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This is an evolving glossary to provide working definitions of relevant concepts and terminology. We welcome suggestions for additions and revisions. Email us at

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Abuse is the misuse of power through which the perpetrator gains control or advantage of the abused, using and causing physical or psychological harm or inciting fear of that harm. Abuse prevents persons from making free decisions and forces them to behave against their will.

Coercion is forcing, or attempting to force, another person to engage in behaviors against her will by using threats, verbal insistence, manipulation, deception, cultural expectations or economic power.

Empowerment is about people - both women and men - taking control over their lives: setting their own agendas, gaining skills, building self-confidence, solving problems and developing selfreliance. No one can empower another: only the individual can empower herself or himself to make choices or to speak out. However, institutions including international cooperation agencies can support processes that can nurture self-empowerment of individuals or groups.

Femininity is the trait of behaving in ways considered typical for women.

Feminism is a social analysis that uses gender to understand how women are systematically deprived of individual choice, political power, economic opportunity and intellectual recognition. It is a belief that women are inherently equal to men and deserve equal rights and opportunities. And, it is a political, social, and cultural movement dedicated to promoting equal rights for women in all aspects of life.

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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 behaviors 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 women’s subordination (or men’s domination) is socially constructed. As such, the subordination can be changed or ended. It is not biologically predetermined nor is it fixed forever.

Gender and Development (GAD) The GAD approach focuses on intervening to address unequal gender relations which prevent inequitable development and which often lock women out of full participation. GAD seeks to have both women and men participate, make decisions and share benefits. This approach often aims at meeting practical needs as well as promoting strategic interests. A successful GAD approach requires sustained long-term commitment.

Gender-based violence (GBV) is used to distinguish common violence from violence that targets individuals or groups of individuals on the basis of their gender. Gender-based violence has been defined by the CEDAW Committee as violence that is directed at a person on the basis of gender or sex. It includes acts that inflict physical, mental or sexual harm or suffering, threat of such acts, coercion and other deprivations of liberty.

Gender equality means that women and men have equal conditions for realizing their full human rights and for contributing to, and benefiting from, economic, social, cultural and political development. Gender equality is therefore the equal valuing by society of the similarities and the differences of men and women, and the roles they play. It is based on women and men being full partners in their home, their community and their society.

Gender equity is the process of being fair to men and women. To ensure fairness, measures must often be put in place to compensate for the historical and social disadvantages that prevent women and men from operating on a level playing field. Equity is a means. Equality is the result.

Gender-mainstreaming is a process rather than a goal. Efforts to integrate gender into existing institutions of the mainstream have little value for their own sake. We mainstream gender concerns to achieve gender equality and improve the relevance of development agendas. Such an approach shows that the costs of women’s marginalization and gender inequalities are born by all.

Gender role is the behaviors, attitudes values, beliefs and so on that a particular cultural group considers appropriate for males and females on the basis of their biological sex.

Gender role identity refers to a person's understanding and acceptance of gender roles. In other words it is how an individual adapts the prescribed sex role to his, or her, individual identity.

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Masculinity is the trait of behaving in ways considered typical for men.

Men-as-allies support the needs, interests, goals, and/or work of women or women's groups while acknowledging and challenging men's traditional position of power and privilege.

A perpetrator is a person, group, or institution that directly inflicts, supports and condones violence or other abuse against a person or a group of persons. Perpetrators are in a position of real or perceived power, decision-making and/or authority and can thus exert control over their victims. It is a myth that sexual and gender-based violence is usually perpetrated by strangers. In fact, most acts of  exual and gender-based violence are perpetrated by someone known to the survivor, and many violent incidents are planned in advance.

Positive Masculinity is a way of being a man that focuses on compassionate, healthy and responsible attitudes and behaviors in all our relationships. It is a male social identity that is based on our inherent human instinct to be loving, caring, and sensitive. It offers a healthy alternative to the traditions of male privilege, violence, domination and isolation. Positive masculinity is a vision of a world where men are partners and allies with women in creating loving families and healthy communities.

Power is understood as the capacity to make decisions. All relationships are affected by the exercise of power. When power is used to make decisions regarding one’s own life, it becomes an affirmation of self-acceptance and self-respect that, in turn, fosters respect and acceptance of others as equals. When used to dominate, power imposes obligations on, restricts, prohibits and makes decisions about the lives of others. To prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence effectively, the power relations between men and women, women and women, men and men, adults and children, and among children must be analyzed and understood.

Sexual identity describes a person's physiological status as male or female.

Sexual orientation refers to a person's preference for the same or opposite sex partners, e.g., homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual.

Sexual violence, including exploitation and abuse, refers to any act, attempt or threat of a sexual nature that results, or is likely to result, in physical, psychological and emotional harm. Sexual violence is a form of gender-based violence.

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Violence is a means of control and oppression that can include emotional, social or economic force, coercion or pressure, as well as physical harm. It can be overt, in the form of a physical assault or threatening someone with a weapon; it can also be covert, in the form of intimidation, threats, persecution, deception or other forms of psychological or social pressure.

Violence against women refers to any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual and psychological harm to women and girls, whether occurring in private or in public. Violence against women is a form of gender-based violence and includes sexual violence.

Women in Development (WID) The WID approach aims to integrate women into the existing development process by targeting them, often in women-specific activities. Women are usually passive recipients in WID projects, which often emphasize making women more efficient producers and increasing their income. Although many WID projects have improved health, income or resources in the short term, because they did not transform unequal relationships, a significant number were not sustainable. A common shortcoming of WID projects is that such projects tend to by blind to men’s roles and responsibilities in women’s (dis)empowerment.

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