Accelerating Gender Equality: The Power of Smart Data Investments

Johannes Jütting (PARIS21), Papa Seck (UN Women) Krista Jones Baptista Shaida Badiee September 20, 2023

(This blog was cross-posted from Voices of SDG Action’s Medium post, which can be found here.)

As we approach the halfway point of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it’s time to shift our focus from persistent challenges to promising opportunities that lie ahead in the realm of gender equality.

This moment in time is truly exceptional. The recent G20 New Delhi Leaders Declaration resounded with resolute language on the imperative to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment and committed to “close gender gaps and promote the full, equal, effective and meaningful participation of women in the economy as decision-makers”. Furthermore, on September 18 and 19, global leaders will convene at the United Nations SDG Summit to comprehensively review the state of the 17 SDGs, including its gender dimensions, and collaborate on setting a unified agenda for the future.

Our rallying cry to such leaders is clear: to achieve global gender equality by 2030, we must strategically invest in gender data.

When we have high-quality gender data, we illuminate the path forward, enabling evidence-based policies, targeted interventions, and informed decision-making. Without robust gender data, achieving global gender equality becomes nearly impossible. We cannot measure our progress or provide policymakers with the essential information needed to advance gender equality. Investments in gender data can help us correct course and accelerate progress towards a more equitable world.

Solutions for Smarter Gender Data Financing

Informed by practices at country level, donor agencies and international development organizations, our collaborative effort, “Solutions in Scarcity: Smart Financing for Gender Data,” has unearthed three opportunities for smarter investments in gender data to accelerate progress in the second half of the SDGs:

1. Rethinking Financing Models: We advocate for integrating official development assistance and domestic resource mobilization within a country-owned strategy. This approach amplifies the impact of limited resources by ensuring gender data is an integral part of national development plans. In Lesotho and the Maldives, tangible progress has been made through the integration of gender considerations into their national strategies for the development of statistics, which has reset priorities and budget allocations.

2. Focusing on System-Wide Investments: To build strong and sustainable gender data systems, we must prioritize investments that strengthen the entire national and international systems. At the global level, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have adopted new gender equality strategies that highlight the crucial role of gender data. Similarly, bilateral agencies like the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency the United States Agency for International Development and the United Kingdom Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office have unveiled their own gender equality strategies, underscoring a strategic emphasis on gender data to drive effective change and improve people’s lives across sectors.

3. Revealing the Business Case: Gender data is vital for preparing for the future. We must showcase how gender data translates into real impact. Crafting a persuasive business case is pivotal, especially when we’re confronted with competing financial demands.

The world benefits when we invest in gender data

The SDG Summit offers a prime opportunity to underscore the dividends of investments in gender data. Here’s a glimpse of is achievable when we prioritize gender data:

We amplify women’s economic contributions: Strides have been made in measuring women’s roles in the global economy through investments in gender data. Innovative time-use surveys have highlighted the unequal burden of unpaid work, such as household chores and childcare, while the increased prominence of satellite accounts, such as those in Mexico, are quantifying the care economy as a contribution to gross domestic product (GDP). In Kenya, following the inaugural time use survey in 2021, the Government is working with stakeholders to develop its first national care policy, as a central part of its 4th Medium Development Plan.

We can protect communities with enhanced data on violence against women: Data on violence against women and girls such as in Viet Nam and Uganda have shed light on the persistence of this egregious human rights violation, sparking public conversations, raising awareness, and prompting new government strategies and policy responses to address it. Investments in collecting global VAW data during the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the underlying “shadow pandemic” that plagued many women around the world. In Colombia such data prompted local-level changes such as improved street lighting, a comprehensive care unit for victims, and increased municipal budget allocations.

We have unique insights into the various issues affecting the most marginalized women and girls. Mobile phones, citizen-generated data and digital platforms, including geospatial imagery, have enabled the collection of gender data from remote and marginalized areas, and help bring into light issues affecting women and girls. For example, an analysis of geospatial data with Demographic Health Survey data in Asia and the Pacific revealed that child marriage is more common in arid regions and locations with frequent drought. Droughts appear to be aggravating this situation. Across all wealth quintiles, child marriage rates were higher in clusters where drought episodes happen more frequently. By examining the data, we can gain a better understanding of the complex relationship between climate change and gender.

Calling on world leaders for change

These examples underscore the benefits of investing in gender data. As we approach the SDG Summit and plan for the years ahead, we call upon world leaders to:

  • Demonstrate political leadership for gender data and mobilize domestic and international resources to build and strengthen foundational gender data systems that support gender equality for national development.
  • Prioritize gender data production and use as an integral part of their plans and strategies, including through the costing and allocation of sufficient resources.
  • Build partnerships and increase international solidarity as part of the High Impact Initiative on Data Dividend.
  • Utilize existing initiatives like the Clearinghouse for Financing Development Data’s gender data channel and Bern Network to improve donor coordination and increase country-driven investments in gender data.

The time to act is now. Together, we can advocate for smarter investments in gender data systems and turn opportunities into a powerful tool to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment.

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