Policymakers often focus on the tangible—on laws, policies, spending commitments, public statements and so on. This is driven partly by the desire to measure impact and by sheer impatience with the slow pace of change of social norms.
Universal policies can provide basic floors but may not be enough to eliminate horizontal inequalities rooted in social exclusion and longstanding social norms.
Social exclusion means a lack of voice, lack of recognition or lack of capacity for active participation. It also means exclusion from decent work, assets, land, opportunities, access to social services or political representation.
When horizontal inequalities are large, targeted or affirmative action policies that directly support disadvantaged groups—as with access to credit, scholarships or certain group quotas in employment and education—can complement universal policies.
But there is also a risk that targeted policies further reinforce group differences since members receive benefits precisely because of their group identity.
Targeted policies are particularly relevant when a group has clearly been disadvantaged historically.
Gender targetted policies: Since gender remains one of the most prevalent bases of discrimination, policies addressing deep-seated discriminatory norms and harmful gender stereotypes, prejudices and practices are key for full realization of women’s human rights.
Policies can target social norms directly. This can be done through education, by raising awareness or by changing incentives.
Education and raising awareness are both based on providing individuals with new information and knowledge that can foster different values and behaviours. Such
Examples of gender positive policies: Policies are important in areas ranging from protection from violence and discrimination to access to public services initiatives.
Formal education, workplace training or media campaigns against gender stereotyping.
Conditional and unconditional transfers to girls in school.
Protective mechanisms to confront school bullying or workplace harassment.
Changing incentives to delay early marriage and reduce teenage pregnancies.
Nontransferable parental leave for fathers so that fathers became more involved in home caregiving.
Offering access to affordable childcare can provide mothers opportunities to make their own work–life decisions, allowing them to engage in paid work.
Affirmative action quotas that bring gender parity in politics.
Specialized training centres to build women’s capacity in STEM and entrepreneurship.
Comprehensive sexuality education in all schools to empower girls and women through awareness of and access to sexual and reproductive health assistance.