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Gender equality and women's empowerment

In the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, Member States have committed to promoting and ensuring gender equality. The Addis Agenda's strong focus on gender is anchored in its first paragraph, which commits to ensure gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment, and is reflected in gender-specific commitments throughout the seven action areas of the Addis Agenda.

Tracking public allocations for gender equality

The Addis Ababa Action Agenda underlines the importance of achieving greater transparency and accountability on financing gender equality and women’s empowerment through gender responsive budgeting and tracking. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development commits the development community to working “for a significant increase in investments to close the gender gap.” In line with these commitments, the creation and application of well-articulated and inclusive budget tracking systems is essential to ensure that resources are mobilised and allocated effectively to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment.

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SDG Indicator 5.c.1 measures the proportion of countries with systems to track and make public allocations for gender equality and women’s empowerment. The indicator assesses progress towards Target 5c of the SDGs to “adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels. By tracking resource allocations, governments introduce deliberate measures into the planning and budgeting cycle to meet their gender policy objectives and by making these allocations public, governments commit to higher levels of transparency and accountability in budget decision making.

Building on Indicator 8 of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC), in 2017, UN Women, UNDP and the OECD spearheaded refinement of the Indicator 5.c.1 methodology to increase specificity and rigour of measurements. To test its validity, the indicator was piloted in 15 diverse countries in consultation with Ministries of Finance and National Statistical Offices. Overall, the methodology was identified as clear, relevant and applicable to national efforts to strengthen budget tracking systems.

The pilot results demonstrated the variation in national tracking systems. More countries currently have gender responsive public financial management functions that constitute a basic tracking system. For example, almost all 15 pilot countries issue gender responsive budget call circulars which provide a directive about integrating gender equality into programmes and budgets. However, fewer countries have developed more mature tracking systems, as evidenced by the lower number that implement impact assessments and gender responsive audits of the budget. In line with capturing this variability and based on country responses to the indicator questionnaire, a scoring system was developed to classify countries into one of three categories: ‘fully meets requirements’, ‘approaches requirements’, and ‘does not meet requirements.’ This scaled classification provides an assessment of the quality of tracking systems that can facilitate cross-country learning and incentivize countries to improve systems over time. 

Based on a request submitted by UN-Women, along with supporting documentation, the Inter-Agency Expert Group (IAEG)-SDGs reclassified Indicator 5.c.1 from Tier III to Tier II in November 2017. This means the indicator is conceptually clear and has an internationally established methodology and standard. Going forward, data for the indicator will be collected via the GPEDC through administration of a survey to the Ministry of Finance, National Statistical Offices and women’s ministries. As part of its regular gender responsive budgeting programming, UN-Women will support Ministries of Finance to collect high quality, accurate and reliable data on Indicator 5.c.1. and support capacity development of women’s ministries and civil society organizations to validate the data.

Aid activities targeting gender equality

Gender equality and women’s empowerment are key cross-cutting priorities in the Addis Agenda. In 2015–16, DAC countries committed a total of USD 41.4 billion of ODA targeting gender equality and women’s empowerment on average per year. The DAC country average for the share of development assistance that had a gender equality and women’s empowerment objective was 40 per cent in 2015–16.


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While DAC peer reviews find that DAC countries’ political commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment is strong, implementation remains difficult. This is partly a result of difficulties of mainstreaming gender equality and women’s empowerment across development co-operation programmes. Recommendations by the DAC focus on operationalising the political commitment, noting that DAC members need leadership, guidance, resources, capacity and a stronger focus on the results of investment in gender equality.

The OECD DAC Gender Equality Policy Marker tracks bilateral ODA in support of gender equality. As part of the annual reporting of their aid activities to the DAC, DAC members are required to indicate whether each aid activity targets gender equality as a policy objective according to a three-point scoring system. The data generated by the marker provides a global estimate of DAC members’ aid in support of gender equality annually and a breakdown by each DAC member.

Trade and gender equality

The means of implementation commitments establish a link between on the one hand women's access to productive resources, the implementation of gender equality and non-discriminatory legislation and the creation of gender-sensitive development strategies, and on the other the goals of ending poverty, achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls, and promoting peaceful and inclusive societies. Trade policy has an important role in fostering all the above mentioned economic and social objectives. Trade policies tend to have a strong redistributive effect, both across economic sectors and among individuals. The Trade and Gender Toolbox, developed by UNCTAD, is the first attempt to provide a systematic framework to evaluate the impact of trade reforms on women and gender inequalities prior to implementation of those reforms.


Gender gaps in digital access

SDG 5 includes a target on enhanced use of enabling technology, particularly ICT, to support women’s and girl’s empowerment. This focus emphasizes the potential of ICT and other digital technologies to improve women’s and girls’ health and empower them through access to information, education and commercial opportunities. However, globally women are constrained in their access to, participation in and benefit from digital technology. This ‘digital gender divide’ has negative effects for society overall by limiting the participation and contributions of women and girls to digital technology development.

The ‘digital gender divide’ can be seen in rates of global and regional internet usage. For example, the proportion of men using the Internet is higher than the proportion of women using the Internet in two-thirds of countries worldwide. The only region where a higher percentage of women than men are using the Internet is the Americas. The largest gaps are observed in developing countries (7.2 percentage points) and in the Arab States and Asia Pacific countries (8.3 and 8.2 percentage points respectively).

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The proportion of women using the Internet is 12 per cent lower than the proportion of men using the Internet worldwide. While the gender gap has narrowed in most regions since 2013, it has widened in Africa where the proportion of women using the Internet is 25.3 per cent lower as compared to men. Overall, in least developed countries (LDCs), only one out of seven women is using the Internet compared with one out of five men.

Proportion of time spent on unpaid domestic and care work

A major contributing factor to gender inequality in labour force participation is the unequal distribution of unpaid work between women and men. The amount of time women spend on unpaid domestic work and caregiving at home is almost triple that of men, according to survey data from 83 countries and areas. While this unpaid work is critical for the well-being of families, communities and economies overall, it remains mostly under-recognized and uncounted in economic terms. These care responsibilities limit opportunities for education, training and engagement in formal employment, which further reinforces women’s socio-economic inequality.

Gender development and inequality indices

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has conducted a global review of gender budgeting efforts and released an online database toolkit of gender equality indicators. The project produced six regional country studies that identified 23 countries considered to have “prominent” gender budgeting efforts, an additional 37 countries with gender budgeting efforts that were of interest, and 30 countries with limited or other forms of gender budgeting (the list does not include all countries that have undertaken gender budgeting).

The project generated data for two time consistent versions of existing UNDP indices (1) the Gender Inequality Index—GII, which incorporates measures of reproductive health, empowerment, and labor market outcomes; and (2) the Gender Development Index—GDI which incorporates measures of life expectancy, education, and gross national income. Analyzing the trends in the evolution of the GII by the level of gender budgeting that a country has suggests that countries with prominent gender budgeting started with lower levels of inequality and have progressed to even lower levels. Countries with moderate gender budgeting efforts progressed at a faster rate than countries with limited or no gender budgeting in reducing gender inequality.

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Analyzing the trends in the GDI index suggest that countries with gender budgeting (prominent and otherwise) have been more successful in increasing equality between women and men, while equality in countries with limited or no gender budgeting has a decreasing trend since the late nineties.

Participation in firm ownership and management

Benchmarking female participation in firm ownership, management, and the workforce is important to achieving gender equality and empowerment of women. With the latest data, it is possible to estimate that, worldwide, the per cent of firms with majority female ownership is of 14.5; the per cent of firms with a female top manager is 18.6; and the per cent of firms with female participation in ownership is 34.7. The survey results show that there is still ample room for increasing women’s economic empowerment via fostering their participation as managers and as owners of businesses.


Decision-making positions in parliaments

Women are underrepresented in decision-making positions in parliament, although there is some evidence of recent improvement: there has been an increase from 13.9 percent in 2000 to 23.7 percent in 2017 in the proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments worldwide. However, gender parity in parliamentary representation is still far from being realized. Without representation at this level, it is difficult for women to influence policy. A strong and vibrant democracy is possible only when parliament is fully inclusive of the population it represents. Parliaments cannot consider themselves inclusive, however, until they can boast the full participation of women. This is not just about women's right to equality and their contribution to the conduct of public affairs, but also about using women's resources and potential to determine political and development priorities that benefit societies and the global community.


Financial inclusion

There is a significant gender gap in account ownership, savings, credit, and payments behavior. In 2014, 57.4 per cent of women worldwide had an account, compared to 64 per cent of men. In 2011, 46.8 per cent of women and 54.5 per cent of men had an account. This means that globally, there is a persistent 7 percentage point gender gap in account ownership. This suggest the importance of fostering financial inclusion in order to allow women to have better investment opportunities and risk management.


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The International Monetary Fund’s Financial Access Survey (FAS) collects annual data on indicators tracking financial access—an important pillar of financial inclusion. As the importance of financial inclusion becomes increasingly evident, demand for more granular financial access data has also increased. A growing interest in ensuring equitable access to financial services for all has created a need for gender-disaggregated financial access statistics. In response, the FAS collaborated with national authorities to assess their capacity to extract these statistics directly from administrative sources. The newly available data suggest a financial access gender gap. On average, women hold 40 per cent of deposit accounts and receive a similar proportion of outstanding loans. However, country-specific data also reveal progress made in narrowing this gap.

New developments
  • Indicator 5.c.1 on the proportion of countries with systems to track and make public allocations for gender equality and women’s empowerment reclassified as Tier II by the Inter-Agency Expert Group (IAEG)-SDGs in November 2017

After an extensive methodological development process spearheaded by UN-Women, together with UNDP and the OECD, Indicator 5.c.1 was reclassified as Tier II by the Inter-Agency Expert Group (IAEG)-SDGs. A 15-country pilot exercise identified the methodology as highly applicable to national efforts to strengthen tracking systems to measure gender equality allocations. Tier II classification means the indicator is conceptually clear and has an internationally established methodology and standard. It is now more likely countries will adopt the indicator as part of their national SDG monitoring frameworks. Global reporting will facilitate exchange of best practices, lessons learned, and support south-south and triangular cooperation. It will also allow development partners to target their support to strengthen gender responsive public financial management.

  • Third Monitoring Round of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC)

The third monitoring round of the GPEDC will commence in May 2018, with countries conducting their national monitoring processes through December. In preparation for this monitoring round, the OECD-UNDP Joint Support Team is working to strengthen the Global Partnership monitoring framework. This includes revising indicator methodologies and the overall process to align more fully with the 2030 Agenda and be more user friendly and action-oriented. Additionally, new areas of monitoring will be integrated in the upcoming monitoring round, while other areas requiring further work will be piloted for integration in subsequent rounds. The third monitoring round will start the official measurement of SDG Indicator 5.c.1 on the proportion of countries with systems to track and make public allocations for gender equality and women’s empowerment.

  • Establishment of a Gender Action Plan (GAP) in the context of the 2017 UN Climate Change Conference (COP 23)

The Conference of the Parties adopted a Gender Action Plan (GAP) that seeks to promote gender-responsive climate policy and to mainstream gender in the implementation of the Convention and the work of Parties, the secretariat, United Nations entities and all stakeholders. The GAP sets out five priority areas: (A) Capacity-building, knowledge sharing and communication; (B) Gender balance, participation and women’s leadership; (C) Coherence; (D) Gender-responsive implementation and means of implementation; and (E) Monitoring and reporting. The GAP underlines the need to strengthen the means of implementation (finance, technology development and transfer and capacity-building) of gender-responsive climate policy. Within Priority Area D—on gender-responsive implementation and means of implementation, the GAP sets to strengthen the capacity of parliaments, funding ministries, non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations for the integration of gender-responsive budgeting into climate finance, access and delivery through training, expert workshops, technical papers and tools.

  • The High-Level Panel (HLP) on Women’s Economic Empowerment has now completed its mandate

Following its establishment in January 2016, the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment has finalized its work as planned, details of which can be found on its website. In it, stakeholders can access the reports, study the recommendations, and learn from the toolkits that were produced by the initiative. It also provides tools to engage online and offline to share knowledge and experiences. The initiative led to the establishment of the Group of Champions, comprised of 20 Member States that have come together to advance the legacy and vision of the HLP and to influence intergovernmental negotiations and resolutions under the joint chairmanship of Costa Rica and the United Kingdom. Efforts have already been made to embed the HLP’s work into ongoing SDG implementation and monitoring, especially within the framework of UN Women’s new Strategic Plan (2018-2021). The HLP Roadmap 2018 identifies multiple opportunities at intergovernmental spaces to advocate for and maintain the momentum for the WEE agenda. These include: the 62nd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW); the ECOSOC Forum for Financing on Development (FFD); the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) for Sustainable Development under the auspices of ECOSOC; and the High-Level Week of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA).