This document posits conceptual frameworks for a reading of gender mechanisms that seeks to analyze them as part of the broader process of which they are an expression: the legitimization and institutionalization of the new challenges facing society and the state. These processes are evident at the national and international levels, in civil society and in international organizations. They include the construction of new concepts of gender relations in various societies, the inclusion of inequality-related problems on public agendas, and the institutionalization of the issue within the State. Such institutionalization is manifest in new frameworks of meaning that inform policymaking, in changes to institutional agendas, in specific programmes, and in the creation of new bodies, laws, norms and resources to advance the situation of women. The legitimization and institutionalization of new issues do not occur in a vacuum but in real societies with varying degrees of cultural diversity and organizational density, with different political systems, specific political cultures and degrees of institutional development, and distinct levels of development and modernization. A country's own characteristics thus condition and shape the processes under study. The prospect of legitimizing gender inequality as a public issue is subject to economical, political, legal and institutional conditioning. Hence the process being analyzed is closely linked to developments at the various levels of society and public institutions, and especially to the degree of cultural opening, democratization, institutionalization and social integration. This document draws on various sources: assessments, comparative studies by ECLAC and other organizations, the reports of experts' meetings, and material from Women's office. Research and analysis by scholars from the feminist and Women's movements has also been consulted, as has the specialized literature on State reform and public policies.