Using a Gender Framework

It is helpful to acknowledge the role of gender in all aspects of refugee rights advocacy. Whether you’re interested in implementing a gender framework to your legal aid program or analyzing policies ensure you understand the needs of women and girls within the refugee community and determine the impact of advocacy and policy on men, women, boys, girls, and those who fall outside traditional gender roles — adults or children — separately. A a gender framework can assist you in making progress toward gender equity. 

gender framework requires that you examine the needs, experiences, and interests of men, women, boys, girls, and adults or children who fall outside traditional gender roles individually. This toolkit will offer you guidance on effectively using a gender framework to not only help realize refugee rights, but to have gender equity in the realization of those rights.

Consider reviewing each Advocate Section individually to learn more about how a gender framework can influence the development and implementation of your programs:

Gender Framework in Legal Aid

Gender Framework in Community Legal Empowerment

Gender Framework in Policy Advocacy

Gender Framework in Strategy Litigation

Gender Framework

Using a gender framework requires that you gain a basic understanding of the differences between sex, gender, gender equity, gender equality, and a few other key terms.

Sex – Refers to a specific combination of gonads, chromosomes, secondary sex characteristics, hormonal balances, and external gender organs. Terms include intersex, male, and female.

Gender Ascribing qualities of masculinity and femininity to people based upon a socially constructed system. Characteristics can change over time and between cultures.

Gender Identity One’s own internal sense of gender. This can be the same or different from one’s gender assigned at birth. Gender identities include woman, man, transman, agender, etc. Due to the internal nature of gender identity, it is not always visible to others.

Gender Expression How people express their gender identity. This can be through clothing, behavior, posture, mannerisms, activities, speech patterns and more.

Gender Non-conforming Someone who does not conform to societal expectations of gender.

Non-binary – Someone whose gender identity does not fit within the binary of man/woman. Non-binary persons may feel their gender identity falls between a man and a woman, is both fully man and fully woman, is separate from with man and woman, changes between the two, is similar to both but not quite either, does not exist at all or is entirely neutral.

Cisgender – Someone whose gender identity conforms to their assigned biological sex. This is in opposition to someone whose gender identity does not conform to their assigned biological sex or someone who is transgender.

Transgender – When someone’s gender identity differs from the social expectations for the physical sex they were born with.

Sexual Orientation – An individual’s pattern of attraction to persons of the same sex or gender, opposite sex or gender, or any variety of sex and gender on the spectrum. Examples: heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, pansexual.

LGBTQ+ – Stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer/Questioning, and others. The term refers to persons whose gender identities and seuxal orientations differ from the heterosexual and cisgender majority.


Gender equity – The process of being fair to people regardless of their gender. This process often includes measures to compensate for historical and social disadvantages that prevent women and men from otherwise operating on a level playing field.

Gender equality – The equal valuing of women and men, of their similarities and differences, and of the varying roles they play in society. This means that women and men have equal conditions for realizing their full human rights and potential to contribute to national, political, economic, social, and cultural development, as well as to benefit from the results. In practice this has looked like treating men and women the same, but this practice has yet to work because of the systematic devaluing of women. Until systems value women and men equally, providing equal opportunities will not work on its own.

SGBV – Sexual and gender based violence includes sexual violence and a variety of abuses women and girls are exposed to as a result of discrimination against them in male-dominated cultures around the world.

Domestic Violence – One partner’s use of a pattern of abusive behavior to gain or maintain power or control over another in any relationship. This abuse can be or include physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. Behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone are included in the above list.

Intersectionality – A concept to describe the ways marginalizing forces (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, classism, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another. Legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw (1989) coined the concept and it is now used in critical theory.