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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.

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The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, India

In the mid-1980s and 1990s, an era of liberalisation and market reforms, India’s GDP growth rate was consistently above 5 per cent (Nagaraj 2012). This was matched by a corresponding reduction in the share of income poor, though the measured extent of this reduction varies (Alkire and Seth 2015). The reduction, however, has not been uniform across different population subgroups. Although, the rate of rural poverty has decreased faster than that of urban poverty (Förster 2010), poverty in India still continues to be predominantly rural; 70 per cent of India’s poor live in rural areas (World Bank 2012). Furthermore, women face specific gendered risks and vulnerabilities: they receive up to 30 per cent lower wages than men in casual labour, and 20 per cent lower for the same task (World Bank 2009). Women constitute twothirds of the agricultural workforce, but own less than one-tenth of agricultural lands (National Alliance of Women 2008).

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