Global progress of the world’s girls and women (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1283)



Review global reports on girls and women and prepare a 2-4 page overview which highlights (i) global trends, (ii) where progress has been made and where it is slower, including in relation to DFID’s strategic vision priorities, and (iii) emerging global priorities for multilaterals.

Key findings

Globally, remarkable progress has been made in achieving gender equality in some areas, while progress has been slow and stagnant in other areas. Findings include the following:

  • Substantial progress has been made in closing the gender gap in primary enrolment, with two thirds of all countries in the developing world achieving gender parity in this area.
  • Considerable progress has been made at the international level in developing high-level legal and normative frameworks that recognise and reinforce the centrality of women’s rights
  • Women’s representation in national parliaments is more evenly spread across regions than it was in 1995. In 2015, the top ten countries were spread across sub-Saharan Africa (4), Americas (3) and Europe (3) (UN, 2015, p. 31).
  • Persistent gaps remain between international and national laws and their implementation.
  • Although data is limited on violence against women and girls (VAWG), intimate partner violence persists at alarmingly high levels. Harmful practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) have started to decline in some contexts for younger girls, but remain prevalent in others.
  • Conflict-affected countries perform worse than others on many gender indicators. For example, VAWG increases during and after conflict, women’s participation in decision-making is lower in conflict-affected countries, and the share of parliamentary seats occupied by women is four points lower in these countries than the global average.
  • Women are facing multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination. Insufficient attention has been paid to the disparities among women and girls due to level of education, economic status, age and experience of conflict. Women with disabilities, indigenous women, migrant women and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender women are particularly disadvantaged.
  • Overall, efforts to address gender inequalities are struggling to keep pace with population and demographic changes. This means that even in areas where we see relative improvements in indicators, the absolute number of women and girls facing discrimination, health risks, or early marriage remains higher now than ever.


Mcloughlin, C. Global progress of the world’s girls and women (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1283). Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK (2015) 8 pp.

Global progress of the world’s girls and women (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1283)

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