Defining Gender for Gender-responsive Education Programs
Gender-responsive education programs that promote increased access to, and completion of, quality education for both girls and boys yield multiplier effects. Research has shown that girls’ access to education results in positive intergenerational outcomes in health, nutrition, infant mortality and income generation, among other benefits.
But what, exactly, do we mean when we talk about “gender?”
Gender in education programming
Gender refers to the socially constructed roles and relationships, personality traits, attitudes, behaviors, values, relative power and influence that society ascribes to sexes. Gender refers not simply to women or men, but to the relationship(s) between them.
In the context of education programming, several related terms exist to communicate the varying, gendered needs of learners. What follows is a glossary to aid practitioners in understanding the nuances of gender.
Female empowerment occurs when women and girls acquire the power to act freely, exercise their rights and fulfill their potential as full and equal members of society. While empowerment often comes from within, and individuals empower themselves, cultures, societies and institutions create conditions that facilitate or undermine the possibilities for empowerment.
Gender refers the socially constructed roles and relationships, personality traits, attitudes, behaviors, values, relative power and influence that society ascribes to sexes on a differential basis. Gender is relational and refers not simply to women or men, but to the relationship between them.
Gender dynamics refers to the relationships and interactions between and among boys, girls, women and men. Gender dynamics are informed by socio-cultural ideas about gender and the power relationships that define them. Depending upon how they are manifested, gender dynamics can reinforce or challenge existing norms.
Gender equality concerns fundamental social transformation, working with men and boys, women and girls, to bring about changes in attitudes, behaviors, roles and responsibilities at home, in the workplace and in the community. Genuine equality means expanding freedoms and improving overall quality of life so that equality is achieved without sacrificing gains for either males or females.
Gender equity means fairness and justice in the distribution of responsibilities and benefits between women and men. To ensure fairness, temporary positive measures must often be put in place to compensate for the historical and social disadvantages that prevent women and men from operating on a level playing field.
Gender integration involves identifying, and then addressing, gender inequalities during strategy and project design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation. Since the roles and power relations between men and women affect how an activity is implemented, it is essential that project managers address these issues on an ongoing basis.
Gender parity refers to equivalent percentages of males and females in an education system (relative to the population per age group). Parity is essential but not solely sufficient for achieving gender equality.
Gender-responsive refers to a policy or program that fulfills two basic criteria: a) gender norms, roles and relations are considered, and b) measures are taken to actively reduce the harmful effects of gender norms, roles and relations—including gender inequality.
Gender-sensitive indicates gender awareness and means that a policy or program recognizes the important effects of gender norms, roles and relations. This is often in contrast with being gender-blind, which ignores both differences in opportunities and resource allocation for women and men and gender norms, roles, and relations and often reinforces gender-based discrimination.
Sex refers to the biological characteristics that define humans as female or male.