Providing women with the same rights and opportunities as men in the private and public spheres is not just a matter of human rights: it is an economic opportunity that no Eurasian country can afford to miss. As this report points out, the 2017 cost to the regional economy of gender-based discrimination in laws, social norms and practices is estimated at USD 39 billion (7.5% of the region’s income). The social impact of gender inequality affects the quality of life of millions of women in every sphere, and also has consequences for their families and communities.

Eurasian countries are committed to promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women, notably through their ratification of the Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Gender equality and women’s empowerment are included as a mainstreamed target and stand-alone Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 5). Moreover, many countries have a long history of striving for gender equality through national strategies. This represents political recognition that the region cannot achieve sustainable and inclusive development while holding back half of the regional population. Still, much more is needed to achieve de facto equality between women and men.

For the last decade, the OECD Development Centre’s Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) has supported Eurasian countries in better understanding the barriers to gender equality. By looking at the de jure and the de facto situations – and their effects, which are often in opposition to each other – the SIGI 2019 Regional Report shows that, despite impressive advances towards gender equality since the last edition of the SIGI in 2014, informal laws and practices embedded in society can thwart the statutory legal system. In other words, reforms can have limited traction unless the region’s cultural, social and religious norms and structures are also taken into account.

This SIGI report calls for rethinking how gender equality is tackled, taking into account the political economy, while emphasising the need to reshape gender norms to achieve the SDGs. Indeed, empowering all women and girls requires redefining what it means to be a woman or a man in the Eurasia region. Making this shift will need better data collection, better analysis and better sharing of innovative approaches at the national and sub national levels. The OECD Development Centre will continue supporting this paradigm shift and optimising the SIGI’s relevance to Eurasian policy makers as they advance towards achieving gender equality in all spheres of life.

Mario Pezzini

Director, OECD Development Centre

Special Advisor to the OECD Secretary-General on Development

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