Gender refers to socially constructed and therefore learned roles and responsibilities ascribed to men and women, girls and boys based on their sex. Gender is not the same as sex, the physical and biological attributes that make someone female, male or both. Gender comprises the expectations, roles, attitudes and behaviours of women and men. Gender roles can change over time and vary within and between cultures, societies and classes. Gender is also part of the broader socio-cultural context, and intersects with class, race, poverty level, ethnic group and age.

Gender equality

Gender equality refers to “the equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities of women and men and girls and boys”. Gender equality exists when men and women, boys and girls are attributed equal social value, equal rights and equal responsibilities; and men and women have equal access to the means (resources, opportunities) to exercise those rights and responsibilities. This does not mean that women and men will become the same, but rather that rights, responsibilities and opportunities will not depend on whether someone is born male or female.

Why does it matter?

In the past decades progress on promoting gender equality has been booked. For example, more girls are now in school compared to 15 years ago, and most regions have reached gender parity in primary education. Women now make up to 41 percent of paid workers outside of agriculture, compared to 35 percent in 1990 (UNDP). However, gender inequality still persists worldwide, discriminating against women and depriving women and girls of their basic rights and opportunities.

Development interventions and policies might have a different impact on women and men. By failing to identify or acknowledge differences on the basis of gender, interventions and policies can maintain the status quo and will not help transform the unequal structure of gender relations.

Equality between women and men is considered both a human rights matter and a great potential to sustainable development, economic growth and poverty reduction. The United Nations has set gender equality and women’s empowerment as one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (#5), but also integral to all dimensions of inclusive and sustainable development.

Paying proper attention to gender equality in technical thematic areas in development cooperation and through all phases of the project cycle can improve the achievement of the overall development goals of your interventions or policies.

By working on gender specific assignments and integrating gender within technical sectors Femconsult contributes to and promotes gender equality and women’s empowerment worldwide.

What is gender mainstreaming?

Gender mainstreaming is the process of systematically recognizing and taking into account gender issues (such as differences between the conditions, roles and needs of women and men) within core activities of projects and programmes that are initiated to address a thematic areas of international development (such as food security, education, health, water). A gender perspective needs to be taken into account and integrated from an intervention’s elaboration phase through monitoring and evaluation.

The definition of gender mainstreaming as adopted by the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council in 1997:

“Mainstreaming a gender perspective is the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes in all areas and at all levels. It is a strategy for making women’s as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres so that women and men benefit equally and inequality is not perpetuated. The ultimate goal is to achieve gender equality”.

Gender analysis is a main tool for providing the basis for gender mainstreaming and to determine whether specific actions are needed for women or men in addition to mainstreaming activities. A gender analysis looks into the differences between the roles women and men play, the different levels of power they hold, including in decision-making, their different needs, constraints and opportunities and the impact of these differences in their lives. A gender analysis is conducted before developing strategies and designing interventions and its findings should be fed into the strategy/project design.