Placing women and men on an equal footing in every walk of political, economic and social life – gender equality – is not only a moral imperative, but also an economic one. As this report points out, the cost to the global economy of gender-based discrimination in social institutions is USD 6 trillion (7.5% of the global GDP). The social impact of gender inequality affects the quality of life of millions of women in every sphere, but also has consequences for their families and communities. Much more is needed to achieve de facto equality between women and men. Social media movements as #MeToo, #BalanceTonPorc, #NiUnaMenos, and #JusticeforAsifa, are a stark reminder that violence against women and girls is an ongoing and pervasive problem that laws have been insufficient to remedy.

Decision makers have agreed on a new global compact: Agenda 2030. It puts gender equality and social norms at the core of sustainable and inclusive development. Governments are introducing gender-equality principles into their national and foreign policies as never before. World leaders have declared themselves feminists, supporting equal rights and opportunities for all citizens, regardless of their gender. Investments in gender equality issues, including collecting gender data, are at an all-time high. New partners, including the private sector and philanthropy, are stepping up to support gender equality, challenging the status quo and exploring new ways to advance the rights and empowerment of women and girls.

For the last decade, the Development Centre’s Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) has been supporting countries in better understanding the barriers to gender equality better. By looking at the de jure and the de facto situations, often placing their effects in opposition to each other the SIGI 2019 Global Report shows that, despite impressive advances towards gender equality since the last SIGI report in 2014, the statutory legal system can be thwarted by parallel structures embedded in society. The power of the SIGI – and of this report, which analyses its data – demonstrates that reforms can have limited traction unless cultural, social and religious norms and structures are taken into account. This is why the SIGI report calls for rethinking how gender equality is tackled, emphasising the need to challenge entrenched ideas and prejudices to achieve the SDGs.

Indeed, empowering all women and girls, which is the objective of SDG 5, requires changing the way we think and act. This whole-of-society shift can best happen through better data collection, better analysis and better sharing of innovative approaches. The OECD Development Centre remains committed to supporting this paradigm shift and to making the SIGI even more relevant to 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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