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[afro-nets] Improving the Status of Women in Developing Countries

Changing Social Institutions to Improve the Status of Women in
Developing Countries

By Johannes Jütting and Christian Morrisson
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
POLICY BRIEF No. 27 - 2005

Available online as Adobe PDF file (28 pp. 847 kB):

To address gender inequality in a country properly requires
knowledge of the sources and the depth of discrimination. Valid
indicators that capture various aspects of gender inequality are
indispensable for informed policy making. The existing indica-
tors tend to focus on gender disparities related to access to
education, health care, political representation, earnings or
income and so forth.

The aggregate indices that have received the most attention are
the UNDP's Gender Development Index (GDI) and the Gender Empow-
erment Measure (GEM). The UNDP's Human Development Reports cover
both regularly for individual countries. The GDI is an un-
weighted average of three indices that measure gender differ-
ences in terms of life expectancy at birth, gross enrolment and
literacy rates and earned income. The GEM is an unweighted aver-
age of three other variables reflecting the importance of women
in society. They include the percentage of women in parliament,
the male/female ratio among administrators, managers and profes-
sional and technical workers, and the female/male GDP per capita
ratio calculated from female and male shares of earned income.

Both of these indices have a fundamental problem. They measure
the results of gender discrimination rather than attempt to un-
derstand its underlying causes. The school enrolment ratio and
the percentage of women among managers, for example, are useful
in comparing different country situations, but neither explains
why these differences arise. They ignore the institutional
frameworks that govern the behaviour of people and hence the
treatment of women. In most developing countries, especially
poor ones, cultural practices, traditions, customs and social
norms hold the keys to understanding the roots of gender dis-

* * * *
This message from the Pan American Health Organization,
PAHO/WHO, is part of an effort to disseminate information Re-
lated to: Equity; Health inequality; Socioeconomic inequality in
health; Socioeconomic health differentials; Gender; Violence;
Poverty; Health Economics; Health Legislation; Ethnicity; Eth-
ics; Information Technology - Virtual libraries; Research & Sci-
ence issues. [DD/ IKM Area] ?Materials provided in this elec-
tronic list are provided "as is". Unless expressly stated other-
wise, the findings and interpretations included in the Materials
are those of the authors and not necessarily of The Pan American
Health Organization PAHO/WHO or its country members?.
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