The MDGs explicitly recognize that gender equality and women's empowerment are not only human rights, but also play a powerful role in promoting development and reducing poverty. When women have the same opportunities, access to resources, and life choices as men, the benefits extend far beyond women themselves. As women work to strengthen their families and communities, they foster the education and health of the next generation, hasten economic growth, and strengthen public and private institutions.
A wealth of research has documented the inequities that women face from their earliest years and in every facet of their lives, including in education, employment, marriage, parenthood, and political participation. Women also face unique challenges, including meeting their reproductive health needs and the threat of gender-based violence. Overcoming these challenges and empowering women to fulfill their potential as equal members of society requires profound changes in attitudes, roles, and behaviors inside the home, at the workplace, and in the community.
This report assesses the progress made toward gender equality and women's empowerment since the MDGs were adopted in 2000. It summarizes findings from 95 surveys conducted by MEASURE DHS in 47 countries from 2000 to 2011. While the largest group of countries comes from sub-Saharan Africa, every region of the developing world is represented. Data on trends are available for 33 countries that hosted 2 or more surveys in this time period.