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Policy on Gender Equality

Global Affairs Canada is pleased that the evaluation of the implementation of its policy on gender equality validated the Agency's good work and strong leadership to date. The report recognized the continuing relevance of Global Affairs Canada's Policy on Gender Equality both within Global Affairs Canada and in the development cooperation community.

Global Affairs Canada remains committed to creating, with our partners, a better world for all-a world where inequality on any grounds, be it gender, class, race or ethnicity, is finally overcome.

Goal and objectives


The goal of Global Affairs Canada's gender equality policy is to support the achievement of equality between women and men to ensure sustainable development.


The policy aims to:

Gender equity and gender equality

Gender equity means being fair to women and men. To ensure fairness, measures are often needed to compensate for historical and social disadvantages that prevent women and men from otherwise operating as equals. Equity leads to equality.

Gender equality means that women and men enjoy the same status and have equal opportunity to realize their full human rights and potential to contribute to national, political, economic, social and cultural development, and to benefit from the results.

Originally it was believed that equality could be achieved simply by giving women and men the same opportunities. Same treatment, however, was found not necessarily to yield equal results. Today, the concept of equality acknowledges that women and men may sometimes require different treatment to achieve similar results, due to different life conditions or to compensate for past discrimination.

Gender equality, therefore, is the equal valuing by society of both the similarities and the differences between women and men, and the varying roles they play.

(Excerpt from: An Integrated Approach to Gender-Based Analysis, Status of Women Canada, 2004.)


Global Affairs Canada's Policy on Gender Equality is rooted in the following principles:

  1. Gender equality must be considered as an integral part of all Global Affairs Canada policies, programs and projects. Addressing gender equality requires that women's views, interests and needs shape the development agenda as much as men's, and that the development agenda supports progress toward more equal relations between women and men.
  2. Achieving gender equality requires the recognition that every policy, program and project affects women and men differently. Women and men have different perspectives, needs, interests, roles and resources-and those differences may also be reinforced by class, race, caste, ethnicity or age. Policies, programs and projects must address the differences in experiences and situations between and among women and men.
  3. Achieving gender equality does not mean that women become the same as men. Equality means that one's rights or opportunities do not depend on being male or female.


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 self-reliance. It is not only a collective, social and political process, but an individual one as well — and it is not only a process but an outcome too.

Outsiders cannot empower women: only women can empower themselves to make choices or to speak out on their own behalf. However, institutions, including international cooperation agencies, can support processes that increase women's self-confidence, develop their self-reliance, and help them set their own agendas.

  1. Women's empowerment is central to achieving gender equality. Through empowerment, women become aware of unequal power relations, gain control over their lives, and acquire a greater voice to overcome inequality in their home, workplace and community.
  2. Promoting the equal participation of women as agents of exchange in economic, social and political processes is essential to achieving gender equality. Equal participation goes beyond numbers. It involves women's equal right to articulate their needs and interests, as well as their vision of society, and to shape the decisions that affect their lives, whatever cultural context they live in. Partnership with women's organizations and other groups working for gender equality is necessary to assist this process.
  3. Gender equality can only be achieved through partnership between women and men. When choices for both women and men are enlarged, all society benefits. Gender equality is an issue that concerns both women and men, and achieving it will involve working with men to bring about changes in attitudes, behaviour, roles and responsibilities at home, in the workplace, in the community, and in national, donor and international institutions.
  4. Achieving gender equality will require specific measures designed to eliminate gender inequalities. Given ingrained disparities, equal treatment of women and men is insufficient as a strategy for gender equality. Specific measures must be developed to address the policies, laws, procedures, norms, beliefs, practices and attitudes that maintain gender inequality. These gender equity measures, developed with stakeholders, should support women's capacity to make choices about their own lives.
  5. Global Affairs Canada policies, programs, and projects should contribute to gender equality. Gender equality results should be incorporated into all of Global Affairs Canada's international cooperation initiatives although application will vary among branches, programs and projects.

Gender analysis as a tool

Gender analysis is an indispensable tool for both understanding the local context and promoting gender equality.

Global Affairs Canada defines knowledge of the local context as: "the recognition that development interventions operate within existing social, cultural, economic, environmental, institutional and political structures in any community, country or region. Further, few communities, countries or regions are homogeneous-formal and informal power structures within each reflect social, economic and political relationships among the people concerned as well as with the outside world. Simply put, knowledge of the local context is vital to understanding these relationships and their connection to the project in terms of needs, impact and results." (Effective Programming: Technical Notes, Policy Branch, Global Affairs Canada, 1997)

Gender analysis examines one of these relationships, that between women and men. It identifies the varied roles played by women and men, girls and boys in the household, community, workplace, political processes, and economy. These different roles usually result in women having less access than men to resources and decision-making processes, and less control over them.

Gender, gender roles and the gender division of labour

Gender refers to the socially constructed roles and responsibilities of women and men. The concept of gender also includes the expectations held about the characteristics, aptitudes and likely behaviours of both women and men (femininity and masculinity). These roles and expectations are learned, changeable over time, and variable within and between cultures. Gender analysis has increasingly revealed how women's subordination is socially constructed, and therefore able to change, as opposed to being biologically predetermined and therefore static.

Gender analysis is an essential tool for understanding the local context. It is particularly useful in project design as it helps planners identify constraints and structure projects so that objectives can be met and measured. The use of gender analysis, throughout the project cycle, provides information on:

Practical needs and strategic interests

Practical needs can be defined as immediate necessities (water, shelter, food, income and health care) within a specific context. Projects that address practical needs generally include responses to inadequate living conditions. Strategic interests, on the other hand, refer to the relative status of women and men within society.

These interests vary in each context and are related to roles and expectations, as well as to gender divisions of labour, resources and power. Strategic interests may include gaining legal rights, closing wage gaps, protection from domestic violence, increased decision making, and women's control over their bodies.

To ensure sustainable benefits, both practical needs and strategic interests must be taken into account in the design of policies, programs and projects.

Gender analysis provides information to determine the most effective strategies in a particular context and to identify results that support gender equality. For example, programs or projects may be identified whose principal objective will be to support gender equality, or entry points for the support of gender equality may be identified within programs or projects where gender equality is one of a number of objectives.

Gender analysis is required for all Global Affairs Canada policies, programs and projects. Application of gender analysis will vary according to the nature and scope of initiatives.

Elements of gender analysis

For gender analysis to be effective, resources and commitment to implement the results of the analysis are necessary. Consider three important points:

(Source: Global Affairs Canada Website, "Gender Analysis")

Good practices to promote gender equality

Two decades of experience within Global Affairs Canada have taught us several lessons that are relevant to supporting gender equality throughout Global Affairs Canada programming initiatives. Gender equality is more apt to be achieved if the following conditions exist:

At the corporate level

In the planning process

During implementation

Performance measurement

Gender analysis guidelines

Gender analysis: What to ask

Gender analysis: What to do

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