As a student studying Gender and Development, more often than not, I come across people who are of the assumption that gender studies are concerned with the study of women. This could not be farther from the truth! For quite some time now, a lot of people have the misconception that gender simply refers to women. Perhaps this stems from the fact that as you delve into matters gender, there is a lot of preference and limelight given to women because of their subordinate role in many spheres of life. This is one area we will explore further in forthcoming articles.
First things first…I thought it would be useful to share with you some of the terms that are used in relation to gender. Don’t be deceived by some of the terminologies that look so complicated, they are in fact very easy to understand because they touch on our everyday experiences. While I cannot exhaust all the terms, I will only highlight the ones that are most commonly used. It is also important to note that the terms might keep adding up over the years as people seek to address any issues that arise in this particular area.
At the very basic, GENDER refers to socially ascribed roles and relationships between men and women. Key word here is ‘socially’ because it is the society that dictates roles and expectations of the behavior of men and women. It is important to note that gender is very different from sex. Sex is biological as one is either born male or female. Gender on the other hand simply refers to the society’s expectations as regards to ones sex.
Out of these expectations by society, we then have GENDER ROLES, these refers to tasks and responsibilities that a society considers appropriate for men, women, boys and girls. One quick example here, in African society, women are seen as home makers due to their reproductive role as mothers. Men on the other hand are believed to be strong and are seen as providers and the onus is usually on them to go out and fend for the family.
The expected roles are then entrenched by the society through GENDER SOCIALIZATION. It is the tendency for boys and girls to be socialized differently. Boys are raised to conform to the male gender role, and girls are raised to conform to the female gender or role. Socializing agents are the various institutions we have such as schools, churches, the media and most importantly our various cultures practiced in our communities. Over a period of time, this institutions shape our world view and what is expected of us as either men or women.
GENDER EQUALITY This basically means that all human beings are free to develop their abilities and make choices without any limitations set by gender roles; that different aspirations and needs of women and men are considered, valued and favored equally.
GENDER EQUITY on the other hand calls for fairness in women’s and men’s access to socio-economic resources. It seeks to have women and men participate as equals. Though seemingly the same, there is an albeit small difference, Equality refers to identical treatment in dealings, quantities or values. Equity refers to fairness, or the equality of outcomes, and involves changing aspects of the system that have disadvantaged particular groups.
So equality would be like the entire family each having equal servings of food no matter how big or small that person is, everyone gets the same treatment, they are treated equally. And equity would be like the dad getting the biggest serving because he has the biggest appetite, and the small child gets a smaller serving because they have a smaller appetite, everyone gets served according to their appetite, according to their personal needs, fairness.
GENDER MAINSTREAMING involves assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in any area and at all levels. It is a strategy for ensuring that women and men benefit equally, and inequality is not perpetuated. The ultimate goal of mainstreaming is to achieve gender equality.
GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE (GBV) is an umbrella term for any harmful act that is perpetrated against a person’s will based on socially-ascribed (gender) differences between men and women. it is crucial to note that while women are usually the victims, men too are subjected to this kind of violence.
GENDER BALANCE is then degree to which men and women hold the full range of positions in a society or organization. The long-term ideal objective, as defined by the UN General Assembly, is to achieve a 50/50 gender balance.
There you go, the basic gender buzz words at your finger tips 🙂
PS: Next time we look at the relationship between Gender and Development and why it is so vital to have this linkage.