Making Refugee Women Count!
Prepared for the Expert and Advisory Services
Fund International Development Research Centre
by Nahla Abdo
March 2000 - Ottawa
2. Defining Gender
Gender is the culturally specific set of characteristics
that identifies the social behavior of women and men
and the relationship between them. It refers not simply
to women or men, but to the relationship between them,
and the way these relations are socially constructed.
Because it is a relational term, gender must include
women and men. Gender is, therefore, an analytical
tool for understanding social processes.
Gender Equity is the process of being fair to women
and men. To ensure fairness, measures must often be
available to compensate for historical and social
disadvantages that prevent women and men from otherwise
operating on a level playing field. Equity leads to
Gender Equality means that women and men enjoy the
same status, and that women and men have equal conditions
for realizing their full human rights and potential
to contribute to national, political, economic and
cultural development, and to benefit from the results.
However, because of historical injustices to women,
same treatment of men and women does not often yield
same results. Therefore, the concept of equality acknowledges
that different treatment of women and men may sometimes
be required to achieve sameness of results, because
of different life conditions, or to compensate for
past discrimination. Gender equality is therefore
the equal valuing by society of both the similarities
and differences between women and men, and the varying
roles that they play. This notion of equality is embedded
in International Laws and national Charters, including
the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In the context of negotiating compensation as a part
of a just and comprehensive settlement of the Palestinian
refugee problem, gender equality will be used to mean
equal enjoyment by women and men of socially-valued
goods, opportunities, resources and rewards. Achieving
gender equality, will thus require changes in institutional
practices and social relations through which disparities
are reinforced and sustained. It also requires a strong
voice for women in shaping their societies.