Tackling gender inequality from all directions.

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Improving the position of women continues to be an important concern in development. As we strive to make better living standards possible for people of all walks of life, we need to identify and meaningfully address problems faced by individuals and groups.

The unfortunate truth is that women around the world encounter inequalities in their everyday lives, in many shapes and forms.

The unfortunate truth is that women around the world encounter inequalities in their everyday lives, in many shapes and forms. Gender equality was named one of the Sustainable Development Goals because it still isn't the norm.

As compared to their male counterparts, women typically earn less, are less likely to participate in the labour market, and spend more time doing unpaid work. They also make up a vulnerable group outside of working life, with more than one in three women worldwide having experienced physical or sexual violence.

The complex nature of the problem demands that work be done on many fronts.

This is the starting point of UNU-WIDER's ongoing project in partnership with the University of Namur, Gender and Development, which investigates some of the gaps in opportunity and capability between men and women in key global contexts. I recently had the chance to listen in on the key findings coming out of the project at Towards Gender Equity.

Here's what I learned.

Attention to gender pays off

Development aid organizations and state agencies have sometimes preferred to implement projects in communities through mixed gender or same gender--usually all-women--groups. James Fearon's experimental study in Liberia with Macartan Humphreys took a closer look at how these types of groups provide aid and got an important result.

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When in mixed groups, the study found that women contributed about the same as men to a community fund. When in an all-women group, however, they contributed substantially more--when they were aware they were dealing with other women only. The authors attribute this result to a potential social identity effect; in other words, they may have identified with their group and, as a result, acted in solidarity. The study provides concrete evidence that the right group make-up may lead to positive outcomes, in this case, delivering public goods.

Social categories make a difference

Researchers make use of certain available categories--such as caste in India--in their research to determine differences between groups of...

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