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Important Gender and Development Concepts

Gender and development

The main objectives of a Gender and Development approach (GAD) are to strengthen the effectiveness of development work in improving the situation of both women and men, and achieving progress towards social and gender equality. The focus is on social and gender equality as an objective, rather than women as a target group. GAD focuses on the relationship between men and women in the community and on the unequal relations of power between them. The GAD approach aims for development that changes gender relations in order to enable women to participate and benefit on an equal basis with men. It is not a new approach but builds on the efforts and experience gained over the last three decades in development

Important Gender and Development Concepts


work to understand and improve the position of women and disadvantaged groups in the community.

The Lao Women's Union (LWU)

The LWU is a mass organisation for women in the Lao political system. It has an organisational network from the central level down to the grass roots level, serving as a bridge between the party and the government and Lao women of various ethnic groups and social strata. It has a long history rooted in political mobilisation and, rural development and is now also taking on gender advocacy.

Gender refers to social attributes learned when growing up as a member of a community.

Based on this experience there has been: A shift in understanding of gender equality. Recognition that gender equality is integral to development goals. Realisation that previous approaches were not really changing the position of women or improving gender equality. This means: Ensuring that forestry and agricultural extension work not only responds to differences in needs and interests of women and men but seeks to increase gender equality, by empowering women (where women are at a disadvantage). Gender differences relevant to an initiative should be identified, not only to improve efficiency but also to identify the inequalities that constrain women from participating and benefiting on an equal basis with men.

Changes in gender identity and gender relations

Gender roles and characteristics in almost all societies have undergone many recent adjustments and changes in response to development, technological change and globalisation, which have led to massive economic and social changes in all parts of the world. Changes in gender roles and relations often meet resistance, particularly in the form of tradition. Social and gender analysis can demonstrate that change in certain aspects of social roles and relations between women and men can improve the quality and conditions of life for everyone.

Discrimination and the constitution

Article 24 in the Constitution adopted by the National Assembly in 1991 is very clear on gender discrimination and states that: 'Discrimination is interpreted as any distinction, exclusion or restriction, made on the basis of sex, which has the effect or purpose of impairing the recognition of rights and freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or other field.'

Social and gender analysis

Social and gender analysis attempts to understand the roles of different social groups, (including women and men) in relation to what they do in the village and in relation to the resources they have. There is also a need to understand gender relations: how women and men relate to one another and who makes decisions over which resources.

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Social and gender analysis identifies the roles, relations, responsibilities, access to and control over resources, decision-making and power, as well as the needs and potentials of different social groups of both women and men. Social and gender analysis is not limited only to the social sectors, but can also be used at all levels and areas of village development.

Sex and gender

Sex refers to the biological differences between men and women, which are universal and do not change. Gender refers to social While carrying out social and gender analysis increases knowledge of social and gender roles, inequalities and different impacts, this alone will not automatically bring about change. The results of social and gender analysis should be used to bring about necessary changes in relation to planning, priorities, choice of methods, division of labour and implementation of activities.

attributes that are learned when growing up as a member of a community. Because these attributes are learned behaviours, they can and do change over time. In addition, they vary between different cultures and ethnic groups. Gender therefore refers to the socially given attributes, roles, activities, responsibilities and needs connected to being men (masculine) and women (feminine) in a given society at a given time. Womens and men's gender identity determines how they are perceived and how they are expected to think and act as men and women. Gender is one of the variables (along with ethnicity, age and class) used in the distribution of privilege, prestige, power and a range of social and economic resources.

Sexual division of labour

In all communities, tasks and responsibilities are typically undertaken by either women or men. This allocation of activities on the basis of sex is known as the sexual division of labour, and is learned and clearly understood by all members of that community.

Why are some jobs considered feminine and others masculine?

Important Gender and Development Concepts


Productive work This is work that produces items for consumption by the household and goods and services for exchange in the market place. Both men and women contribute to family income with various forms of productive work, although men usually dominate in productive work.

Community work This work involves activities for the village usually voluntary unpaid work, such as organising festivals or ceremonies, receiving visitors, or maintaining a village resource, such as a well.

Access and control over resources

When examining how resources are allocated between women and men, it is important to distinguish between access to resources (e.g. land, labour, credit, income) and control over them. Access gives a person the use of a resource, e.g. land to grow crops. Control allows a person to make decisions about who uses the resource or to dispose of the resource, for instance by selling the land.

Reproductive work This work involves all the tasks associated with supporting the immediate and extended family, young and old. It includes childcare, food preparation, care for the sick or old, socialisation of the young, and so on. Reproductive work is the basis of productive work. Women of all ages are mainly responsible for this work, which is usually unpaid.

Practical gender needs and interests

Women and men have different roles and responsibilities and therefore have different needs and interests.

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Practical gender needs and interests relate to living conditions. Women may identify safe water, food security, health care and cash income as immediate needs which they must meet. Meeting these practical needs is essential to improving living conditions, but does not in itself change the position women have in the village.

Strategic gender needs and interests

Strategic gender interests relate to issues of power and control and the division of labour. They may include: Changes in the division of labour (women to take on work not traditionally seen as women's work, men take more responsibility for child care and domestic work). Legal rights. An end to domestic violence. Equal wages. Women's control over their own bodies (family planning). They are not as easily identified as the practical needs and interests, therefore specific support and opportunities to do so may have to be provided and facilitated from outside.

In most cases, the empowerment of women requires change in the division of labour and transformation of society.

Gender equity
Gender equity is concerned with promoting personal, social, cultural, political and economic equality for all. Traditions and discriminatory practices have resulted in the systematic devaluation of attitudes, activities and abilities attributed to, and associated with, girls and women. The consequences of these discriminatory practices negatively affect men

Empowerment is about women or men developing their ability to: Collectively and individually take control over their own lives. Identify their needs and agendas. Demand support from their communities and the state to see that their interests are responded to.

Important Gender and Development Concepts


as well as women. Initially however, gender equity initiatives will place greater emphasis on improving conditions and attitudes as they affect girls and women. In the long-term, these initiatives will also improve the situation for boys and men.

Extracted from: Lao-Swedish Forestry Programme. 2001. Field Guide Gender and Development. Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. Vientiane.

For more information regarding tools for carrying out Social and Gender Analysis please refer to "Field Guide Gender and Development", Lao-Swedish Forestry Programme, June 2001. NAFRI/Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. Vientiane.

Improving Livelihoods in the Uplands of the Lao PDR was produced in 2005 by NAFRI, NAFES and NUOL.

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