Gender Education

gender education

Gender education is a contemporary issue that students must learn in order to understand themselves and their social environments better. We start by first defining the meaning of gender, which must be differentiated from sex.

Gender is defined as the social, cultural and psychological characteristics that identify a person as a male or female within a given society. The terms “social”, “cultural” and “society” are important in this definition to differentiate the term from the concept of sex.

Sex refers to the biological characteristics that identify a person as a man or woman, girl or boy. Sex is concerned with the physical and physiological features such as genes and chromosomes which influence the physical appearance of a person. The words “biological”, “physical” and “physiological” are important in this definition to distinguish the concept of sex from gender.

The main difference between sex and gender is that gender refers to socially constructed roles and cultural behaviors that identifies male and female people in a given society while sex refers to physiological and biological attributes of a person.

Therefore, gender education refers to the process of learning or the study of social and cultural characteristics that identify individuals as males or females in a given society.

Agents that Perpetuate Gender Discrimination

Gender discrimination occurs when people are barred from participating in certain activities or enjoying certain benefits in society due to their gender. For example, women may be discriminated in the workplace and prevented from occupying positions of leadership due to their female gender. Such forms of discrimination are perpetuated by various factors such as:

  • Culture: different cultures assign roles to specific gender. For example, in African culture women are assigned home activities and household chores such as child bearing, and this prevents them from performing political and economic activities in society.
  • Stereotyping: this refers to society’s beliefs and attitudes based on traditions rather than realities. They cause discrimination against people based on their gender and other cultural factors.
  • Poverty: Because women are traditionally discriminated in political and social positions, they lack the resources to improve, and become poorer. Poverty increases gender discrimination.
  • Illiteracy: lack of education also prevents women from achieving top leadership positions and performing economic activities.

Gender Stereotyping

Gender stereotyping occurs when men and women are assigned certain characteristics in society based on cultural beliefs, norms and attitudes of that society. Examples of gender stereotypes include:

Female Stereotype Male Stereotype
Gentle Rough
Caring Individualistic
Physically weak Physically strong
Less intellectual More intellectual
Submissive Assertive
Cannot lead Are leaders
Household subordinates Household leaders
Gossip Discuss Issues
Cannot make decisions Decision makers


Feminine versus Masculine stereotypes

Masculine people… Feminine people…
Are in control Are emotionally sensitive
Are unemotional Are vulnerable
Are dominant Submit to men
Are sexually active Are dependent
Can have many partners Should be faithful to their husbands
Be the breadwinner Meet the needs of others before theirs
Take careers in mathematics & sciences Don’t pursue science and mathematics


Effects of Gender on an Individual Life

The social construction of gender and gender roles can have significant impact on a person’s psychological and emotional wellbeing. Some of the key effects of gender on a person’s life include:

  • Poor self-concept
  • Discrimination
  • Indecisiveness
  • Illiteracy
  • Low self-esteem

Effects of Stereotypes on Relationships

  • Stereotypes may lead to violence, for example men can beat their wives when they fail to be submissive or disagree with their decisions.
  • Disagreement when the women is earning and the man is not earning because stereotypically men are expected to earn more than women. This can cause breakages in marriage.
  • Rape: Women may be viewed as sex objects and when they are not ready for sexual intercourse they may be raped by men who use force to meet their sexual desires.
  • Stereotypes on the roles of women can lead to discrimination in the workplace.
  • Gender stereotypes can also cause harassment – both physical and sexual – especially on women.

Strategies to Eliminate Gender Discrimination

In every liberal and progressive society, eradication of gender discrimination is always a priority. Here are a few strategies that can be used to eliminate gender discrimination despite significant challenges:

  • Individuals in society should be treated equally regardless of their gender in order to enhance a gender friendly environment.
  • Creating gender-friendly work environment and careers
  • Learners should be encouraged to concentrate in all subject areas regardless of their gender to dispel the stereotype that women are not good in sciences.
  • All learners should engage in different leisure and sports activities without discrimination.
  • Assigning equal duties, roles and responsibilities to both boys and girls
  • Providing guiding and counselling to young people on sexual behaviors, drug and alcohol abuse, and responsible adulthood.
  • Using data to study trends of dropouts and repetition in school based on gender in order to identify and address gender bias.
  • Encouraging parents and members of the community to develop positive attitudes towards equal education of both boys and girls
  • Encouraging girls to go to school even after becoming pregnant to continue with education

Values Associated with Gender Discrimination

  • Tolerance
  • Simplicity
  • Respect
  • Love
  • Unity
  • Humility
  • Honesty

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