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CGD’s work on gender focuses policies in aid, development finance, trade, migration and peacekeeping that will improve women’s economic empowerment worldwide.
Greater equality drives big gains in health, education, employment, and improved livelihoods—for individuals, their families, and their communities. However, in many parts of the world, women and girls, and other marginalized groups including LGBT people, still face legal, economic, and political constraints that prevent them from participating fully and equally in society. CGD uses evidence to show how governments, donor institutions, and the private sector can help create conditions in low- and middle-income countries that allow all people to thrive.
Under managing director Christine Lagarde, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has become a champion for gender equality. This note examines how much the IMF’s dialogue with its member countries has changed as a result of the labeling of gender as a "macrocritical" issue. In short, there has been increased attention to the issue as reflected in word counts and discussion of women’s labor force participation, but there is still a long way to go.
On October 4, CGD convened a private roundtable on women and financial technology in development alongside Monica Brand Engel, co-founding partner of Quona Capital (which invests in financial technology solutions in the developing world), and Wendy Jagerson Teleki of the International Finance Corporation. An engaged set of participants from MDBs, government, civil society, and the private sector joined Engel and Teleki in exchanging ideas on how to increase women’s representation in financial technology (or “fintech” for short) leadership and improve access to financial services for women.
The Birdsall House Conference Series on Women seeks to identify and bring attention to leading research and scholarly findings on women’s empowerment in the fields of development economics, behavioral economics, and political economy. On December 7th, academics, private sector representatives, and policymakers will turn to an issue that affects women in rich and poor countries alike: the ability to make informed, voluntary, and autonomous choices about childbearing, and the implications of reproductive choice as a lever to expand women’s economic and life prospects. Until recently, there has been a lack of rigorous empirical evidence on the links between contraceptive access and women’s economic empowerment in low- and middle-income countries. The 2017 Birdsall House Conference will feature new findings on this relationship alongside existing evidence from the United States.
The terminology describing economic programs for women has changed: actions to ‘empower women economically’ have replaced efforts to ‘increase women’s productivity and incomes.’ But how can we actually measure ‘economic empowerment’? Last November, CGD, in collaboration with Data2X, IDRC and the World Bank Africa Gender Innovation Lab organized a panel discussion on possible measures and issues, drawing on evidence from the ExxonMobil Foundation-funded report Women’s Economic Empowerment: A Roadmap and its update, “Revisiting What Works.” Read the overview here. Since then, new research has been conducted which raises alternative perspectives on these measures.
In 1995, India’s Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) organized women waste pickers in Ahmedabad into a cooperative to improve their working conditions and livelihoods. Over time, this informal arrangement evolved into Gitanjali—a women-owned and -run social enterprise. With support from key partners, Gitanjali has generated social value, providing its members with safe and dignified work while increasing their earnings. While Gitanjali faces challenges in becoming a fully self-sufficient social enterprise, its experience offers insights for other initiatives seeking to provide opportunities for women to transition from informal to formal work.
Improving rights for gays and lesbians is a critical human rights issue. Even where it is not illegal, gays and lesbians face violence, discrimination, and social stigma. But our research makes clear that in the developing world as a whole, both laws and attitudes are changing for the better, and that legal change is not only a positive step in itself, but it can also help shift attitudes too.
Washington – Today, Center for Global Development Senior Fellow Charles Kenny and Researcher Dev Patel released a new study that finds that just as social attitudes toward gays and lesbians have changed rapidly in the developed world, these attitudes are also changing in the developing world. The study also suggests that the changes in social attitudes often follow and are caused by changes in government policy toward gays and lesbians.
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The study, “Norms and Reform: Legalizing Homosexuality Improves Attitudes” uses public opinion data on this issue from the Gallup World Poll and the World Values Survey and matches changes in attitudes over time with the timeline of laws concerning same-sex decriminalization. The study also includes data visualizations that show legal trends over time and geography.
Legality of homosexuality across the globe
“Improving rights for gays and lesbians is a critical human rights issue. In some countries, people are still imprisoned and even killed because of their sexual orientation. Even where it is not illegal, gays and lesbians face violence, discrimination, and social stigma,” said Charles Kenny. “But our research makes clear that in the developing world as a whole, both laws and attitudes are changing for the better. And legal change is not only a positive step in itself, it can also help shift attitudes.”
The study finds:
As of May 2017, there were 124 countries without any legal penalties for homosexuality, compared to 72 countries that criminalize same-sex sexual activity.
In the last three decades the proportion of the world that report they do not want to live next to a gay or lesbian individual has dropped by about ten percentage points.
International social norms influenced social norms in developing nations. For example, looking at Eastern European Block nations, eyeing admission into the European Union and the international community, attitudes changed quickly to match the EU consensus on gay and lesbian equality.
When examining differing colonial origins of developing nations, former British colonies lag behind in legalizing homosexuality. 56% of countries where homosexuality is illegal are former British colonies, and 71% of former British colonies criminalize homosexuality.
As law change so do social attitudes and norms. That means that those advocating for policy changes are playing an enormous role – changing not just laws but attitudes as well across the globe.
“A number of developing countries were decades ahead of the United States in legalizing homosexual sex and ensuring gay marriage rights, but they aren’t given much credit,” said Kenny. “While there are still disastrous human-rights violating policies in countries like Zimbabwe and Uganda that demand our attention, they are – thankfully – increasingly the exception.”
You can read the full study here.