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Thursday, 02 July 2015 12:00


By: ShraddhaSaxena
Gender equality has been explicitly recognized as key not only to the health of nations, but also to social and economic development.

The pairing of the concept of gender equality into one MDG implicitly recognizes that gender equality and empowerment are two sides of the same coin: progress toward gender equality requires empowerment and empowerment requires increases in gender equality.

Since gender inequality and women‘s disempowerment occur in all the different domains in which women and men interact and function, both concepts are multi-dimensional; consequently, they give rise to a large number of potential indicators. Indicators of gender equality/inequality are typically designed to compare the status of women and men on particular characteristics of interest; whereas, by definition, indicators of empowerment/ disempowerment tend not to be relative. Instead, indicators of empowerment are designed to measure roles, attitudes, and rights of women and sometimes men.

In order to measure gender equality and women‘s empowerment, the concepts need to be clearly defined and their hypothesized associations with each other and health outcomes discussed. In common parlance, the terms gender and sex are often used interchangeably; however, they are distinct concepts. Whereas, sex of individuals is largely determined by biology, their gender is socially constructed and comprises the roles, rights, and obligations that attach to them on the basis of their sex.

Gender tends not be value neutral. The roles, rights, and obligations assigned to each
Sex is not just different, but also unequal with male roles and rights generally being
Valued more highly than female roles and rights.

Gender involves differences in power, both power to and power over. The concept of
Power to encompass legal and informal rights, access to resources, and pursuit of
Knowledge and personal goals, and cuts across most domains of human functioning,
Including familial, cultural, and institutional domains.Power over refers to control over
Societal and household resources and decisions, cultural and religious ideology, and
One’s own and others' bodies. Importantly, men tend to have greater power than women, and, in some domains, even have power over women.

Gender is not static or immutable. Being socially constructed, gender roles, rights, and expectations can change over time and across geographical space as societal needs,
Opportunities and customs change.
Inequalities based on gender, as also the disempowerment of females, are pervasive in most societies, particularly patriarchal ones such as in India. Gender-based differences in power and resource-access have consequences for the quality of life of thepopulation, including its health as shown in the figure below.
As the figure shows, gender affects health outcomes through male and female differences in roles, access, and power, and sex differentially affects the health of women and men because of biologically determined physiological and genetic differences that manifest in differences in needs and vulnerabilities. While the type of health care needed can vary by sex, whether, for example, the type of care needed can beaccessed is affected by gender, empowerment, and sex.

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