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Policy Lessons About Gender Equality

  • May 2017
2014 Jonathan Torgovnik/Reportage by Getty Images, courtesy of the Hewlett Foundation

Gender Equality Can Be Supported by Investments in: 

  • Empowering women to use contraception.
  • Improving girls' school enrollment and attendance.
  • Protecting women's rights to own property and other assets.
  • Boosting girls' social, human, and financial capital.

What Is the Issue?  
In most countries, existing social, political, and financial structures benefit men while placing women at a disadvantage in household decisionmaking, political power, and accumulation of income and assets. Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals is ending gender inequality—the unequal treatment of people based on their gender. Gender equality is relevant to women’s individual economic empowerment and a nation’s economic growth.

Why Does It Matter?  

In low- and middle-income countries, gender inequality stifles economic growth through the diminished productivity of women, lower female labor force participation, and tracking of girls into low-paying occupations. These factors, in turn, contribute to higher poverty rates among women. New research suggests that reducing gender inequality in labor force participation and economic productivity can bolster a nation’s economic growth.

What Can Be Done? 
Supporting the rights of women and girls to access reproductive health care, receive an education, own property, and contribute to the formal economy promotes gender equality and can yield benefits for women, their families, and communities. Enhancing women’s ability to use contraception is key to help delay family formation and to keep girls in school to achieve greater educational attainment—both of which help women participate in the labor market and contribute productively to the economy. As a result of key investments, more women may have greater social, human, and financial capital and be better able to participate in the formal economy.

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