Key policy recommendations

Each thematic chapter provides detailed policy recommendations on the 16 SIGI indicators (detailing a comprehensive legal framework to address violence against women, for example), while this section lists cross-cutting policy recommendations. Transforming challenges into opportunities requires a three-pronged approach to all discriminatory social institutions included in the SIGI:

Start with legal reforms and transformative-gender policies

  • Governments must translate international conventions into their national legal frameworks and abolish discriminatory laws. This is essentially referring to discriminatory legal provisions that concern women’s workplace rights and reproductive autonomy. It also includes taking measures to close legal loopholes that allow negative practices, such as early marriage or unequal distribution of household responsibilities, to continue. More comprehensive legal frameworks should address all forms of violence without exception against women.

  • Where statutory law coexists alongside customary, traditional and religious laws and practices, policy makers should seek to align all frameworks at the national and sub-national levels to ensure that women’s and girls’ human rights are guaranteed irrespective of their location, marital status, ethnicity or religion. Community beliefs and practices governing women’s access to inheritance, land tenure, financial resources and justice undermine the effectiveness of laws and policies for gender equality and women’s rights.

  • Public policies and programmes should take a gender-transformative approach putting social norm change at their core. Shifting discriminatory social norms can lead to catalytic change; they can imply impacting social expectations of what it means to be a man or a woman. Public policies should address the root causes of gender inequality and include advocacy campaigns and/or educational programmes to address negative gender stereotypes. This is particularly true when focusing on women’s political empowerment and the unequal distribution of caring responsibilities within the family. Quotas and parental leave schemes are clearly insufficient to challenge widespread stigmatisation of women in politics and as working mothers.

  • Instead of “traditional” gender mainstreaming,1 national and international gender strategies should draw on a multi-sectoral approach to create an enabling environment for women’s empowerment. Gender mainstreaming has been a fundamental buzzword in the discussion around gender issues. In practice, it has been used to increase the efficiency of gender policies by revealing the gendered nature of processes and outcomes. We need to go beyond gender mainstreaming. A multi-sectoral and integrated approach is critical to address all women’s issues from a full-lifetime perspective, whatever their ethnic group and wherever they live. Leaving no one behind means tackling gender discrimination in all the SDGs and involving several government ministries, such as, for example, those concerned with the economy and with health, education or justice. Instead of having separate policies for gender equality or adding gender-equality concerns to pre-formulated policies, a gender political economy analysis should be introduced from the beginning into national development strategies. This means identifying the variety of factors that both drive and block change and defining multiple entry points for change This also includes gender budgeting (Council of Europe, 2005[1]) initiatives.2 Gender-responsive governance requires a better understanding of the ecosystem and an appropriate allocation of resources to ensure the quality of gender-transformative policies (OECD, 2017[2]).

  • Ensuring the enforcement of women’s rights requires improving both the gender-sensitivity of the judicial system as well as women’s legal literacy. Women often find it more difficult than men to access the justice system as a result of discriminatory norms and practices and/or a lack of sensitivity to women’s needs and realities within the justice system. Moreover, many women and girls are not aware of their legal rights and/or do not know how to exercise them. An inclusive and comprehensive legal framework should integrate a legal-training dimension, legal services for more vulnerable women, and/or awareness-raising and legal-literacy programmes.

Enforce laws through community mobilisation and empowerment

  • A “whole-of-society approach” is needed to ensure SDG 5 is achieved. Eliminating discriminatory laws, social norms and practices needs to be a shared concern and commitment. Every citizen and all institutions have a role to play, including governments, development co-operation stakeholders, local civil society, community and religious leaders, teachers, health professionals, justice and police officers, the media, foundations, the private sector and others. Legal reforms can propel social transformation, but this also requires change on the ground. Locally designed solutions combined with adequate legislation are indispensable for social change to take hold. In addition, shifting social norms is not a female responsibility: the engagement of men and boys is also necessary.

  • Harmful norms and practices should be recognised publicly by officials, community leaders and citizens as discriminatory. Harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation and violence against women, persist over time, despite legal reforms criminalising them, notably because victims and communities do not recognise them as discrimination. To improve the gender-responsiveness of policies, to ensure the rightful implementation of laws and increase the number of prosecutions and convictions, it is also critical to acknowledge and tackle the deeply entrenched acceptance of gender-based discrimination. As long as men prefer marrying excised women, female genital mutilation will persist with women’s complicity. As long as men express their masculinity through violence and harassment, a woman’s right to live free from violence is not guaranteed.

  • Further support women’s rights movements and amplify them through community engagement. The last decade has seen new actors get involved in supporting gender equality and an unprecedented upsurge of movements (e.g. #Metoo, #HeforShe) supporting women’s rights. These calls to action and public naming and shaming have helped unearth persisting discriminatory practices across the globe. It is critical to draw on the momentum generated by social media and civil-society campaigns and to amplify it through community dialogue and innovative practices aimed at changing norms across society.

Learn about the efficiency of policies and programmes through a continuous accountability and monitoring process

  • Governments should establish or strengthen accountability and monitoring processes to improve the gender responsiveness of public policies. Strong national accountability and monitoring mechanisms on gender equality are necessary to ensure that policies are assessed from the perspective of women’s and men’s needs and interests, as well as to hold decision makers accountable for their performance in reducing the gender gap. This requires establishing targeted goals and indicators to monitor progress on gender equality, reporting on progress, and being accountable in the event of a failure to meet objectives. Moreover, monitoring exercises should occur periodically to track the implementation of a policy or a programme and should be based on a set of sex-disaggregated indicators. This notably includes indicators to identify the specific characteristics of the target female population, monitor outcomes such as gender gaps, and, track the financial and human resources dedicated to gender goals, but also include output and efficiency indicators to measure the relationship between the resources used and the results. These monitoring exercises are essential to track progress, yet insufficient to determine which policies are most effective in promoting women and girls’ empowerment. Governments should in addition invest in rigorous impact evaluations of innovative, strategic or scalable gender-initiatives to understand which approaches have the highest impact.

  • More evidence and more data are needed to strengthen the business case in support of gender equality and to highlight its pivotal role in achieving Agenda 2030. Investments in gender equality and women’s rights need to be informed by quality research and data.3 Policy makers and investors must understand the scope and the drivers of gender inequalities, not only to identify relevant policy solutions, but also to track the evolution of major determinants of the gender gap. The revised SIGI is a testament to the increased availability of data on gender and social norms. The official designation of SIGI as a data source for monitoring SDG 5.1.1 on “whether or not legal frameworks are in place to promote, enforce and monitor equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sex” recognises that comparable and reliable data on legal discrimination are critical for monitoring the SDGs.4 Yet, more investments in data and statistics are needed at the national level. New efforts include the UN flagship programme “Making Every Woman and Girl Count” as well as SIGI country studies which seek to strengthen both the statistical and analytical capacities of governments. Producing research is a valuable first step, but data takes on added power when it is used by decision makers to inform policy. In 2018, Mexico launched an online platform to track progress towards achieving Agenda 2030, including the monitoring of all the targets of SDG 5. The Mexican SDG Portal now contains data on 25 indicators from 1994 to the present. The data can be disaggregated by state, gender and age, among other variables (Government of Mexico, n.d.[3]).


[1] Council of Europe (2005), “Gender budgeting: Final report on the group of specialist on gender budgeting (EG-S-GB)”, (accessed on 17 January 2019).

[3] Government of Mexico (n.d.), Agenda 2030 Mexico, (accessed on 31 January 2019).

[2] OECD (2017), Gender Budgeting in OECD Countries, OECD, Paris, (accessed on 17 January 2019).


← 1. Gender mainstreaming refers to the design of all public policies and use of policy instruments with the promotion of gender equality in mind.

← 2. Since the adoption of a new finance law in Morocco in 2014 and in Burkina Faso in 2018, for example, the needs of women and girls are increasingly reflected in government spending and in integrating gender priorities throughout the budgeting process.

← 3. Data scarcity is not a developing-country issue. No country has yet managed to build a full set of indicators to monitor SDG 5. For instance, data on the prevalence of female genital mutilation is only available in 29 countries, whereas the evidence shows that the phenomenon is much more widespread. Outcome data may reveal, for example, how many adolescent girls have been married before turning 18, but say nothing about the percentage of women, men, boys and girls that believe the practice should end. This is why the SIGI Country studies are investing in further data collection at the national and infra-national levels.

← 4. The World Bank Group, Women Business and the Law is the second official data source for SDG indicator 5.1.1. For more information see

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