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Gender is a social construct that impacts attitudes, roles, responsibilities and behavior patterns of
boys and girls, men and women in all societies. Increasing attention has been given to the
importance of achieving gender equality in education. To date, however, most efforts have focused
on addressing gender parity - an equal number or proportion of girls and boys accessing
educational opportunities. Although simple gender parity may be easier to measure, gender
equality encompasses a wider concept, of which gender parity is only a part.
Gender refers to the roles and responsibilities of men and women that are created in our families,
our societies and our cultures. The concept of gender also includes the expectations held about the
characteristics, aptitudes and likely behaviours of both women and men (femininity and
masculinity). Gender roles and expectations are learned. They can change over time and they vary
within and between cultures. Systems of social differentiation such as political status, class,
ethnicity, physical and mental disability, age and more, modify gender roles. The concept of
gender is vital because, applied to social analysis, it reveals how womens subordination (or mens
domination) is socially constructed. As such, the subordination can be changed or ended. It is not
biologically predetermined nor is it fixed forever.
Related terminology and concepts include:
Gender roles: The particular economic, political and social roles and responsibilities that are
considered appropriate for men and women in a culture.
Gender equality: The absence of discrimination on the basis of a person's sex in authority,
opportunities, allocation of resources or benefits, and access to services.
Gender equity: The process of being fair to women and men. Sometimes this involves measures
to redress historical disadvantages that have prevented men and women from having equal access
to rights and privileges. Equity leads to equality. Gender equity also implies that health needs,
which are specific to each gender, receive appropriate resources.
Gender awareness: Understanding that there are socially determined differences between men
and women, and that these influence access to and control of resources.
Gender Sensitivity: The ability to perceive existing gender differences and issues, and to
incorporate these into strategies and actions. Contrast with gender blindness.
Gender analysis: Identifies the inequalities that arise from the different roles of men and women,
and analyzes the consequences of these inequalities for their lives, health and well-being.
Gender Mainstreaming: The process used to ensure that womens and mens concerns and
experiences are integral to the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of all legislation,
policies and programmes.
Gender Parity: A numerical concept concerned with the relative equality in terms of numbers
and proportions of women, men, girls and boys. In education, this means that the same number of
boys and girls receive educational services at different levels and in diverse forms.

Sex, Gender and Sexuality

Sex: Sex refers to the biological characteristics or natural biological differences between men
and women, for example, the differences in the organs related to reproduction. A persons sex is
biologically determined as female or male according to certain identifiable physical features which
are fixed. Womens marginalisation has often been seen as natural and a fact of their biology.
Gender: Gender refers to the cultural, socially constructed differences between the two sexes. It
refers to the way society encourages and teaches the two sexes to behave in different through
socialization. Gender and the hierarchical power relations between women and men based on
this are socially constructed, and not derived directly from biology.
Sexuality is distinct from gender yet intimately linked to it. It is the social construction of a
biological drive. An individual's sexuality is defined by whom one has sex with, in what ways,
why, under what circumstances, and with what outcomes. It is more than sexual behavior, it is a
multidimensional and dynamic concept."

Patriarchy is a social system in which males hold primary power and predominate in roles of
political leadership, moral authority, social privilege, and control of property. In the domain of the
family, fathers hold authority over the women and children.
A patriarchal system is a social system in which the father is the head of the household. This,
however, is not confined to the household alone. It can be extended to the entire society where
males dominate in all social, political, economic, legal and cultural roles. For instance, in most
patriarchal societies women were very much confined to the domestic sphere, where they were
completely cut off from the realities of the society.

Let us take some examples to clarify the way in which patriarchy is evident in our daily life.
When a man raises his voice in the course of an argument and insects on his point of view,
without letting others especially women get to utter a single word, his actions are likely to
be described as aggressively patriarchal.
If a women complains of sexual harassment at her work place, and all the men in her office
deny that this could ever happen. The reasoning of men can be described as being typically
Matriarchy is a social system in which females hold primary power, predominate in roles of
political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property at the specific
exclusion of men, at least to a large degree.
A matriarchal system is a social system in which the mother is the head of the household. In a
matriarchal society, the governance of the society is also in the hands of women. When examining
the human history, there is very little evidence of matriarchal societies, because most confuse an
egalitarian society or matrilineal society to a matriarchal society.

Masculinity (also called boyhood, manliness, or manhood) is a set of attributes, behaviors and
roles generally associated with boys and men. Masculinity is made up of both socially-defined and
biologically-created factors, distinct from the definition of the male biological sex. Both males
and females can exhibit masculine traits and behavior. Those exhibiting both masculine
and feminine characteristics are considered androgynous.
Masculinity varies for each man dependent on personality, family and culture. The common thread
is a set of characteristics that allow men to feel masculine.

Femininity (also called girlishness, womanliness or womanhood) is a set of attributes, behaviors,

and roles generally associated with girls and women. Femininity is made up of both socially-
defined and biologically-created factors. This makes it distinct from the definition of
the biological female sex, as both males and females can exhibit feminine traits. Modern
conceptualizations of femininity also rely not just upon social constructions, but upon the
individualized choices made by women

There are differences in masculine and feminine ways of influencing others: getting others to
do what we want them to do or think the way we want them to think. Masculine uses a style of
influence that is dominance, while Feminine style is persuasion.

The foundational difference between the masculine and feminine view of self in the world
is this: Masculine sees himself as an individual in a hierarchy, while Feminine sees the world as a
network of relationships. In a hierarchy people at higher levels have more power than those at
lower levels. In a hierarchy those higher in status tell those below them what to do. They may
speak politely, but they express what they want clearly and directly. Masculine leads from the
front, choosing and showing the way to the goal.

Gender Empowerment

The subject of empowerment of women has becoming a burning issue all over the world including
India since last few decades. Many agencies of United Nations in their reports have emphasized
that gender issue is to be given utmost priority. It is held that women now cannot be asked to wait
for any more for equality.

Inequalities between men and women and discrimination against women have also been age-old
issues all over the world. Thus, womens quest for equality with man is a universal phenomenon.
What exists for men is demanded by women?

They have demanded equality with men in matters of education, employment, inheritance,
marriage, and politics and recently in the field of religion also to serve as cleric (in Hinduism and
Islam). Women want to have for themselves the same strategies of change which menfolk have
had over the centuries such as equal pay for equal work. Their quest for equality has given birth to
the formation of many womens associations and launching of movements.
A long struggle going back over a century has brought women the property rights, voting rights,
an equality in civil rights before the law in matters of marriage and employment (in India women
had not to struggle for voting rights as we find in other countries).

In addition to the above rights, in India, the customs of purdha (veil system), female infanticide,
child marriage, sati system (self-immolation by the women with their husbands), dowry system
and the state of permanent widowhood were either totally removed or checked to an appreciable
extent after independence through legislative measures.

Gender bias is a preference or prejudice toward one gender over the other. Bias can be conscious
or unconscious, and may manifest in many ways, both subtle and obvious. It is the unequal
treatment in employment opportunity such as promotion, pay, benefits and privileges and
expectations due to attitudes based on the sex of an employee or group of employees.
Gender bias can be subtle or overt, and can result in small or large consequences. Most countries
have laws eliminating gender bias in work places. Gender bias can be a legitimate basis for a
lawsuit under anti-discrimination statutes. Gender bias is behavior that shows favoritism toward
one gender over another. Most often, gender bias is the act of favoring men and/or boys over
women and/or girls.

Gender Stereotypes
Gender bias occurs when people make assumptions regarding behaviors, abilities or preferences
of others based upon their gender. Because there are strong gender role stereotypes for masculinity
and femininity, students who do not match them can encounter problems with teachers and with
their peers.
Gender stereotypes are simplistic generalizations about the gender attributes, differences, and roles
of individuals and/or groups. Stereotypes can be positive or negative, but they rarely communicate
accurate information about others. When people automatically apply gender assumptions to others
regardless of evidence to the contrary, they are continuing gender stereotyping. Many people
recognize the dangers of gender stereotyping, yet continue to make these types of generalizations.

Traditionally, the female stereotypic role is to marry and have children. She is also to put her
family's welfare before her own; be loving, compassionate, caring, nurturing, and sympathetic;
and find time to be sexy and feel beautiful. The male stereotypic role is to be the financial
provider. He is also to be assertive, competitive, independent, courageous, and careerfocused;
hold his emotions in check; and always initiate sex. These sorts of stereotypes can prove harmful;
they can stifle individual expression and creativity, as well as hinder personal and professional

Policies, recommendations and initiatives for gender equality

The Indian situation, with respect to gender equality, presents a situation of sharp contrast between
what is on paper and what actually obtains on the ground. If one looks at the constitutional
guarantees, a strong affirmation of nondiscrimination is clearly on record.

The Constitution of India (1951) not only grants equality to women and forbids any discrimination
based on religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, but also empowers the state to practice
protective discrimination in favour of women. Under the protective discrimination clause, the State
has passed several social and labour legislations and drawn up special programmes and schemes
for the welfare and development of women and children.

The ground situation however, is quite the reverse of the above proclaimed position. Sex ratio does
not favour women in India and a majority of women go through life in a state of chronic stress,
even facing nutritional discrimination within the family. Fewer girls than boys attend school. Even
when enrolled, fewer girls manage to stay in school and complete schooling. Most girls who drop
out of school are working in homes and fields of their parental or marital families.
The National Policy of Education (NPE) 1986 and its Programme of Action (revised in 1992) gives
education a mandate to work for womens equality and empowerment.

Welfare Programmes and Policies for Women by Government

Of late, women all over the world have been agitating and struggling for their rights and privileges
and initiating women liberation movements to achieve their rightful place in their respective
societies. The United Nations had declared 1975 as International Women Year and the era 1975-
85 as the International Women Decades.

March 8, is observed as Women's Day in our country every year. The South Asian Association for
Regional Co-operation (SAARC) at its convention at Islamabad in 1989 had agreed upon
observing 1990s as the year of the girl child.

Measures taken by the Government for gender equality/socio-economic

development/empowerment of women

The Ministry of Women and Child Development is administering following schemes for gender
equality/socio-economic development/empowerment of women:

Swadhar and Short Stay Homes to provide relief and rehabilitation to destitute women and
women in distress.
Working Women Hostels for ensuring safe accommodation for working women away from
their place of residence.
Support to Training and Employment Program for Women (STEP) to ensure sustainable
employment and income generation for marginalised and asset-less rural and urban poor
women across the country.
Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK) to provide micro-finance services to bring about the socio-
economic upliftment of poor women.
National Mission for Empowerment of Women (NMEW) to strengthen the overall
processes that promote all-round Development of Women
Rajiv Gandhi National Creche Scheme for Children of Working Mothers (including single
mother) to provide day care facilities for running a crche of 25 children in the age group
0-6 years from families having monthly income of less than Rs 12,000.
One Stop Centre to provide integrated support and assistance to women affected by
Scheme for Universalisation of Women Helpline intended to provide 24 hours immediate
and emergency response to women affected by violence.
Sabla Scheme for holistic development of adolescent girls in the age group of 11-18 years.
In order to strengthen the process of gender budgeting the Ministry of Women and Child
Development has been undertaking various capacity building measures for the officials of
the State Governments by organising training programs/workshops regularly.

Policies of the Government

The major policy initiatives undertaken by the government in the recent past for welfare of women
include internal restructuring of Indira Mahila Yojana (IMY), Balika Samridhi Yojana (BSY),
Rural Women's Development and Empowerment Project (RWDEP), setting up of the National
Commission for Women (NCW), National Commission for Children (NCC), National Creche
Fund (NCF), adoption of National Nutrition Policy (NNP) and Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK).

Theories on gender and education

Socialisation theory

Socialization is the process of internalizing society's values in order to adapt to one's culture .It
influences how people behave as males and females in society. The social learning process that
imbibes people into understanding the various aspects of culture includes the process of gender
socialization. Gender socialization encompasses the process of learning society's gender roles and
their advantages and limitations.
In many societies gender roles are rigidly defined. For instance men have traditionally been
expected to be strong, aggressive even dominating. Women have been expected to be nurturing,
sensitive, emotional and relatively passive. Children are taught these values both consciously and
subconsciously from a very early age. This is further reinforced with the use of toys as boys are
given large sized, noise making or violent type whereas girls are often given gentler toys. These
expressions influence information of self as well as identities.
The main agents of gender socialization are parents, peer, siblings, school, society and religion.
For very young children parents and family play the central role in shaping gender socialization.
They determine how the family interacts with a boy as well as the types of toys and clothes that
the baby is given.
Gender Difference Theory

Whereas socialization theorists see girls' differences from boys as a problem-something to be

eliminated-gender difference researchers believe that female/feminine traits should be recognized
and celebrated. Rather than socialize girls to be more like boys, difference theorists seek to
revalorize the relational characteristics associated with girls. As they see it, the educational
problem for girls is the lack of fit between school culture and feminine culture: relational values
are risked by the public sphere's commitment to rationalism, competition, conquest, consumerism,
and radical individualism.
There are two prominent views about the origins of gender differences in human behavior. Some
theorists see gender differences as a reflection of naturally evolved tendencies and society must
reinforce those tendencies if it is to function smoothly. Socio-biologists call this perspective as
The second group of sociologists sees gender differences as social constructionism, mainly as a
reflection of the different social positions occupied by women and men. They view gender as
constructed by social structure and culture.
This variation denies the idea that there are essential and universal behavioral differences between
women and men. In societies with low levels of gender inequality, the tendency decreases for
women to stress the good provider role in selecting male partners, as does the tendency for men to
stress women's domestic skills. Women have become considerably more assertive, competitive,
independent, and analytical in the last four decades. The gender differences are not constants and
they are not inherent in men and women.
Structural Theory

Structural analyses focus on the systematic association of power and privilege in the hands of a minority.
According to such theories, power is something one group exercises over another; it is a kind of possession
or property legitimated by laws, standards, political practices, and institutional relations. In many
countries, heterosexual unions are materially privileged over gay and lesbian unions in terms of insurance
coverage for partners, adoption and fostering policies, the right to marriage, and representation in anti-
discrimination laws. Other structural forms of inequity include the concentration of women in low-paying
and/or less prestigious jobs (as hotel maids and waitresses, for example, or in pink collar jobs such as
teacher, secretary, or nurse); hiring and promotion practices that favor men; medical research that
assumes maleness as normative (as in heart disease and AIDS research); and policies or systems of law
that hold women responsible for pregnancy but deny them the right to abortion.