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Gender, power and progress: how norms change

Research reports

Written by Caroline Harper, Rachel Marcus, Rachel George, Emma Samman

Hero image description: UNAMID Police facilitates English classes for displaced women in North Darfur Image credit:©UN Photo/Albert González Farran

This report is about gender norms – the implicit informal rules about appropriate behaviour for people of different genders – that most people accept and follow. It is about the ways in which gender equality, women’s and girls’ rights, and the norms that shape the ability to claim those rights, have progressed over time. It examines how gender norms have changed in the 25 years since the UN’s Beijing Platform for Action on women’s rights was set out in 1995, and their role in progress and setbacks to achieving these rights.

The report draws on global data and learning and explores:

  • how gender norms have changed over the past quarter-century,
  • what has supported and blocked changes to gender norms in a number of sectors, and
  • how to ensure change is faster, and robust enough to resist backlash and crisis.

The report identifies four key areas critical to shifting gender norms to achieve lasting change:

  • education
  • sexual and reproductive health
  • paid and unpaid work
  • political voice and representation.

It draws on four years of learning through ODI’s Advancing Learning and Innovation on Gender Norms (ALIGN) platform, a global knowledge and learning hub on understanding the role of gender norms in societies and how these norms change.

UNAMID Police facilitates English classes for displaced women in North Darfur
Image credit:©UN Photo/Albert González Farran

Caroline Harper, Rachel Marcus, Rachel George, Sophia M. D’Angelo and Emma Samman