The British Council: Social development and gender

Gender equality policy


Working in gender is now widely recognised to be more useful than an exclusive focus on 'women'. Gender emphasises social differences between the roles of men and women 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' reduces the risk of marginalising women's issues and highlights the fact that responsibility for bringing about change lies with both men and women.

The gender policy statement passed by the British Council Board in March 1996 makes a commitment to integrate gender equality into all its activities wherever they are taking place.

The British Council works to promote the status of women and their participation in the political, social and economic life of their societies, through providing access to information, education and training. It is our aim to incorporate the principles of gender equality into all our grant-funded, educational enterprises and development work, while ensuring that the Council's own personnel, training and monitoring policies maintain the same commitment.

UK Capability in the sector

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 the UK for training. UK gender specialists are in demand as consultants.

There is 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 is also of interest to countries beginning to deal with such issues.

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

Sponsors' objectives

Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)

The FCO does not have a specific gender policy, but the sector is relevant to its cross-cutting objective: to assist pluralism and sustainable economic and social development. Successful work in the sector also supports another FCO objective: to promote the influence and prestige of the UK.

Department for International Development (DFID)

The DFID's mission statement is: 'to improve the quality of life in poorer countries by contributing to sustainable development and reducing poverty and suffering'

To fulfil this purpose, the DFID has four aims, the second of which is: 'to help poor people achieve better education and health, and to widen opportunities, particularly for women'

The DFID's Social Development Division is responsible for ensuring that all new project proposals are gender-integrated and that the DFID undertakes gender-sensitive design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of all projects.

DFID's priorities following the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 are gender, governance and human rights; gender and law; economic empowerment of women; women's political participation; non-governmental organisation (NGO) capacity building; and institutional development to implement action plans agreed at the Fourth World Conference.

British Council objectives in Gender equality

The Council's work in gender equality covers:

In low-income countries the Council uses its knowledge of the UK to identify relevant areas of experience eg. domestic violence and policing. In more developed countries, there is interest in the status of women in the UK and links to exchange experience.

British Council resources in Gender equality


The British Council furthers gender equality by:

Means of delivery

Please send questions and comments on this policy paper to:

Consultant (Gender)
The British Council
Manchester M15 4AA







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