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This paper highlights the key role of discriminatory social institutions – formal and informal laws, social norms, and practices – as the underlying drivers of gender inequality. Using the Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) from the OECD Development Centre, this paper assesses the cost of gender-based discrimination in social institutions for economic and human development. Quantifying such complex issues is a powerful lever for advocacy, where rights-based arguments have tended to gain less traction. The paper provides evidence that measuring the invisible is feasible and critical to position social norms on the policy radar. It demonstrates that any truly transformative post-2015 development agenda must take into account how such inequalities impact the development pathways of women and girls across their entire life course, limiting their rights and empowerment opportunities.

This article is hosted by our co-publisher Taylor & Francis. For the full table of contents for this and previous issues of this journal, please visit the Gender and Development website.

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