GH5050 summary findings on defining gender

For most global health organisations, the meaning of gender remains ill-defined or undefined.


WHO defines gender as the ‘socially constructed characteristics of women and men—such as norms, roles and relationships of and between groups of women and men’. In utilising a gender approach the focus is not on individual women and men but on the social, cultural and political systems that determine gender roles and responsibilities, access and decision-making power.

Without a clear definition of gender, global health organisations lack an internal, corporate understanding of gender and its impact on health—a prerequisite for effective and equitable programming. Yet fewer than one third of organisations define gender in a way that is consistent with global norms.

So what do we do about it?

GH5050 recommendations

  • Organisations should adopt a definition of gender and gender equality that is consistent with global norms.
  • Organisations should put in place policies and processes to ensure a common organisational understanding and ownership of the definition of gender, and the practices required to achieve gender equality.