Accessible and timely sex-disaggregated data are critical in helping policymakers understand and address the unique challenges women and girls face. But do investments in gender statistics match their importance?
PARIS21’s latest PRESS 2021 finds a stagnant trend in financing for gender-related projects in data and statistics. Apart from a boost in funding in 2015, there has been little change, with total funding hovering around USD 90 million each year since. Despite growing needs, this mirrors a similar theme in funding for total global commitments to statistics, which were equivalent to USD 647 million in 2019 and estimated to be USD 624 million in 2020.
Low levels of investment, however, have not stopped advocates from continuing calls for increased funding. With the release of the annual figures on financing for statistics, it is an appropriate time to pause and reflect on what shape increased financing in gender statistics should take.
Increased investments that only fill data production gaps will not solve the range of challenges facing the gender statistics community. The mobilization of additional domestic and global resources should instead focus on all stages of the data value chain – from collection and production to use and impact. A set of five guiding actions are shared below to ensure ongoing and future investments in gender data to produce the greatest returns: Invest in a gender data foundation; invest in the future; align production and use with strategy; increase the evidence on the impact of gender data investments; and increase transparency on financing data.
Invest in a gender data foundation
Investments in gender statistics are an investment in the overall statistical system.
Investments in gender statistics must be targeted for greatest impact. The “State of Gender Data Financing 2021” report by Data2X and Open Data Watch identified the instruments and sources needed to produce the data to measure and monitor the gender-relevant Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicators. Together these surveys and administrative systems comprise the core gender data system and produce the data necessary to understand the realities of women’s and girls’ lives. They are a natural starting point for targeted investments.
Investing in such core statistical activities is needed more than ever. PRESS 2021 reports that as of May 2021, 4 in 10 national statistical offices (NSOs) reported that data collection costs had increased since the beginning of the pandemic, with 61 percent of NSOs in low– and lower middle-income countries reporting a lack of funding as the greatest challenge compared to only a third of NSOs in high- income countries.
Benefits to a stronger gender data system abound. The same instruments and administrative systems that produce gender indicators produce a large array of other indicators needed to design, implement, and monitor development programs and the SDGs. Fully funding a core gender data system will improve the overall statistical system.
Invest in the future
Investing in people is as important as investing in a census or survey.
Strengthening a core gender data system requires technical capacity and political support within NSOs, and diversifying NSO leadership can foster greater political will. But to pave the path for tomorrow’s leaders and strengthen their technical skills, access to proper education, training, and mentorship are needed. Raising human resource capacity, in addition to filling data gaps, should remain a high priority item on the agenda for UN agencies, international financial institutions, and donors. One example is the Gender Data Network (GDN), an initiative between PARIS21, Data2X, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), and Open Data Watch. GDN is rooted in the belief that there is power in capacity building. It connects its network members to the wider global family of organizations focused on gender data to build skills, foster collaborative relationships, and inspire future leaders and advocates within statistical offices.
Align production and use with strategy
National strategies must incorporate and budget for gender data to ensure successful investments.
To build a sustainable gender data financing environment, the first step is for NSOs to clearly articulate demand and budget for gender data in national statistical plans, alongside pledging support for domestic resource mobilization to the government and international donors. An assessment of 74 IDA-eligible countries for the Clearinghouse for Financing Development Data revealed two-thirds of countries referenced gender statistics, but only 23 planning documents have a budget line for gender data.
But demand for better gender statistics must come from outside the NSO as well. Other public agencies and ministries should look to integrate gender-oriented goals into their own budget policies, programs and processes, and specifically outline the role data will play in achieving them. Many countries have national strategies on gender equality—for example, the United States recently became the latest nation to adopt a government-wide roadmap—but links to data and robust metric frameworks should be strengthened. Such national plans of action can signal strong demand for gender data to monitor, measure, and guide policy.
Globally, national and multilateral donor agencies can also create dedicated gender data portfolios. Promising examples include GIZ’s ongoing focus on evidence-driven interventions for gender equality, alongside the Centre of Excellence for CRVS Systems, previously housed at the International Development Research Centre.
Increase the evidence on the impact of gender data investments
A smart investor will want to see a return on investment; funding gender data is no different.
It can be challenging to articulate the effect of core gender data systems on women and girls’ daily lives. The key to achieving sustainability in this field is to better document and communicate the impact of increased financing for gender data, and to ensure that gender data, when produced, is meaningfully linked to policy decisions. Examples of policy impact can help NSOs make the case for increased domestic resources during the budgeting process as well as recruit more external funding. Nearly 80 percent of total funding for gender statistics was provided by only seven donors from 2017-2019. Showcasing the impact of gender data investments will help attract more donors and diversify the funding pool.
Increase transparency on financing data
A more complete picture of who is funding what and where can ensure we see the forest from the trees.
A review of over 100 gender data stakeholders by Open Data Watch and Data2X provides a comprehensive look at the gender data financing landscape and shows that there are many notable organizations working to improve the availability, quality, and use of gender data. But are their efforts coordinated or siloed and based on donor interests and mandates? The gender channel of the Clearinghouse for Financing Development Data can answer this question by helping to contextualize national and international gender data investments within the broader funding space. It also allows users to delve further into specific countries to identify financing gaps and explore relevant capacity-building projects to better inform decision-making and bring projects to scale.
In addition to the Clearinghouse, the financing community would benefit from multistakeholder partnerships driving collaboration to allocate financing for gender data more efficiently.
Chronic underinvestment in gender data continues to hinder evidence-based policymaking, and prevents effective monitoring and evaluation to ensure that programs are inclusive and effective. Increased financing for gender data stands to drive progress for everyone: the cross-cutting nature of gender data ensures that any investment in core gender data systems will contribute to robust foundational data systems that will benefit all. By investing in foundational gender data systems, we can ultimately deliver on a better, more equal future.