Important Gender and Development Concepts 39Important Gender and DevelopmentConceptsGender and developmentThe main objectives of a Gender and Development approach (GAD) are to strengthen the effectivenessof development work in improving the situation of both women and men, and achieving progresstowards social and gender equality. The focus is on social and gender equality as an objective, ratherthan women as a target group.GAD focuses on the relationship between men and women in the community and on the unequal rela-tions of power between them. The GAD approach aims for development that changes gender relationsin order to enable women to participate and benefit on an equal basis with men. It is not a new app-roach but builds on the efforts and experience gained over the last three decades in development
40 Improving Livelihoods in the Uplands of the Lao PDRChanges in gender identity andgender relationsGender roles and characteristics in almost allsocieties have undergone many recent adjust-ments and changes in response to development,technological change and globalisation, whichhave led to massive economic and socialchanges in all parts of the world. Changes ingender roles and relations often meetresistance, particularly in the form of tradition.Social and gender analysis can demonstratethat change in certain aspects of social rolesand relations between women and men canimprove the quality and conditions of life foreveryone.Social and gender analysisSocial and gender analysis attempts tounderstand the roles of different social groups,(including women and men) in relation to whatthey do in the village and in relation to theresources they have.There is also a need tounderstand gender relations: how women andmen relate to one another and who makesdecisions over which resources.work to understand and improve the positionof women and disadvantaged groups in thecommunity.Based on this experience there has been:Discrimination and theconstitutionArticle 24 in the Constitution adopted by theNational Assembly in 1991 is very clear ongender discrimination and states that:Discrimination is interpreted as anydistinction, exclusion or restriction, made onthe basis of sex, which has the effect orpurpose of impairing the recognition ofrights and freedoms in the political,economic, social, cultural or other field.A shift in understanding of gender equality.Recognition that gender equality isintegral to development goals.Realisation that previous approaches werenot really changing the position of womenor improving gender equality.This means:Ensuring that forestry and agriculturalextension work not only responds todifferences in needs and interests ofwomen and men but seeks to increasegender equality, by empowering women(where women are at a disadvantage).Gender differences relevant to an initiativeshould be identified, not only to improveefficiency but also to identify theinequalities that constrain women fromparticipating and benefiting on an equalbasis with men.The Lao Womens Union(LWU)The LWU is a mass organisation for womenin the Lao political system. It has anorganisational network from the central leveldown to the grass roots level, serving as abridge between the party and thegovernment and Lao women of variousethnic groups and social strata. It has a longhistory rooted in political mobilisation and,rural development and is now also taking ongender advocacy.Gender refers to social attributes learned whengrowing up as a member of a community.
Important Gender and Development Concepts 41While carrying out social and gender analysisincreases knowledge of social and genderroles, inequalities and different impacts, thisalone will not automatically bring aboutchange.The results of social and gender analy-sis should be used to bring about necessarychanges in relation to planning, priorities,choice of methods, division of labour andimplementation of activities.Social and gender analysis identifies the roles,relations, responsibilities, access to and controlover resources, decision-making and power, aswell as the needs and potentials of differentsocial groups of both women and men. Socialand gender analysis is not limited only to thesocial sectors, but can also be used at all levelsand areas of village development.Sex and genderSex refers to the biological differences be-tween men and women, which are universaland do not change. Gender refers to socialattributes that are learned when growing up asa member of a community. Because theseattributes are learned behaviours, they can anddo change over time. In addition, they varybetween different cultures and ethnic groups.Gender therefore refers to the socially givenattributes, roles, activities, responsibilities andneeds connected to being men (masculine)and women (feminine) in a given society at agiven time. Women’s and mens gender identitydetermines how they are perceived and howthey are expected to think and act as men andwomen. Gender is one of the variables (alongwith ethnicity, age and class) used in thedistribution of privilege, prestige, power and arange of social and economic resources.Sexual division of labourIn all communities, tasks and responsibilitiesare typically undertaken by either women ormen. This allocation of activities on the basis ofsex is known as the sexual division of labour,and is learned and clearly understood by allmembers of that community.Whyaresomejobsconsidered‘feminine’andothers‘masculine’?
42 Improving Livelihoods in the Uplands of the Lao PDRProductive workThis is work that produces items forconsumption by the household and goods andservices for exchange in the market place. Bothmen and women contribute to family incomewith various forms of productive work, althoughmen usually dominate in productive work.Reproductive workThis work involves all the tasks associated withsupporting the immediate and extendedfamily, young and old. It includes childcare, foodpreparation, care for the sick or old,socialisation of the young, and so on. Reproduc-tive work is the basis of productive work.Women of all ages are mainly responsible forthis work, which is usually unpaid.Practical gender needs andinterestsWomen and men have different roles andresponsibilities and therefore have differentneeds and interests.Access and control overresourcesWhen examining how resources are allocatedbetween women and men, it is important todistinguish between accessto resources (e.g.land, labour,credit, income)and control overthem. Access givesa person the use ofa resource, e.g. landto grow crops.Control allows aperson to makedecisions about whouses the resource orto dispose of theresource, for instance byselling the land.Community workThis work involves activities for the village -usually voluntary unpaid work, such asorganising festivals or ceremonies, receivingvisitors, or maintaining a village resource, suchas a well.
Important Gender and Development Concepts 43In most cases, the empowerment of womenrequires change in the division of labour andtransformation of society.Gender equityGender equity is concerned with promotingpersonal, social, cultural, political andeconomic equality for all. Traditions anddiscriminatory practices have resulted in thesystematic devaluation of attitudes, activitiesand abilities attributed to, and associated with,girls and women. The consequences of thesediscriminatory practices negatively affect menPractical gender needs and interests relate toliving conditions. Women may identify safewater, food security, health care and cashincome as immediate needs which they mustmeet. Meeting these practical needs is essen-tial to improving living conditions, but does notin itself change the position women have inthe village.Strategic gender needs andinterestsStrategic gender interests relate to issues ofpower and control and the division of labour.They may include:Changes in the division of labour (womento take on work not traditionally seen aswomens work, men take moreresponsibility for child care and domesticwork).Legal rights.An end to domestic violence.Equal wages.Womens control over their own bodies(family planning).They are not as easily identified as the practicalneeds and interests, therefore specific supportand opportunities to do so may have to beprovided and facilitated from outside.EmpowermentEmpowerment is about women or mendeveloping their ability to:Collectively and individually takecontrol over their own lives.Identify their needs and agendas.Demand support from their com-munities and the state to see thattheir interests are responded to.
44 Improving Livelihoods in the Uplands of the Lao PDRas well as women. Initially however, genderequity initiatives will place greater emphasison improving conditions and attitudes as theyaffect girls and women. In the long-term, theseinitiatives will also improve the situation forboys and men.For more information regarding tools forcarrying out Social and Gender Analysis pleaserefer to "Field Guide Gender and Develop-ment", Lao-Swedish Forestry Programme, June2001. NAFRI/Ministry of Agriculture andForestry. Vientiane.Extracted from:Lao-Swedish Forestry Programme. 2001. FieldGuide Gender and Development. Ministry ofAgriculture and Forestry. Vientiane.ImprovingLivelihoodsintheUplandsoftheLao PDR was produced in 2005 by NAFRI,NAFES and NUOL.