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Gender and Indicators

Key Issues Guide: Introduction

Ethiopia young womenFor the last 15 years, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have taken centre stage on the international development agenda. The use of these specific goals and targets have both galvanised global efforts and led to criticism regarding unintended consequences, including the neglect of issues not included in the MDGs. As 2015 signals the end of the MDG era and the creation of new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), this Key Issues Guide provides an overview of some debates around and approaches to measuring change on gender equality.

In 2007, the BRIDGE programme at the Institute of Development Studies published the Gender and Indicators Cutting Edge Pack. The pack notes the critical importance of gender sensitive measurements for enabling better planning and action, and holding institutions accountable. However, measurement techniques and data are described as “limited and poorly utilised, making it difficult to know if efforts are on track to achieve gender equality goals and commitments.”

A lot of progress has been made in the intervening years. There are now multiple, publicly available gender indices, aiding the measurement of things such as institutional gender equality, education and economic participation, and different types of gender gaps. There are also transformative indicators that capture changes in social norms and practices in areas like marriage, family, market and state. With the post-2015 development agenda in the making, now is an opportune time to review what has been learned, and contribute to the process of determining how best to move forward.

This key issues guide was written by Angela de Prairie with advice from Ranjani K Murthy.

Photo credit UNICEF Ethiopia
Creative Commons
Key Resource

Gender and Indicators: Overview Report


What does a world without gender inequality look like? Realising this vision requires inspiring and mobilising social change. But what would indicate that we are on the right track - and how will we know when we get there? Gender-sensitive indicators and other measurements of change are critical for building the case for taking gender inequality seriously, for enabling better planning and actions, and for holding institutions accountable for their commitments on gender.

This Cutting Edge Pack was published in 2007, but still hopes to inspire thinking on these questions - with an Overview Report outlining key issues, a Supporting Resources Collection providing summaries of key texts, tools, case studies and contacts of organisations in this field, and an In Brief bulletin with three short articles on the theme.

Some of the key messages highlighted in the pack are present today in the literature regarding the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and preparation for the post-2015 development agenda:

- Developing gender indicators in controversial and non-controversial spheres is important, as well as having both general and context-specific indicators.
-  A combination of both qualitative and quantitative indicators and mixed methodologies should be considered by all organisations.
- The political nature of identification, use and measurement of indicators.
-  Gender-sensitive indicators and measurement of progress/setbacks is crucial from the lens of gender equity, programme effectiveness, and programme efficiency.
-  The need for the integration of gender indicators into new aid modalities.
-  The need to emphasise careful interpretation of indicators; for example ensuring that increases in participation for women are not offset by far greater workloads.

Approaches to measuring


How can change be measured at individual and social levels, in both formal and informal spheres? There is an increasing array of monitoring and evaluation frameworks, methodologies and approaches. In terms of methods, the ‘hard figures’ produced by quantitative approaches are crucial to building the case for addressing gender disparities. More...

Measuring in different contexts


How might specific contexts require tailored approaches to measuring gender equality and development? As manifestations of gender inequality are context-specific, international indicators based on global standards do not always translate usefully to the local or regional context. Some countries have taken global goals such as the MDGs and adapted them to increase their usefulness and relevance. More...

Indices


Indices developed to measure international and regional gender goals are useful because they allow for cross-national comparisons of gender equality, and they condense complex data into clear messages about achievements and gaps. The limitations of such large scale indices include the challenge of identifying and quantifying which particular elements of gender equality to measure within a limited number of indicators. More...

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)


The MDGs have overseen some dramatic advances in international development over the last 15 years. The most striking successes include reaching global gender parity in primary education enrolment, and significant reductions in infant mortality globally. However, the framework has been criticised for failing to make a broader impact beyond the narrow aims of the selected goals and indicators.. More...

The Sustainable Development Goals, the post-2015 agenda and future opportunities


With the MDGs drawing to a close in 2015, much work has already been done in preparing for a new global development agenda. At the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in 2012, it was agreed that a new set of development goals would be drawn up, leading to the UN General Assembly's Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals presenting a first draft in 2014. More...