women (1975 – 1985). Although the WID highlighted the existing poverty and disadvantage of women and their invisibility in the development process, the focus on women in isolation meant that unequal gender relations in various social and economic settings remained unaddressed.

The GAD approach uses a holistic perspective and recognizes the importance of social, economic, and political factors in women’s lives. It seeks to analyze the causes of gender inequality within the context of relations between women and men and to change the institutions and systems that bring about gender inequality. The GAD approach emphasizes empowerment of women who are economically and socially disadvantaged, while paying due consideration to the role of men in eliminating gender inequality. It welcomes the contributions of men, particularly men who share concern for gender equity and social justice. The gender and development approach recognizes that:

  • Gender is not a “women’s issue” but a relational issue
  • Women and men have different and special needs
  • Women cannot be treated as a homogeneous group
  • Women tend to be disadvantaged relative to men
  • The nature of inequality is often systemic and structural
  • Gender differences can also result in men being disadvantaged


Gender Analysis

Gender Analysis is a process that assesses the differential impact of a proposed policy or an intervention on women and men. It is a tool for understanding social processes and responding with informed and equitable options that consider that the experiences, needs, issues and priorities for men and women are different. A gender analysis can tell us who has access, who has control, who is likely to benefit from a new initiative and who is likely to be disadvantaged.

At its simplest, Gender Analysis asks questions about the differences between men and women’s activities, roles and resources. This helps identify men and women’s developmental needs. Assessing these differences makes it possible to determine men and women’s constraints and opportunities.


Gender Mainstreaming

Gender Mainstreaming gained popularity after it was highlighted as the main strategy or instrument for achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. Since then, most multilateral and bilateral agencies, as well as governments, have adopted a strategy for mainstreaming gender as the key to achieving gender-related goals and objectives.

Gender Mainstreaming is the process of ensuring that both women and men have equal access to and control over resources, decision-making, and benefits at all stages of the development process and in development projects. It is considered an instrument and not an end in itself and aims to integrate measures to ensure equitable or equal benefits for both men and women into a policy or project. If any adverse impact on either men or women is identified, the policy or project should include measures to mitigate such adverse impacts. Gender Mainstreaming, therefore, is a way to enhance overall development effectiveness and to pay attention to both men and women’s needs in creating a just and equal society.

Gender mainstreaming is a good governance issue – making government more efficient and effective at producing policies and services that will strengthen the social and economic wealth of a nation. It is about rights – women’s and men’s rights to equal opportunities, equal recognition and equal rewards within societies.