This paper has been written within the context of the activities of the ECLAC/Division for the Advancement of Women/United Nations Development Account Project on Democratic Governance and Equality in Gender Issues in Latin America and the Caribbean. Its purpose is to present an overview of the social and institutional changes unfolding in the region and the relationships that exist between democratic governance and the reform of societal gender-based practices. The paper postulates that the new modes of democratic governance take the form of institutional changes, that is to say, they manifest themselves in the rules and regulations that govern the relationships between social actors in various scenarios, in particular between the State and society and between the State, the market and the family. These changes also create opportunities to transform gender roles. At the same time, this paper shows how the shift in relationships between men and women increases the foundations for the support of democratic governance by ensuring that high-level discussions and policy-making effectively mainstream the results achieved and problems overcome in the area of gender inequity. At the same time, the paper shows that despite the indisputable importance of a focus on gender inequality in those mechanisms of governance that seek to strengthen democracy, the feminist and Women's movements have failed to attach sufficient importance to these issues in their agendas. Nor has the influence of gender issues in institutional reforms been sufficiently analyzed or sufficiently visible. The achievements of the Women's movement in organization, in promoting discussion, in developing new agendas, as well as its influence on the behaviours of other political constituencies and the experience that it has acquired in its interactions with governments and parliament, have failed to raise the profile of women in the key reform mechanisms which have been conducted throughout the region. This situation derives both from the persistence of discriminatory practices as well as from policy choices that are explicit or implicit in these movements. The paper is organized into two sections: in the first section we analyze the state of emergency of the concept of governance, in an environment characterized by major upheavals which create imbalances and instigate institutional changes designed to achieve acceptable standards of governance. This is followed by an analysis of the contents and meanings attributed to the concept of governance and complementary reflection on the relationships that exist between gender and institutions. The second section studies the subject of governance from the viewpoint of a specific participant, namely the Women's movement, which in playing its role within these reforms has made a significant contribution to the democratization of societies and the creation of new institutional frameworks responsible for the formulation of public policies based on gender equality. Later, the paper examines the participation of the Women's movement and of gender roles in State reform mechanisms and governance programs, which have taken place in the region. The contents of this paper are based on an exhaustive bibliographical review, on a survey of National Gender Machineries in the region and on an analysis of secondary information.