Gender Awareness-raising

Challenging gender norms by explaining how they influence and limit the opinions. Showing how existing values and norms influence our picture of reality

According to the Council of Europe, awareness-raising aims at showing how existing values and norms influence our picture of reality, perpetuate stereotypes and support mechanisms (re)producing inequality. It challenges values and gender norms by explaining how they influence and limit the opinions taken into consideration and decision-making. Besides that, awareness-raising aims at stimulating a general sensitivity to gender issues.

Make sure that your communications and publications are gender-sensitive. Language has a powerful influence on the way we think. Disregarding one of the sexes in speeches or referring to a group of people using allegedly universal expressions (e.g. ‘workers’, ‘patients’, ‘the poor’, ‘victims of crime’) might have serious consequences on how the needs of women or men are addressed.

The use of a universal masculine is institutionalised in our language and is unconsciously biasing our thoughts. The need to use non-sexist language has been recognised in 1987 at the occasion of the 24th session of the UN General Conference. A Resolution resulted from this session inviting the Director-General “to adopt a policy related to the drafting of the Organization’s working documents aimed at avoiding, to the extent possible, the use of language which refers explicitly or implicitly to only one sex except where positive measures are being considered”. In the same year, UNESCO has issued guidelines on gender-neutral language, which were later (in 1999) edited. Some indications on gender-neutral language from the Publications Office of the European Union can be found in the EU Inter-institutional Style Guide.

Strive to choose non-sexist words and expressions in all documents for internal and external use in order to avoid biased, discriminatory or demeaning interpretations. Gender proofreading can also be considered. Ensure that sex/gender differences and inequalities are made visible and appear clearly in publications of the policy sector.

In addition to ensuring the use of a gender-neutral language, the choice of images must also be considered critically. Many images portray gender stereotypes that diminish the role of and/or that exert violence against one of the sexes. Try to choose images that portray a balanced representation of both sexes, do not convey stereotypical portrayals (e.g. men as bus drivers), and do not discriminate or demean a person (e.g. a woman of different ethnic origin as domestic worker).

Check out UNESCO’s priority gender equality checklist for publications (p. 7) to assist you in taking gender into account in your publications.

When organising events, like conferences, think carefully about the speakers’ list: who are invited as speakers? Is there a good balance between male and female speakers? Are female experts given sufficient attention? How is the speaking time distributed?