2022 SDG Gender Index Report

2 mins

The 2022 SDG Gender Index finds little progress on gender equality at the global level between 2015 and 2020. The global Index score for gender equality stands at just 67.8 in 2020: only a slight improvement of less than two points since 2015.

If current trends continue, the global score will reach only 71 out of 100 by 2030, the deadline for the achievement of the SDGs. And even this projection could be seen as optimistic, given the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has already had on the well-being of girls and women worldwide

Key Findings

  • Progress on gender equality has been too slow, too fragile and too fragmented: there was little progress on gender equality at a global level between 2015 and 2020.
  • If current trends continue, the world will reach an Index score of only 71 out of 100 by 2030, the deadline for the achievement of the SDGs.
  • Not one of the 144 countries in the SDG Gender Index has achieved gender equality, and no country is the world’s best performer – or even among the world’s top ten performers – across all SDGs. Every country has more to do to realize the vision of gender equality embedded within the goals.
  • Less than a quarter of countries are making ‘fast progress’ towards gender equality; a third of countries are either making ‘no progress’ at all or are moving in the ‘wrong direction’.
  • On the positive side, more than half of countries worldwide are moving in the right direction on gender equality.
  • However, in 2020, more than three billion girls and women still lived in countries with ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ scores for gender equality.

Overview of the Policy Recommendations

The 2022 SDG Gender Index sets out a blueprint for change, based on six cross-cutting themes that often characterize the countries and regions making some progress on gender equality.

  • Reform and apply inequality laws. Countries that reform and fully implement gender equality laws have better health, nutrition and educational outcomes for women and their families, more resilient employment for women, and more women in their parliaments.
  • Invest in public services and social (including care) infrastructure. The social transformation needed for gender equality must be funded, which requires gender-responsive budgets, progressive taxation and strong investment in public services and public (including care) infrastructure.
  • Promote the leadership, participation and voice of girls and women. The key is to combat gender norms and promote role models, with the greater visibility of women in public life creating a virtuous circle of participation.
  • Close the gender data gaps. This means investing in improving data infrastructure and formalizing the idea of a gender data ecosystem, but also mobilizing and building bridges between different stakeholders and data communities, and making good use of ‘big data’.
  • Invest in, create space for, and listen to feminist organizations and movements. Little progress on women’s rights would have been made without pressure and advocacy from these organizations and movements. They need proper resourcing and safe, secure spaces in which to operate and advocate.
  • Work with and empower girls and young women. Their voices should be heard in the decisions that affect them. Programmes, policies and laws designed with and for them, and funding for their groups, are critical for accelerated progress towards gender equality.

2021 The power of data-driven feminist movements

1 min

The critical role that feminist and girls’ and women’s rights movements1 play in the promotion of gender equality is increasingly well documented. Moreover, there is increasing recognition that when advocates are equipped with data, and the skills to effectively use them, their efforts to influence decision makers are likely to be more credible and result in more evidence-based decision-making. However feminist organizations frequently face constraints in resourcing (funding and personnel) and capacity needed to undertake data-driven advocacy. In many places, there is also a growing pushback on a ‘gender agenda’ and a shrinking civil society space overall. This combined with underinvestment in collecting and sharing timely, quality gender data collectively limit opportunities for feminist movements to influence decision makers with data.

Equal Measures 2030 works to address a number of these issues both directly through its programming and indirectly through its partnerships, advocacy, and communications with donors, UN actors, governments, and others. This paper delves into the evidence behind this approach and, in doing so, seeks to establish a shared understanding and set of recommendations on this topic for the Equal Measures 2030 partnership.

2020 Bending the Curve Report

4 mins

Our new research report finds that half of countries studied (67 out of 129 countries) – home to 2.1 billion girls and women – won’t achieve any of five key gender equality targets by 2030 if their current pace continues. The report covers: access to contraception, girls’ education, political leadership, workplace equality laws, and safety. However, the report also finds that if all countries matched the pace of fast-moving countries over the next decade, nearly three quarters of the world’s girls’ and women could instead live in countries that would reach four or even all five of these gender equality targets by the year 2030.

Key Findings

The analysis overwhelmingly shows that we need to pick up the pace of progress for girls and women – and some countries demonstrate that rapid change is possible. At a global level, each issue is trending in the right direction – but diving deeper, we can see that progress cannot be taken for granted. Some countries are stagnating or even moving backwards on key issues. And globally, we are not even close to being on track to reaching these five key gender equality targets by 2030. The analysis finds that:

  • Countries are not moving fast enough: at current rates of progress, no country will achieve all five or even four out of five targets by the SDG deadline. Only 24 countries will achieve two or three of the five targets and 38 countries will achieve only one of the five gender equality targets by 2030. A full 67 countries (52 per cent) will not achieve any of the five targets by 2030 (see Figure 1). If all countries matched the pace of the fast-moving countries, however, almost all countries studied (123 out of 129) would achieve at least two targets.
  • Several high-income countries are stagnating or even seeing reversals in progress on some issues: While high-income countries tend to have higher levels of gender equality overall (see Figure 3), a number of these richer countries have been moving at a very slow pace or even in the wrong direction on the issues studied. For example, Serbia and Japan saw access to family planning decrease over the past two decades.
  • Progress is evident but not always consistent: For example, the pace of change in women’s representation in ministerial roles globally grew more quickly from 2000 to 2008 but has slowed down since 2008. Countries in North America and Europe that had the highest proportion of women ministers in 2001 (holding at least 20 per cent of cabinet roles) have since seen slower rates of progress towards parity than in the region overall. We may be moving in the right direction, but not nearly fast enough and not consistently.
  • Looking issue by issue, there are countries that have made rapid progress towards gender equality over the past 10 to 20 years: For example, several countries (including Ghana, Angola, Belize, and Viet Nam amongst others) have been increasing the number of girls who complete secondary school by more than ten per cent per year since around 2000.
  • Factors contributing to rapid progress vary by issue and by country, but common themes include government prioritisation and commitment, coordinated investment, implementation of equality-focused policies including quotas, and the influence of gender equality advocates and champions (including feminist movements). Systematic research about the factors behind the fast-moving countries on each issue is beyond the scope of this study but represents an important angle for future investigation.
  • Renewed efforts are needed to reach the most vulnerable: Girls and women facing intersecting forms of discrimination are most likely to be left behind, even when progress is made for girls and women overall. For example, while violence against girls and women remains pervasive globally, some groups are more acutely affected: in the United States, “Native American and Alaska Native” women experience higher rates of gender-based violence than any other group; “First Nations and Inuit” women in Canada face violence at three times the rate of non-indigenous women.
  • There is hope: some countries – across all regions of the world – are already moving at an accelerated pace on one or more of the five key gender equality issues studied. In this way, Bending the Curve provides a starting point for deeper evaluation of how change for girls and women can be accelerated and how success stories can be replicated in order to bend the curve towards gender equality by 2030.

Key Findings by Issue

Significant acceleration globally is needed on all of the gender equality issues studied, but the end target is closer on some issues than others:

  • Progress on access to family planning needs to accelerate globally by three times to reach the target by 2030. This would lead to over 400 million more girls and women having access to contraception to plan if and when they have children than if the current pace continued to 2030.
  • The world also needs to move three times faster than it has over the past 10 to 15 years to ensure that every girl completes secondary school by 2030. 85 million more girls would complete secondary school by 2030 if countries moved at this accelerated pace than if the current pace continues.
  • Just 23 per cent of government minister posts globally are held by women and 77 million girls and women live in countries that do not have a single female minister. More than 650 million girls and women in 64 countries have never had an elected or appointed female head of state or government. Progress on this issue has slowed in recent years and 40 countries have moved backward since 2001.
  • Progress needs to accelerate by nearly two times to ensure women are equally represented in the most powerful political positions by 2030.
  • In 2009, just 16 countries (all in Europe and North America) received a top score of 100 (based on data from the World Bank) for their workplace equality laws. By 2020, this number more than doubled to 36 countries (spread across four regions). We need 93 countries to bring their laws up to this standard by 2030 to meet the target globally (an acceleration in pace of more than two times). Changes in workplace laws in the last decade have meant that 215 million more women are now entitled, in principle, to 14+ weeks paid maternity leave, among other benefits.
  • Nearly half of women globally don’t feel safe walking at night and this figure has barely changed since 2006. In fact, perceptions of safety worsened in nearly half of countries studied between 2006–2018. At the current rate of progress we wouldn’t reach the target of all girls and women saying they feel safe walking at night until the year 2179 – more than six generations from now. Progress needs to accelerate by nearly 13 times times – the greatest acceleration needed across the five issues studied – to ensure that by 2030 every girl and woman reports feeling safe.

2019 Open Government and Gender Equality

2 mins

Opportunities for engaging women’s rights organisations

Gender equality is an increasingly prominent thematic area of focus in the open government community. There are valid normative reasons behind this: women constitute half of the world’s citizens and including women—particularly diverse and intersectional voices—in all levels of governance is the right thing to do. There is—as the Feminist Open Government Initiative’s 2019 report lays out in detail—also a strong strategic case to be made about the value proposition of making OGP processes more inclusive.

The rationale for OGP member governments to more deliberately engage with women’s rights organisations and movements as part of open government processes includes:

  • Broadening the base of stakeholders with “ownership”: OGP can catalyse the inclusion of more voices around the open government table as a proposition to strengthen the movement, build consensus around OGP principles, and draw in other individual and organisational resources and influence.
  • Creating pathways to greater inclusion: Many WROs and movements already have strong intersectional partners (e.g., focus on advocacy for racial or ethnic minority, disability, elderly, or LGBT+ groups) and are plugged into national or regional networks. Co-creation with WROs could open pathways for member governments to better take into account a range of different population groups’ specific needs within open government commitments.
  • Connecting technical processes to lived realities: Meaningful engagement with grassroots organisations— particularly women’s rights organisations and movements—can help open government processes better reflect the needs and concerns of citizens. This is particularly relevant given the findings from OGP-supported research (including EM2030 focus groups) that open government is currently seen by many citizens across regions as a capital city-driven agenda led by technical experts.
  • Tapping into deep thematic knowledge: WROs are best positioned to input deep knowledge about the real challenges facing women and girls in their communities, including guidance on how women and girls engage differently with government services, or with broader transparency and accountability mechanisms. WROs bring substantial expertise and advocacy approaches for thematic issues areas (e.g., on gender-based violence or women’s political participation) that could inform stand-alone gender commitments.

2019 SDG Gender Index Report

2 mins

In the 2019 Global Report “Harnessing the power of data for gender equality: Introducing the 2019 EM2030 SDG Gender Index”, we introduce the 2019 SDG Gender Index. The index is the most comprehensive tool available to explore the state of gender equality across 129 countries (covering 95% of the world’s girls and women), 14 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and 51 targets linked to issues inherent in the SDGs.

The 2019 SDG Gender Index finds that, with just 11 years to go until 2030, nearly 40% of the world’s girls and women – 1.4 billion – live in countries failing on gender equality.

Another 1.4 billion live in countries that “barely pass”. Even the highest-scoring countries have more to do, particularly on complex issues such as climate change, gender budgeting and public services, equal representation in powerful positions, gender pay gaps, and gender-based violence. No country in the world has reached the “last mile” on gender equality.

2019 Global Report overview

Section 1: A foreword from Equal Measures 2030’s partners: The African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), The Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Centre for Women (ARROW), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean for the Defense of Women’s Rights (CLADEM), Data2X, International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC), KPMG, ONE Campaign, Plan International, Women Deliver.   

Section 2: Key findings from the 2019 SDG Gender Index.

Section 3: Introducing the 2019 SDG Gender Index, the approach, what makes this index unique and how the findings should be interpreted.

Section 4: Key global findings, patterns and comparisons of index scores between and within the different regions: Asia and the Pacific, Europe and North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa.

Section 5: Regional overviews of index scores and gender equality context, and thematic deep drives on 1) inequalities in girls’ education, 2) women in science and technology research positions, 3) girls’ and women’s physical safety, 4) legal barriers for women, 5) women in government.

Section 6: Leaving no one behind: multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination of girls and women.

Section 7: Recommendations for action. 

Annex: Annexes including the indicator framework, methodology and design of the index.

2018 Global Report

2 mins

Global Report 2018: Data Driving Change

Read our 2018 global report, where Equal Measures 2030 introduces the pilot SDG Gender Index, a tool that tells the story of progress for girls and women and measures whether the world is on track to achieve gender equality by 2030. This global report unpacks the pilot SDG Gender Index to demonstrate its use for cross-country comparisons and in-depth analysis, and for the review of gender equality across the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

  • Section 2 introduces the SDG Gender Index, the most comprehensive overall measure of progress towards gender equality aligned to the SDGs to date. It sets out the rationale for an Index that spans the full breadth of gender equality issues and outlines the unique design and development of the Index, spurred and guided by the data needs of those working at the frontline in the quest for gender equality.
  • Section 3 provides an overall analysis of the SDG Gender Index findings across our six focus countries – Colombia, El Salvador, India, Indonesia, Kenya and Senegal – reinforcing the value of the Index for cross-country comparison.
  • Section 4 shows how the Index can be used to deep dive into the national picture, featuring country profiles with real-life stories and details of the work of our national partners.
  • Section 5 provides conclusions and next steps for the Equal Measures 2030 partnership and is followed by annexes providing full details of the SDG Gender Index framework and indicators, the ‘missing’ critical issues, and our methodology.
  • The annexes provide significant background information on the design and rationale of the SDG Gender Index. In particular, annex 3 demonstrates the SDG Gender Index at work across 12 of the 17 SDGs.  Annex 4 takes a closer look at the policy issues that are currently ‘missing’ from the global data picture, but that are of critical importance for girls and women.

2017 Policy Maker Report

1 min

Policymakers and Gender Equality: What They Know and How They Know It

Understanding the perspectives of policymakers on gender equality – as well as the extent to which these perspectives are grounded in data and evidence – is a crucial part of understanding where change needs to happen in order to keep us on track to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for girls and women by 2030.

The fact remains that, if the SDGs are to be achieved, it will be because policymakers in the 193 countries that signed up to the SDGs put in place the laws, policies and funding necessary to implement the goals on the ground.

By surveying 109 policymakers in five countries (Indonesia, India, Kenya, Senegal and Colombia), this research seeks to shed light on:

  • How do policymakers perceive progress on gender equality in their countries?
  • What most needs to change in order to improve gender equality?
  • What data and evidence do they rely on to make their decisions?
  • How confident are they in their understanding of the major challenges affecting girls and women in their countries?

The survey results raise concerns about whether policymakers are equipped with and sufficiently using the basic information required to drive action towards the ambitious gender equality targets that are part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).