Richard Wainwright / Plan International

Frequently Asked Questions

The EM2030 SDG Gender Index represents the most comprehensive tool to measure overall progress towards gender equality that is aligned to the SDGs to date. It is unique in the breadth of its approach and analysis, and in its development by a partnership that spans civil society and the private sector with a presence in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America. The Index, housed on a digital Gender Advocates Data Hub, showcases stories, tools and country- and issue-specific resources to provide a more holistic way to measure and understand gender equality in a country.

The Index is defined and driven by the needs of gender advocates. It draws on needs assessments and consultations with gender advocates and other stakeholders from the community, national, regional and global levels, including from the six focus countries.


The Index draws on both official SDG and complementary indicators, and reflects ‘inputs’ (such as laws, policies, norms and budget allocations) that affect the lives of girls and women, as well as the ‘outcomes’ that more commonly feature in the SDGs and other global gender indices.


The Index goes beyond SDG 5 on gender equality to highlights issues that are crucial to creating an enabling environment for gender equality but are not widely seen as traditional ‘gender issues’, such as climate change, energy and tax and public finance issues.

There is currently no global index that compares progress on girls, women and gender equality across the SDGs. UN Women and other UN agencies (such as UNESCO, UNICEF, UNFPA et al) are assigned as custodians for compiling and disseminating national reporting of indicators for individual goals that are part of the SDG framework. The EM2030 SDG Gender Index complements these available gender-related data reported by countries to UN agencies by adding a further gender lens and complementary data where not evident in the SDG framework (e.g., laws regarding abortion, women in the climate change process, the “openness” of gender data, etc.). The Index provides a picture that goes beyond SDG 5 on gender equality and brings the different measures that UN agencies collect from UN member states into a single holistic framework for gender equality.

The development of the SDG Gender Index has drawn from the approaches and lessons from the major global gender indices as well as from the frameworks for gender-related indicators produced by the UN. Whereas other major global indices take a small number of indicators to represent the overall gaps between women and men (World Economic Forum) or inequality in key development measures (Gender Inequality Index) or focuses on new themes, such as peace and security (Women, Peace and Security), the SDG Gender index provides a summary across the broad range of individual goals and development issues that affect girls and women.

The SDG Gender Index is designed to track progress on the SDGs, a framework that has strong commitments to gender equality but that does not replace UN member states existing commitments under CEDAW or other human rights Conventions. The SDG Gender Index aims to take account of many of the issues also covered by CEDAW, but recognises that there are  other bodies that comprehensively monitor CEDAW implementation whether through countries directly reporting to the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights ( see the national reports compiled HERE). We hope that the SDG Gender Index and other related tools like the Gender Advocates Data Hub will be useful inputs for advocates who are also engaged in monitoring CEDAW implementation.

Colombia, El Salvador, India, Indonesia, Kenya and Senegal were selected as focus countries by EM2030 core partners on the basis of the following principles and guidelines:

  • has a high burden of key gender-related SDG issues
  • represents a range of geographic coverage, sizes, populations and income levels
  • has safe spaces in which civil society could advocate and influence with a certain level of freedom
  • where further data and analysis, as well as investment in data use and accessibility, would add value to the current efforts of civil society
  • has a strong EM2030 partner presence, as well as networks of advocates and links to policymakers to enable smooth implementation of the pilot approach

Almost half of the indicators in the SDG Gender Index are drawn from official SDG indicators. The remaining indicators come from a range of different complementary sources and help to fill out the picture of progress on the gender equality issues that are relevant to each SDG. Some of these indicators are part of thematic or regional SDG frameworks and others have been recently developed by non-governmental and inter-governmental constituencies.

One could argue that all 17 goals should be part of the SDG Gender Index, given the relevance of gender for progress on all of the goals and the relevance of all the goals for gender equality. The challenge has been to strike a balance between ease of understanding and capturing the full breadth of gender equality issues across the SDG framework.


If the Index includes too many issues and indicators, it makes it more difficult to ascertain which ones are driving the scores. If the SDG Gender Index is to serve as an accountability tool, one needs to be able to link the Index scores to a set of real-world issues where there has been progress in order to learn lessons and to highlight issues where progress is lagging in order to spur faster change.


In some cases, certain Goals were not included because of a lack of sufficient data on gender-relevant issues, or because such issues were covered in other Goals. While keeping the overall number of indicators manageable, the aim was to ensure that there were at least three gender-relevant indicators for each goal so that the calculation of a score for an SDG would not be weighed too heavily on the performance on a single indicator.


We are open to feedback on other Goals and indicators that could be included in future, whilst aiming to keep it manageable for advocates to understand and utilise.

The majority of indicators (70%) in the Index are designed specifically to capture the conditions of girls and women. The remaining indicators may not be explicitly gender-related but do implicitly capture issues that research has shown to have a disproportionate effect on the lives of girls and women. So while there isn’t global data on the intra-household allocation of resources or how money is spent within the household, we know that living in a household in poverty limits the opportunities of girls and women, for example.

The figures included in the Index are fairly recent – almost 2 in 5 indicators are from 2018 or 2017, 4 in 5 indicators are from 2015 or more recent – which provides the baseline for monitoring gender progress in the SDGs. Nonetheless 1 in 5 indicators are more than 3 years old and thus may present a slightly outdated starting point for countries and should be interpreted with caution. While some indicators move slowly over time, others can change more quickly – for example, the introduction of new laws or policies.


For consistency, we have relied almost entirely on existing public data sets. In some cases there may be more up-to-date national data that haven’t been reported to UN agencies or are currently in the reporting process. These would be captured in future Index releases.  

Fortunately, there are very few cases where estimation due to missing data was required and these cases are marked clearly in the Annex. Basic estimation methods were used, including extrapolation techniques using a longer time series or by drawing on other data sources.

Not all of the official UN indicators for the SDG framework that are gender-related or require the reporting of data disaggregated by sex are included in the SDG Gender Index. This is mainly due to the lack of data, or lack of disaggregated data, for many of the gender-related indicators. The data coverage problems become particularly acute when the Index coverage expands to include countries worldwide. This is also due to the need to limit the number of indicators in the Index to make it easier for advocates to see which issues are driving the Index results. As a result we have had to prioritise issues and indicators in consultation with gender advocates in civil society, research, government, private sector.


The selection of indicators was based on the following criteria: i) Theoretical coherence, ii) Data availability, iii) Communicability and transparency, Iv) Relevance, v) Transformational potential, vi) Universal applicability, and vii) Innovative.

The use of indicators from a wide range of sources was considered in the design of the Index. Any indicator proposal went through a battery of criteria in order to be considered. Data availability was one of the main reasons for not being able to include an otherwise conceptually-sound, policy-relevant, reliable and easy-to-communicate indicator. As the data landscape evolves, other measures will be considered for inclusion in the Index.

The reliability of data sources is an important question, especially since some of the issues are characteristically difficult to measure. The indicators are considered reliable and fit for purpose for use in a global index that seeks to monitor change, however for use in more specific policy and planning objectives, other data sources and information are vital.

The average score across the 3-6 indicators was used to generate a score for each SDG. So while scores are unweighted across goals to produce the overall Index score, there was weighting dependent upon the number of indicators within a goal. That is, each indicator in a goal with six indicators would have less of a weight in the score than an indicator in a goal with three indicators. To ensure simplicity and transparency, all 12 goals are weighted equally in generating the overall Index score. For the next iteration of the Index, with much wider global coverage, weighting will be reconsidered both within and across the SDGs.

The design of the SDG Gender Index has been informed by:

  • consultations within and across the EM2030 partnership (including EM2030 national partners in six countries)
  • public consultations, including online and at the 62nd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in March 2018
  • inputs from a Technical Reference Group, comprised of technical experts in gender statistics, SDG data and index construction
  • surveys with policymakers and gender advocates worldwide

The overall and individual SDG Gender Index scores are relative scores based on how countries perform on the selected indicators compared with the other five pilot countries in this group. The darker green a country’s score, the higher its performance on gender-related indicators relative to the other countries. The closer to red a country’s score, the lower its performance on gender-related indicators, compared with the other countries.

The scores do not represent how near or far a given country is to reaching the ‘end-point’ for that SDG. It represents only how the country has performed on the selected indicators when compared with the other countries in this group. This method of relative scoring holds the potential for much richer cross-national comparisons when the SDG Gender Index is extended to cover a wider group of countries in 2019.

While this was designed as a pilot study, these six countries span three regions and they represent more than 22% of the world’s population of girls and women. Comparisons within this set of countries remain relevant as standalone research.

It is is important to recognise contextual factors in international comparisons of any type. The Index helps to frame the issues and identify problem spots, but further analysis to explain progress or the lack of progress is always needed. The Country Profiles provided in our report and on the Gender Advocates Data Hub provide additional contextual analysis.

We will consider feedback on a range of questions for future iterations of the SDG Gender Index, including whether to:

  • include more SDGs
  • identify at least three gender-relevant indicators for each of the 17 SDGs
  • weight some issues or SDGs more heavily than others
  • group the goals into a smaller set of overarching domains for better communication


We hope that this initial version of the Index will generate feedback about how future iterations of the Index can be further strengthened.

The scores for these six countries will change when the SDG Gender Index is released in 2019 with worldwide data for as many countries as possible. This is true for several reasons: new data will become available, the countries’ scores will be calculated relative to a larger group of countries of different levels of economic development, the issues and indicators included in the Index will be adapted before 2019 (in part due to limitations in data availability), and the techniques used to derive the scores may also change in response to feedback.

The scores for these six countries will change when the SDG Gender Index is released in 2019 with worldwide data for as many countries as possible. This is true for several reasons: new data will become available, the countries’ scores will be calculated relative to a larger group of countries of different levels of economic development, the issues and indicators included in the Index will be adapted before 2019 (in part due to limitations in data availability), and the techniques used to derive the scores may also change in response to feedback.

EM2030 invites feedback, suggestions and engagement from a wide range of stakeholders across every sector in order to strengthen the SDG Gender Index before it is launched with global coverage in 2019. Inputs related to the SDG Gender Index can be sent to

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