Equality, including gender equality, is a fundamental principle of the South African constitution. This article is intended as a briefing document for researchers and policy-makers on some of the more qualitative gender considerations involved in policy-making and analysis. The article is not based on original research or data analysis, but is informed by a range of papers and studies which throw up gender questions about conventional ways of seeing. The article starts by dealing briefly with the distinction between ‘equity’ and ‘efficiency’ arguments for gender equality. After summarising past and current developments in establishing gender machinery within government, it goes on to suggest how traditional economic theory obscures or distorts gender issues. Finally it discusses the use and abuse of concepts commonly encountered in both poverty studies and discussions of gender.