Friday, August 10, 2012

OECD presents gender inequality index at UN Women

OECD presents gender inequality index at UN Women

Members from UNWomen and OECD discuss the OECD's new gender equality index. From the Right: Somali Cerise, Gender Project Coordinator at OECD Development Centre, Saraswathi Menon, Director of Policy at UN Women, Michele Bachelet, Executive Director at UN Women, and Carlos Alvarez, Deputy Director at OECD Development Centre. Photo credit: Katrin Wittig

"Gender equality must become a lived reality." The spirit engendered by this quote by Michele Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women, is omnipresent within the UN Women website and mission. But how do we take stock of the achievements and challenges to make gender equality a lived reality?

The OECD Development Centre has launched its second edition of the Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) that proposes a new and innovative approach to measuring discrimination against women. The existing composite gender equality indices record inequalities in outcomes, such as gaps between women's and men's enrollment in education or employment.

In contrast, the SIGI aims to capture the underlying drivers that are responsible for these discrepancies in achievements in the first place. The Index reports on a variety of different discriminatory social institutions, such as unequal status in the family, violence against women, limited access to resources, and restricted civil liberties.

"The findings of the SIGI show that there is much more work to be done," said Carlos Alvarez, Deputy Director of the OECD Development Centre, during a presentation of the 2012 SIGI at UN Women. "While many countries now have better legal frameworks to promote gender equality…we have to turn…to the difficult task of changing mindsets."

Notwithstanding some promising progress in changing discriminatory social institutions, the 2012 SIGI highlights that discrimination against women and girls persists around the world. A few examples: Almost three-quarters of the 121 countries ranked by SIGI have discriminatory inheritance laws or practices. About half of the women in these countries think that domestic violence can be justified in specific circumstances. Most countries, which rank very low on the index, are countries that have been devastated by decades of armed conflict, including Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Somalia.

The SIGI exclusively covers developing countries, because the OECD Development Centre is only mandated to report on these countries. However, there are discussions with OECD member states to extend this mandate to create a universal index.

When asked about how countries react to the publication of the SIGI, Somali Cerise, Gender Project Coordinator at OECD Development Centre, explained that the index receives very mixed reactions. While some countries question the validity of the data, other countries have approached the OECD for advice on how to improve their ranking. This is, for example, the case with India. As with other composite development indices, the SIGI only reports aggregated data for the national level. However, the OECD Development Centre envisions including subnational data in the future. Together with the Indian government, the Centre plans to launch a pilot project on reporting subnational data to track differences in gender equality within countries.

Bachelet, who chaired the presentation, praised the SIGI as an invaluable and innovative tool to capture the multiple dimensions of discrimination against women. "The OECD has a very deep commitment to gender equality and women's empowerment [and] the SIGI index is a shining example of it. We are looking forward to working with the OECD and other initiatives to ensure that we have the evidence for more effectively informing policies and programming."

Looking beyond the Millennium Development Goals' deadline in 2015, the SIGI could be used as an inspiration to develop gender targets for a post-2015 framework. These indicators could include targets that capture violence against women, unpaid and undervalued housework, as well as unequal access to assets. The OECD Development Centre is further interested in developing a theory of change to track changes in social norms and practices within and among countries. This could help to establish the necessary evidence to help countries learn from each other's reforms to make gender equality a lived reality.


Rodrigo González Fernández
Diplomado en "Responsabilidad Social Empresarial" de la ONU
Diplomado en "Gestión del Conocimiento" de la ONU
Diplomado en Gerencia en Administracion Publica ONU
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