Gender equality refers to the equal enjoyment by women, girls, boys, and men of rights, opportunities, resources and rewards. Based on internationally acknowledged and agreed human right commitments, women and men are entitled to equal enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, civil, economic, social and cultural fields of life. The ACT Alliance considers gender equality as a cross cutting issue and over the years members have endeavoured to promote gender sensitive approaches to development and humanitarian assistance.
The term gender is often used as if it is synonymous and interchangeable with the word women. This is not the case. The reason why gender approaches often address women and girls is because of the acknowledged discrimination and exclusion which most women and girls still face in a great number of countries.
While the ultimate goal of the ACT Alliance is gender equality, it sees gender equity (fairness) as the means to achieving that result. ACT recognises that women cannot achieve gender equality by themselves. Men need to be involved if gender equality is to be achieved for all.
Gender equality is not only a basic human right, it is also essential for the achievement of sustained socio-economic growth. There is now growing evidence that empowering women in particular, “fuels thriving economies, spurring productivity and growth”. Yet gender inequalities remain deeply entrenched in many societies throughout the world.
While there has been progress on gender equality in some countries, women in many parts of the world suffer discrimination and are under-represented in decision-making processes. Violence against women remains an endemic problem inhibiting their full participation of women in their communities, economies and societies. When a humanitarian crisis occurs gender inequalities are even more acutely highlighted. In such situations, women, young girls and boys form the most vulnerable groups and are exposed to greater risk of sexual violence in particular. In recent years there has been growing evidence of violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatisation and prejudice directed against people because of their gender and sexual identities.
The response to humanitarian and development needs and rights must be designed in a way that it pays attention to identifying the different needs, capacities and unique contributions of different individuals and groups. Ignoring these aspects has serious implications for the survival and protection of people and may create set-backs in efforts at long-term improvement.
Thus, all initiatives ranging from emergency assistance, recovery, reconstruction through to long term development, should utilise and benefit from gender sensitive analytical tools and approaches.
The ACT Gender Policy is available in English, French and Spanish.