It’s (literally) about time: men as part of the solution to closing the care gap

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By Ruti Levtov, PhD, Director of Research, Evaluation, and Learning at Promundo-US


This blog is part of a special series marking the launch of the updated
2019 Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI)


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Photo: Sarine Arslanian / Shutterstock.com

Two hundred and ten years: That’s how long it will take to close the gender gap in time spent on care if we continue on our current trajectory, according to recent analysis by the International Labour Organization (ILO). In no country in the world do men and women spend an equal amount of time on care responsibilities, an inequality that restricts women’s participation and growth in the labour force, in political leadership and in other public spheres. It also limits the space for men to express their full humanity as nurturers, caregivers and equal partners at home. To achieve global development goals, to fulfill human rights and to enable all of us to live full lives, we need to urgently address this inequality.

It won’t be an easy road – the barriers are many to recognising, reducing and – as is the focus of this blog – redistributing care. While redistributing unpaid care responsibilities between individuals and the state is essential, we know that gender stereotypes held by individuals, communities, workplaces and governments continue to presume that women’s most important contributions are at home, and men’s are in the workplace. At Promundo, we are focusing on how we can deconstruct these stereotypes. Continue reading

Measuring beyond outcomes: Understanding gender inequality

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By Papa A. Seck (@PABSeck), Chief Statistician, UN Women


This blog is part of a special series marking the launch of the updated
2019 Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI)


burkina-faso-sigi-papa-e1544171190150.jpgOver her lifetime, a girl born today in Germany is expected to earn just about half the income of a boy born on the same day. In France and Sweden, she fares slightly better at about 70%. In Turkey, she can expect to earn no more than a quarter.1 Globally, it is estimated that 35% of women have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives. This is the most egregious violation of women’s rights and it is pervasive in all countries around the world, developed and developing alike. Such violence has often tragic consequences. A recent study by UNODC found that a shocking six women are killed every hour by a family member.2 An estimated 650 million women and girls in the world today were married before age 18, and at least 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in the 30 countries with representative data on its prevalence. Women around the world do 2.6 times the unpaid care and domestic work that men do, simply because that task is delegated to them by our societies. Continue reading

What it will take to unleash real feminism

Sigi-banner-for-blogBy Bathylle Missika, Head – Networks, Partnerships and Gender Division, OECD Development Centre


This blog is part of a special series marking the launch of the updated
2019 Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI)


SIGI-feminism.jpgGender equality frequently makes headlines. Even before the #metoo movements, political leaders started to place gender equality at the top of their agendas. Beyond OECD countries, the G20, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals as well as the African Union’s 2063 Agenda made achieving gender equality a priority.

Yet, translating these political commitments into durable changes for women and girls is far more difficult. Progress has been limited. When it comes to universal access to reproductive health, for example, which has been on the global policy radar since the Millennium Development Goals, 12% of women who do not want children still do not have access to contraception; that rate doubles to 24% in Sub-Saharan Africa. Similarly, eliminating girl child marriage is at centre of various regional and international conventions, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa; yet each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18. That is 23 girls every minute.

So if political will is real and genuine, why are we still falling short? Continue reading

Paving the Way Towards Progress that Counts

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By Katja Iversen, President/CEO, Women Deliver


This blog is part of a special series marking the launch of the updated
2019 Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI)


Sigi-1How can we power development that leaves no one behind?

As we edge towards 2030 – with long ways to go to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – there may be no more pressing question.

As a champion for gender equality, I have long known that girls and women are powerful agents of change and drivers of development. I see it every day, where even in the most impoverished communities and circumstances women get up, get dressed, and go out to fight for better lives for themselves, their children and their families. And because of that, Women Deliver focuses, relentlessly, on pushing decision makers to place girls and women at the centre of development agendas and approaches.

Continue reading

Why empowering women can make women and men happier

By Gaëlle Ferrant, Alexandre Kolev and Caroline Tassot, OECD Development Centre

IWD2017The OECD has long argued that the ultimate goal of public policies is to improve the quality of our lives. But what makes us happy? Does living in a country guaranteeing equal rights and opportunities to women and men increase people’s happiness? The answer apparently is yes.

For policy makers interested in the pursuit of happiness, these findings may at first glance come as bad news as we mark International Women’s Day this year. Gender-based discrimination remains, after all, a critical challenge around the globe. Despite changes in gender roles following improvements in economic, political and social rights, no country has achieved gender parity. Only half of working-age women are in the labour force, earning on average 24% less than men (UN Women, 2015). Despite their increasing involvement in the labour market, women still perform 75% of total unpaid care and domestic work (OECD, 2014). And gender-based discrimination in social norms remains widespread worldwide (OECD Development Centre, 2014).
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Measuring discrimination will bring the gender equality global goal a step closer

By Keiko Nowacka, gender coordinator at the OECD Development Centre

A warning often repeated since the Rio+20 summit is that lessons learned from the millennium development goals (MDGs) should not be forgotten when the sustainable development goals (SDGs) – the new development framework adopted at the United Nations general assembly – replace them. Such concerns seem warranted given the mixed report card on the MDGs.

While there were substantial improvements in poverty reduction and education, other goals showed patchier progress. The MDGs were praised for focusing the development community’s attention on eight priority areas, but also criticised for leaving out other key sectors. Many lessons have been learned over the past 15 years on how to make development more effective and help those most in need. As we look to the next 15 years, which of these key lessons should we take to heart to turn the promises of the SDGs into reality – particularly when it comes to gender equality and women’s empowerment (MDG3)?

First, focus matters. A standalone goal on gender equality has been retained (SDG5). A dedicated goal makes a big difference in mobilising action and resources. Furthermore, SDG5 includes many ambitious targets left out of MDG3. Tackling gender-based violence, unpaid care work, early marriage and harmful practices, among others, are now high on the gender and development agenda.

Second, strong indicators that can monitor the SDG commitments, inform policy action and ensure accountability on gender equality are just as important. After the adoption of the SDGs, all eyes will be on the selection of indicators to track progress on the 17 goals and 169 targets. Over the past year, representatives from governments, UN specialised agencies and international organisations, such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), have worked on establishing a list of provisional indicators, which will be adopted at next year’s 46th UN statistical commission. While this list shows how much better we have become at measuring complex areas, gaps in data coverage and availability present real challenges to the SDG enterprise.

Indicators and data on gender equality are a case in point. A data revolution, strengthened national statistical systems and other statistical initiatives have already given us a very detailed understanding of remaining gender inequalities in the labour market or in education, just to cite two areas, and what policy interventions have worked to reduce them. Still, so much is not captured systematically by regular social or economic surveys, which are critical for measuring gender equality, and also for tracking progress towards SDG5. Here, the MDGs taught us another valuable lesson: what gets measured, gets done.

Addressing discriminatory social norms and institutions has become a new development priority and features strongly across the SDG5 targets. Yet, this area needs much more statistical work and investment. Data reveals how formal and informal laws, practices and attitudes shape women’s ability to enjoy their rights and take advantage of empowerment opportunities.

Results from the OECD Development Centre’s Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI), for example, highlight how a discriminatory social practice such as early marriage adversely affects girls’ educational attainments, or how an unequal share of unpaid care work between women and men can exacerbate gender wage gaps. These examples demonstrate the value of including targets in the new framework; quantifying and measuring discrimination against women is challenging, but possible.

Indeed, the OECD Development Centre recently completed its first SIGI survey in Uganda, where new data on social norms was generated for the first time at the local level, providing evidence on how these norms can exacerbate inequalities despite the introduction of gender-sensitive laws. The survey showed that one-quarter of Ugandans agree that women and men should not enjoy equal land rights. Close to half of the population (45%) agree that early marriage is acceptable for girls (but not for boys). Such data is critical and a valuable resource for identifying how to make laws more efficient, and target the root causes of inequalities between women and men.

So what will it take to step up to this statistical challenge? Financing and technical support for statistical agencies is key. Most of the proposed indicators for SDG5 are classified as tier two (methodology exists, data not easily available) or tier three (methodology needs to be developed). For example, unpaid care work is measured through time-use surveys. However, less than half of the world’s countries have conducted such surveys in the past 10 years. Designing surveys, harmonising methodologies to ensure cross-country comparability or including indicators in existing surveys can be costly. Worryingly, this summer’s Financing for Development conference in Addis Ababa did not include increased commitments for statistics, even though it is estimated that at least an additional $200m (Paris21) is needed.

 The silver lining is that data on gender is getting better all the time. We now know much more about the prevalence of and attitudes towards violence against women than in 2000, thanks to demographic and health surveys. Political will has proved critical too. Colombia and Uruguay, for example, have passed legislation to mandate regular time-use surveys. Innovative projects, such as the Evidence and Data for Gender Equality initiative led by agencies, including the World Bank, UN statistics directorate, UN Women, the OECD and the Food and Agriculture Organisation, have shown exciting results in advancing our knowledge of women’s asset ownership through new approaches and thinking around data collection. This is promising for future measuring of results for the SDGs: more reliable data and innovative methodologies will help truly capture and track women’s empowerment in the home, the workplace and in public life.

While these investments in indicators and data may appear formidable, the promise of a high return if we are able to achieve SDG5 by 2030 is certainly worth it.

This article first appeared in The Guardian on September 28, 2015. Read it anew here.


This article should not be reported as representing the official views of the OECD, the OECD Development Centre or of their member countries. The opinions expressed and arguments employed are those of the author.