Thursday, August 21, 2008

Gender Equality

While ‘sex’ refers to the biological differences between males and females, gender describes the socially-constructed roles, rights and responsibilities that communities and societies consider appropriate for men and women. We are born as males and females, but becoming girls, boys, women and men is something that we learn from our families and societies.

This set of assumptions, which we construct out of the biological differences between men and women, is what creates gender identities and in turn gender-based discrimination.

Being a social construction, gender is a very fluid concept. It changes not only over time, but also from one culture to another and among different groups within one culture. Therefore, gender roles, inequities and power imbalances are not a ‘natural’ result of biological differences, but are determined by the systems and cultures in which we live. This means that we can address and contribute to changing these roles by challenging the status quo and seeking social change.

Despite efforts at local, national, and international levels, women and girls continue to face discrimination. Gender-based discrimination and inequalities violate the human rights of both women and men and affect the well being of all children. By understanding gender discrimination, we are not only better equipped to help women and children realize their human rights, but also to better understand other kinds of inequalities, such as those based on age, race or class.

Gender-based discrimination takes on many different forms, some aspects include:

Human rights

Despite international laws guaranteeing women equal rights with men, women around the world are denied their rights to land and property, financial resources, employment and education, amongst others. In many cultures, women and girls are subject to female genital mutilation / cutting, and are harmed and even killed in the name of tradition. And for women in all countries, gender-based violence constitutes perhaps the most common and serious violation of human rights.


Both women and men play important roles in productive work throughout the world, providing for themselves and their families. But women’s roles are often invisible, as they tend to be more informal in nature, such as self-employment and subsistence production. Even when women and men do perform the same tasks for pay, women are often paid less and receive lower benefits from their work than men in developed as well as developing countries.

Men hold the majority of positions of power and decision-making in the public sphere, with the result that decisions and policies tend to the reflect the needs and preferences of men, not women. In addition, women’s larger share of reproductive work, often known as the unpaid care economy, is undervalued as well as statistically invisible. In other words, women throughout the world work longer hours for less rewards than men.


The world’s resources are very unevenly distributed, not only between countries, but also between men and women within countries. While it is estimated that women perform two-thirds of the world’s work, they only earn one tenth of the income, and own less than one per cent of the world’s property. In many cases, women’s rights and access to land, credit and education, for instance, are limited not only due to legal discrimination, but because more subtle barriers (such as their work load, mobility and low bargaining position at household and community level) prevent them from taking advantage of their legal rights.

In 1997, the United Nations adopted gender mainstreaming as the strategy by which gender equality could be achieved. Mainstreaming a gender perspective means assessing the implications for women and men of everything that you do, including legislation, policies and programmes at all levels. It is a strategy for integrating both women’s and men’s needs and experiences into the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes so that gender inequality is not perpetuated.

For UNICEF, gender mainstreaming implies bringing gender analysis into all decision-making processes of the organization, whether core policy decisions or everyday decisions of programme implementation.

Gender mainstreaming is not a process that begins and ends with women. It does not only mean having an equitable number of women and men in the organization or supporting programmes exclusively for women, although it includes these aspects.

Addressing the gender-based needs of men and engaging them as partners in the work for the rights of women and girls is integral to the gender mainstreaming approach. Mainstreaming gender concerns means that programmes are designed and evaluated to ensure that women and girls benefit from UNICEF programmes - from those affecting society at large, such as child-friendly schools aiming to ensure education for all children and to address barriers girls’ face in pursuing their education , to those which specifically meet the gender-defined needs of women and girls, such as safe-motherhood projects to reduce maternal mortality.



iamnasra said...

Great info...How we come to understand and respect gender equality

Fanny said...

Good topic. And we should do something for women powerty.

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