#Article (Archive)

Misconception of Gender

May 22, 2009, 7:24 AM

The word Gender confuses many people, as some have the misconception that when we say Gender it refers to only women or girls, which is not the issue. For the benefit of the readers or those who are ignorant about it, we brought you a summary from a presentation made by one of the Gambia's Gender activists and a journalist, Amie Sillah, on Gender, at a particular session in a three-week capacity building workshop for media practitioners held at Gambia Press Union.    


Gender has been defined as the roles that we, as society assign to men, women, boys and girls in line with our biological make up or sex. The assignment of roles however, differs from society to society. In The Gambia, men paid the dowry for women but in India, in the Hindu Religion and Custom, it is women who paid men's dowry. Arson on young brides have been noted as violence against women by Indian Feminists, Gender Activists and Human Rights Defenders. Brides whose families fail to pay dowry into the husband's family are murdered secretly to give chance to other women. Polygamy is accepted by our culture and tradition. Infact, Christianity does not recognize Polygamy but Islam accepts it with conditionality.

Gender roles are defined by Culture and Tradition. It differs from place to place. Culture is not static, but dynamic. There was a time when there was a Europe, obscurantist, metaphysics, backward in thinking and development just s the stage The Gambia and Africa are today. The industrial Revolution, the development of Science and Technology,. the looting of the wealth of the Colonies which continued after Independence up till now with the complicity of our present leaders, underdeveloped and ruined Africa. Our era through our experiences in Social Justice, the struggle has come to realise that society cannot develop if half of its citizens are held in bondage. Women held half of the sky. A bird is two winged. Can it fly one wing? The answer is in the negative. That's the reason why Gender is a cross cutting issue. And Gender Mainstreaming is the strategy, which will lead us to achieve:

Gender Equality and all other Development goals.



Women make up half of the World's population; men made up the other half. If you are someone who thinks the world is made up entirely of men or that only men 'count', your policies will be 'gender blind'.

If you know that the world is made of both men and women, but think that they are identical in most ways, your policies are likely to be 'gender neutral'. You will not distinguish between them in any way. This can result in gender bias, however unintentional.

If you know that men and women are not the same that they have different practical gender needs and constraints, your policies are likely to be gender-aware.

If you know that men and women are not the same that they are not only different but may also be unequal and may have different longer-term interests; your policies may reinforce these inequalities or seek to transform them.

What is the source of difference and inequality between men and women?

The biological attributes, which differentiate Like male and female species, the primary and secondary differences in their reproductive systems, are referred to as sexual: difference.

The full ensemble of rules, norms, customs and practices by which these basic biological attributes of the male and female species become the unequally valued social

attributes of men and women in a given society are the source of gender difference.

Sexual difference is biological, Gender inequality is socia1. The salient points are: Rules, norms, values and be1iefs

To achieve gender equality, the government of The Gambia has to incorporate gender equality concerns into the planning and monitoring of major public services,

Why the State? The State is the only institution which has the capacity, however imperfect, to sidestep or bull doze disempowering relations of market and custom. As citizens, it is the State that disadvantaged groups must look for justice.

As Media Personnel, one of our roles should be to checkmate the State to ensure its promotes Social Justice, Gender Equality and Gender Justice.




The move from gender-blind to gender aware development interventions requires policy-makers, planners and analysts to constantly check their assumptions and practices against reality on the ground in order to avoid the consequences of their own pre-conceptions and prejudices of planning on the basis of some outdated realities.

(To be continued)