Gender mainstreaming is a comprehensive strategy aimed at achieving greater gender equality. This is attained by integrating a gender perspective into existing mainstream institutions and all programmatic areas or sectors, such as trade, health, education, environment, and transportation.
The concept of bringing gender issues into the mainstream of society came up for the first time after the Third World Conference on Women (Nairobi, 1985). It was clearly established as a global strategy for promoting gender equality in the Platform for Action adopted at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing (China) in 1995 as a result of the low impact that different policies, programs and actions were achieving in terms of equality for women in society. It highlighted the necessity to ensure that gender equality is a primary goal in all area(s) of social and economic development.
In July 1997, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) defined the concept of gender mainstreaming
- "Mainstreaming a gender perspective is the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in any area and at all levels. It is a strategy for making the concerns and experiences of women as well as of men an integral part of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres, so that women and men benefit equally, and inequality is not perpetuated. The ultimate goal of mainstreaming is to achieve gender equality."
Mainstreaming includes gender-specific activities and affirmative action, whenever women or men are in a particularly disadvantageous position. Gender-specific interventions can target women exclusively, men and women together, or only men, to enable them to participate in and benefit equally from development efforts. Gender Mainstreaming seeks to transform unequal social and institutional structures to realize the full creative and productive potential of women to reduce vulnerability and enhance efficiency and effectiveness of development projects and programmes. All entities within the United Nations are encouraged to give greater attention to gender perspectives in their work programmes and to support the efforts of Member States.