The term gender refers to socially defined roles and identities of women and men that:
- are socially constructed
- are culturally learned
- can differ across and even within societies and cultural contexts
- are changeable and adaptable over time.
In contrast, the term sex refers to the biologically defined differences between women and men.
The attributed gender role of a person generally determines their rights, responsibilities and opportunities, as well as their decision making powers.
Gender equality is achieved when women and men, girls and boys enjoy equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities and participate equally in society. Women and men have equal opportunities in all spheres of life and equal access to and control over resources and services. It is thus the state in which men and women are able to fully and equally exercise their human rights. Gender equality results when there is no discrimination on the basis of a person’s sex.
Gender mainstreaming is a strategy that integrates women’s and men’s different concerns and interests into the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation stages of all policies, programmes, projects, policies and laws at all levels and in all economic, political and societal spheres. It thus ensures that political programmes or services are analysed and evaluated regarding their impacts on gender equality and that appropriate action is taken to achieve gender equality so that women and men benefit equally. The ultimate goal of gender mainstreaming is to achieve gender equality.
The UN defines empowerment as follows: The empowerment of women and girls is concerned with them gaining power and control over their own lives. To be empowered women and girls must not only have equal capabilities (such as education and health) and equal access to resources and opportunities (such as land and employment), but also have the agency to use these rights, capabilities, resources and opportunities to make strategic choices and decisions (such as is provided through leadership opportunities and participation in political institutions).