Advancing Gender Equality

Case Studies from Across the Commonwealth

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The Commonwealth Secretariat has been a pioneer in promoting women’s rights and gender equality since the 1976–85 UN Decade for Women, and of gender mainstreaming since the UN 4th World Conference on Women, to which our 1995 Plan of Action on Gender and Development was a Commonwealth contribution.

This publication brings together case studies prepared in connection with the end-of-term review of the 2005–15 Commonwealth Plan of Action for Gender Equality. The case studies are based on submissions and interviews with government representatives, gender specialists and other stakeholders, including civil society organisations, from 20 countries representing all regions of the Commonwealth.

The examples were selected to demonstrate a range of strategies that can be employed to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment. Together they help to show what perpetuates gender inequality and offer approaches that can be adopted to help end unjust discrimination.



1AZAM Programme for Economic Development, Malaysia

Malaysian women and girls have enjoyed equal opportunities with men and boys in terms of access to basic social services since the country’s independence in 1957, achieving significant progress in socioeconomic areas (UNDP 2007). Malaysia has also achieved gender parity in primary, secondary and post-secondary education, including at the university level (WEF 2012). However, in spite of such progress, at least 500,000, and as many as 2.3 million, Malaysian women are ‘absent’ from the labour market (defined as the number of women working or looking for work as a share of all working-age women) (World Bank 2012). Women lag behind men in labour participation (46.1 per cent of women were part of the workforce in 2010, compared with 78.7 per cent of men) (UNDP 2012).


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