Note from the Gender Equity Unit:
Our work is deeply motivated by a commitment to women and girls, in light of longstanding systemic discrimination and barriers which continue to affect their full participation and access to opportunity. We also combat discrimination and harmful gender norms that affect people of all genders: women and girls – including transgender women and girls, gender nonbinary and gender nonconforming people, as well as men and boys.

African mother and daughter kissing

The following concepts and definitions were agreed upon by Vital Strategies and the Data for Health Gender Equity Working Group in 2021.

  • Gender – A social and cultural construct, which distinguishes differences in the attributes of men and women, girls and boys, and accordingly refers to the roles and responsibilities of men and women. Gender-based roles and other attributes, therefore, change over time and vary with different cultural contexts. The concept of gender includes the expectations held about the characteristics, attitudes and likely behaviors of both women and men (femininity and masculinity). This concept is useful in analyzing how commonly shared practices legitimize discrepancies between sexes.
  • Gender identity – One’s innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One’s gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth.
  • Transgender – A term used by some people whose gender identity differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. Transwomen identify as women but were classified as males when they were born, transmen identify as men but were classified female when they were born, while other trans people don’t identify with the gender binary at all. Some transgender people seek surgery or take hormones to bring their body into alignment with their gender identity; others do not. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation. Therefore, transgender people may identify as heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc.
  • Sex – Refers to the biological and physiological reality of being males or females or intersex.
  • Gender equality – The concept that women and men, girls and boys have equal conditions, treatment and opportunities for realizing their full potential, human rights and dignity, 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 the home, community and society. 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 equity – The process of being fair to men and women, boys and girls, and importantly the equality of outcomes and results. Gender equity may involve the use of temporary special measures to compensate for historical or systemic bias or discrimination. It refers to differential treatment that is fair and positively addresses a bias or disadvantage that is due to gender roles or norms or differences between the sexes. Equity ensures that women and men and girls and boys have an equal chance, not only at the starting point, but also when reaching the finish line. It is about the fair and just treatment of both sexes that takes into account the different needs of the men and women, cultural barriers and (past) discrimination of the specific group.
  • Gender equity in health – Fairness in addressing the different health needs of people according to their gender. Inequitable health outcomes based on gender are both avoidable and unacceptable. A concept of fairness recognizes that there are differences between the sexes and that resources must be allocated differently to address unfair disparities.