Gender refers to the social attributes and opportunities associated with being male and female and the relationships between women and men and girls and boys. Being both context and time-specific, these attributes, opportunities, and relationships are socially constructed. Gender determines what is expected, allowed, and valued in a women or a man in a given context. In most societies, there are differences and inequalities between women and men in responsibilities assigned, activities undertaken, access to and control over resources, as well as decision-making opportunities.

What does ‘’gender’’ mean?

Equality between women and men (gender equality): refers to equal rights, responsibilities, and opportunities of women and men and girls and boys. Equality does not mean that women and men will become the same but that women’s and men’s rights, responsibilities, and opportunities will not depend on whether they are born male or female. Gender equality implies that the interests, needs, and priorities of both women and men are taken into consideration, recognizing the diversity of different groups of women and men. Gender equality is not a women’s issue but should concern and fully engage men as well as women. Equality between women and men is both a human right and a precondition for, and indicator of, sustainable people-centered development.

What is gender equality?

According to UN Women[1], gender equality means that women and men have equal conditions for realising their full human rights and for contributing to, and benefiting from, economic, social, cultural, and political development. Gender equality is, therefore, the equal valuing by society of the similarities and the differences of men and women and the roles they play. It is based on women and men being full partners in their home, community and society. Gender equality starts with equal valuing of both girls and boys.

The World Bank[2] defines gender equality in terms of equality under the law, equality of opportunity (which includes equality of rewards for work and equality in access to human capital and other productive resources that enable opportunity), and equality of voice (which is the ability to influence and contribute to the development process). It stops short of defining gender equality as equality of outcomes for two reasons. First, different cultures and societies can follow different paths in their pursuit of gender equality. Second, equality implies that women and men are free to choose different (or similar) roles and outcomes in accordance with their preferences and goals.

A common feature of all contemporary security governance programming is the incorporation of a gender perspective into the policy and practice of security providers, ensuring that both are fundamentally shaped to accommodate the security needs of all citizens.

International and Regional conventions

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)[3] contains several legal obligations related to SSR, including:

  • the adoption of legislative and other measures prohibiting discrimination against women;
  • women’s participation in the formulation of government policy on equal terms with men;
  • the elimination of discrimination against women in employment;
  • measures to ensure the full development and advancement of women for the purpose of guaranteeing them equal enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995)[4] identifies specific actions to be taken by governments, international and national organizations, and other relevant stakeholders to combat gender-based violence and achieve gender equality in all spheres of society, including the security sector.

Regional instruments with provisions protecting gender equality include:


UN Security Council Resolution (SCRs) 1325.

In the context of UN-mandated SSR processes, the UN Security Council Resolutions (SCRs) on women, peace, and security define minimum standards related to gender equality that are legally binding. UN SCR 1325[9], adopted in 2000, is the most influential resolution as many member states subsequently adopted national action plans detailing how it should be implemented.

In June 2013, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2106 on preventing sexual violence in conflict (SVC), thereby enhancing the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. The Resolution was co-sponsored by all G7 partner countries. It re-affirms that pervasive SVC situations can exacerbate and prolong armed conflict and impede the restoration of international peace and security.

Moreover, during the 7533rd Meeting of the Security Council held in October 2015  Resolution 2242 (2015) was unanimously adopted in order to improve the Implementation of Landmark Text on Women, Peace, Security Agenda. The Council decided to integrate women, peace, and security concerns across all country-specific situations on its agenda.

Mainstreaming gender within the security sector ensures security providers interact inclusively and comprehensively with civilians, guaranteeing the increased effectiveness of service delivery to recipients. Each security provider has specific gender issues to address, sometimes requiring specific training and capacity development activities.

Building Integrity and Gender

The gender dimension of Building Integrity has been directly addressed by NATO[10]. The BI Programme has integrated a gender perspective into its methodology and development of practical tools and a gender balance is always taken into account when deploying BI mobile teams and experts. Conferences and seminars are used as opportunities to raise awareness, and increase participation, on the importance of the gender perspective within the BI programme.[11]



DCAF-ODIHR-UN-INSTRAW (2008) Security Sector Reform and Gender Toolkit

DCAF (2016) Teaching Gender in the Military: A Handbook 

DCAF (2015) Gender and Complaints Mechanisms: A Handbook for Armed Forces and Ombuds Institutions 

DCAF (2011) Gender Self-Assessment Guide for the Police, Armed Forces and Justice Sector 

DCAF (2014) Integrating Gender into Internal Police Oversight 

NATO (2014), The NATO Building Integrity Programme and Gender.

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