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Bogpost: Why measuring social institutions is important for assessing progress on gender equality?
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Discriminatory social institutions can help explain persistent gender inequalities
There is now widespread agreement that gender equality matters for development, economic growth and poverty reduction. In addition to the fulfilment of fundamental rights for women and girls, gender equality has been hailed as a ‘breakthrough’ strategy for achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets. Improving women’s education, employment and health outcomes not only delivers benefits for women but for whole communities and economies. However, as has become apparent with the sluggish progress towards MDG targets, there remain significant obstacles to achieving equal outcomes for women and men on key economic and social indicators. This is despite the increasing investment from donors and promising progress made in many areas.
Discriminatory social institutions - defined as formal and informal laws, social norms and practices that restrict or exclude women and girls - have attracted growing attention as a framework for understanding the sluggish progress towards gender equality. Social institutions set the parameters of what decisions, choices or practices are deemed acceptable or unacceptable in a society and therefore play a major role in mediating gender roles and relations. Examples include practices such as early marriage, gender-based violence or discrimination in inheritance, access to land, property and credit, all of which significantly shape influence women’s economic and social role and consequently hinder development.