"Gender" refers to the social differences and relations between men and women which are learned, vary widely among societies and cultures, and change over time. The term "gender" does not replace the term "sex", which refers exclusively to biological differences between men and women. For example, statistical data are broken down by sex. The term "gender" is used to analyse the roles, responsibilities, constraints, opportunities and needs of women and men in all areas and in any given social context.
Gender roles are learned behaviours in a given society, community or other social group. They condition which activities, tasks and responsibilities are perceived as male and female. Gender roles are affected by age, class, race, ethnicity and religion, and by the geographical, economic and political environment.
Changes in gender roles often occur in response to changing economic, natural or political circumstances, including development efforts or structural adjustment, or other nationally or internationally based forces. The gender roles within a given social context may be flexible or rigid, similar or different, and complementary or conflicting. Both women and men are involved in reproductive, productive and community management activities and play roles within social and political groups. Their involvement in each activity reflects the gender division of labour in a particular place at a particular time. The gender division of labour must be reflected in gender analysis.
→ see also Gender analysis and Gender and development and women in development
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