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Engendering Compensation: 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 equality.

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.

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