The British Council, Social development and gender

Social development and gender:

Frequently asked questions

  • Why talk about 'gender' when you really mean 'women'?

    The concept of gender is now widely considered to be more useful than an exclusive focus on 'women'. The term 'Gender' emphasises social differences between men and women's roles which are specific to a particular context. Gender roles can and do change over time. In most contexts, women have fewer resources and privileges than men and therefore have different needs. Thinking about 'gender' lessens the risk of marginalising women's issues and highlights the fact that responsibility for bringing about change lies with both men and women, not just women alone.

  • Isn't this concern with gender equality irrelevant or insensitive in many countries the British Council works in?

    Almost every country in the world was represented at the 1995 Fourth UN World Conference for Women in Beijing and signed up to the resulting Platform for Action committing governments to work to improve the status of women. Gender inequality is a global issue and typically, the Council overseas works with both government and non-governmental organisations to address it. Our gender equality programmes overseas respond to the priorities set by our partners in that country and are firmly driven by them.

  • What are The British Council's priorities in gender equality after the Beijing Conference?

    In the lead up to the Beijing Conference in 1995, a key British Council global priority was training in advocacy skills to enable overseas organisations to put their points across more effectively, before, during and after the Conference. Following the Conference, the immediate priority was to disseminate the results of the Conference via workshops and publications.

    Typically, the British Council's programme in a particular country will reflect priorities identified with local governmental and non-governmental partners. This will cover a range of fields including education, health, law, politics, equal opportunities, gender planning, economic issues and income generation. In the last five years, the Council's work in gender equality has focused on gender and the law (including violence, human rights and policing) and women's political empowerment, again in response to overseas demand. In all countries, activities funded by the Council in gender equality tend to be in the areas of training, networking and information provision.

  • What does the UK have to offer in gender equality?

    The British Council works with a range of key UK Partners in gender equality including:

    The British resource in gender and development training and research is one of the best and most comprehensive in the world. The gender training model developed by the University of London is used by many major aid agencies and has spread throughout the developing world. Aid donors from Scandinavia and Japan have sent their staff to UK for training. UK gender specialists are in demand as consultants.

    There is also much international interest in the work of UK official and voluntary organisations working with women. The Equal Opportunities Commission is studied as an official mechanism for promoting gender equality, particularly in employment. The voluntary sector experience on issues of violence against women, for example, refuges, crisis helplines and advocacy organisations is also of interest to countries beginning to deal with such issues, as are recent changes in police handling of complaints.

    UK departments of women's studies, have a strong international reputation for teaching, research and publications.

  • What does the British Council not fund in gender equality?

    The British Council does not generally fund the work of organisations based in the UK. We are unlikely to be able to fund individual research programmes or production of books. Few British Council offices overseas have British Council funds to support study in Britain. Many offices overseas do, however, manage scholarship funds on behalf of other British government bodies. For an answer on what can be funded in gender equality, contact the British Council office in the country concerned.

    British Council-funded projects overseas in gender equality are likely to be small-scale. We are not a major funding agency and do not ourselves fund large-scale micro-credit, health or education projects. In a range of countries, however, we do manage such projects on behalf of bilateral and multilateral donors.

  • Who do I contact in the British Council about working with the Council in gender equality?

    If you are seeking funding for activity in a particular overseas country, contact the Director of the British Council that Country. If the country you wish to work in is not on the list of British Council overseas offices, this probably means the Council has no programme there and will be unable to fund activity. You can, however, double-check this by contacting the Social development and gender team at the British Council headquarters in Manchester.

    If you are living in the UK and interested in short term consultancy work with the British Council overseas, please send a curriculum vitae including your key areas of expertise to Social development and gender team.

    Please note that we are especially looking for consultants with overseas experience, training and facilitation skills and fluency in overseas languages.

    If you are living outside the UK and interested in short term consultancy work with the British Council overseas, please send a curriculum vitae to the gender contact in your nearest British Council office.

    Please note that the British Council is very unlikely to have full-time vacancies for gender specialists either in UK or overseas.


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    The British Council, registered in England as a charity no. 209131, is the United Kingdom's
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