In 128 countries, laws treat men and women differently—making it impossible, for example, for a woman to independently obtain an ID card, own or use property, access credit, or get a job.
- Gender-based violence is a global phenomenon, and in most regions no place is less safe for a woman than her own home: More than one in three women have experienced violence, the vast majority committed by their husbands or boyfriends. That’s 700 million women—close to the total population of Sub-Saharan Africa.
- Girls are increasingly completing school and university, but their work choices remain restricted, by laws and/or social norms that dictate whether and what work is appropriate. Foregone costs in terms of productivity and income can be huge.
- Many women lack sexual and reproductive rights: Data from 33 developing countries reveal that almost one third of women cannot refuse sex with their partners—rising to more than seven out of 10 Nigerian, Malian, and Senegalese women—and more than 41 percent across those 33 countries say they could not ask their partner to use a condom.
- Each year, almost one in five girls under 18 in developing countries gives birth: South Asia accounts for almost half of teen pregnancies in the developing world. In developing countries, pregnancy-related causes account for most deaths among girls aged 15-19—nearly 70,000 die each year. The lifetime opportunity costs of adolescent pregnancy, measured in terms of lost income, range as high as 30 percent of GDP in Uganda.
- Women and girls face a major gap in access to and use and ownerships of ICT. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 32 million fewer women have access to the Internet than men. In South Asia, 25 million fewer women have access, and in the Middle East and North Africa, 18 million.
- Delays in marriage are associated with greater educational achievement and lower fertility. And lower fertility can increase women’s life expectancy and has benefits for children’s health and education.
- When more women are elected to office, policy-making increasingly reflects the priorities of families, women, and excluded groups.
- Property ownership can enhance women’s agency by increasing the social status of women, amplifying their voice, and increasing their bargaining power within the household.
- Poverty increases gender gaps: Girls living in poor households are almost twice as likely as their richer peers to marry young. Intimate partner violence is also more frequent and severe in poorer households across such diverse settings as India and Nicaragua.
- Women’s groups and collective action play a pivotal role in building momentum for progressive reform. Strong women’s movements are associated with more comprehensive policies on violence against women. And when more women are elected to office, policy-making increasingly reflects the priorities of families and women and results in greater responsiveness to citizen needs.
Most Urgent agenda?
Policymakers and stakeholders need to tackle this agenda, drawing on evidence about what works and systematically tracking progress on the ground. This must start with reforming discriminatory laws and follow through with concerted policies and public actions, including multi-sectoral approaches that engage with men and boys and challenge adverse social norms.