Gender glossary


The term gender refers to culturally based expectations of the roles and behaviors of men and women. The term distinguishes the socially constructed from the biologically determined aspects of being male and female. Unlike the biology of sex, gender roles and behaviors and the relations between women and men (gender relations) can change over time, even if aspects of these roles originated in the biological differences between sexes.

Gender equality

In IFAD's terminology, gender equality means that women and men have equal opportunities, or life chances, to access and control socially valued goods and resources. This does not mean that the goal is that women and men become the same, but it does mean that we will work towards women's and men's equal life chances. In order to achieve this, it is sometimes necessary to empower, or ‘build up' groups with limited access to resources. For example, to undertake special actions, such as providing day care for children, to enable women to participate along with men in training workshops. Or to provide credit to rural women because their access to productive resources is restricted. Or to establish educational programmes for boys in Latin America , where their school attendance is weak compared to that of girls.

Gender equity

means fairness of treatment for women and men, according to their respective needs. This may include equal treatment or treatment that is different but which is considered equivalent in terms of rights, benefits, obligations and opportunities. In the development context, a gender equity goal often requires built-in measures to compensate for the historical and social disadvantages of women.

Gender mainstreaming

For IFAD as an institution, gender mainstreaming is the process by which reducing the gaps in development opportunities between women and men and working towards equality between them become an integral part of the organization's strategy, policies and operations, and the focus of continued efforts to achieve excellence. Thus gender mainstreaming is fully reflected, along with other core priorities, in the mindset of IFAD's leadership and staff, its values, resource allocations, operating norms and procedures, performance measurements, accountabilities, competencies, and its learning and improvement processes.

In IFAD's development activities, gender mainstreamingimplies assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, and ensuring that both women's and men's concerns and experiences are taken fully into account in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of all development activities. The aim is to develop interventions that overcome barriers preventing men and women from having equal access to the resources and services they need to improve their livelihoods.


Empowerment is about people taking control over their lives. It is about people pursuing their own goals, living according to their own values, developing self-reliance, and being able to make choices and influence – both individually and collectively - the decisions that affect their lives. Empowerment is a process, which can be long and complex. For women and men to be empowered conditions have to be created to enable them to acquire the necessary resources, knowledge, political voice and organizational capacity.