From Vision to Action: 12 Milestones in Gender Data Since the Start of the SDGs

Data2X Krista Jones Baptista September 14, 2023

Since taking the helm at Data2X, I continue to be inspired by the contributions that Data2X staff, our partners, and our constituents in geographies around the world are making to raise awareness of the need for better and more usable gender data for gender equitable policies. As we near the SDG mid-point and prepare for the SDG Summit, we are reflecting on what has been achieved. Gender data are increasingly integrated into more aspects of global development such as climate change, intersectionality, time use, and care work. So, in honor of the SDG Summit, in partnership with Open Data Watch, and in the spirit of collaboration, we present a sampling of our collective achievements.

Krista Jones Baptista
Executive Director, Data2X

Here is how Data2X and our international, regional, and national partners have worked together to close gaps in gender data for monitoring and achieving the SDGs:

Engendering Development Goals and Expanding Their Scope
Integrating gender-specific indicators across the SDGs demonstrated the importance of gender perspectives for measuring progress towards multiple development goals.

  • The MDGs had 60 indicators; the SDGs have 231. The SDGs have over 100 gender-relevant indicators cutting across gender equality, poverty, environment, economy, health, and education. Through research such as the Bridging the Gap series, Data2X and partners have increased the understanding of where data gaps lie and advocated for resources to close them.

Advocating for Smarter Financing for Gender Data
The SDGs require high-quality gender data to measure and monitor progress toward gender equality.Increased financing and funding for gender data initiatives is essential to bridge data gaps, empower women, and drive evidence-based policies

  • In 2019, Data2X and Open Data Watch provided the first cost estimates of supporting a core gender data system. The 2021 update finds that an additional $500 million from donors is needed every year from now through 2030. While a financing gap remains, a network of gender data financing advocates, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Hewlett Foundation, has emerged through the Bern Network, the Clearinghouse for Financing Development Data, and the Solutions in Scarcity series.

Enhancing Gender Data Openness and Accessibility
Producing higher quality and more disaggregated gender data is critical to inform policies to improve lives of women and girls and people of all genders. But so is ensuring that existing gender data are open and accessible. The Open Gender Data Index shows that data openness and accessibility is worse for gender-specific indicators than in other sectors such as economic data.

  • Raising the profile of gender data openness and accessibility has gotten attention from key agencies such as the World Bank whose enhanced Gender Data Portal launched in 2022. Data2X has worked with its partner Open Data Watch to monitor the state of open gender data around the world offering tools and guidance on how countries can get more value from their investments in gender data.

Using Alternative Sources and New Technology to Close Data Gaps
Mobile phones and digital platforms are increasingly utilized to collect gender data, making it easier to reach remote areas and marginalized communities and providing unique insights into issues affecting women and girls where traditional data are not available.

  • The pandemic spurred innovations in countries to collect data using non-traditional sources. With support from UN Women rapid gender assessments were conducted in many countries. Data2X has funded ten research projects that analyzed the potential of big data to quantify the economic, social, and health status of women and girls.

Measuring Women’s Economic Empowerment
The importance of women’s economic empowerment was recognized from the start of the SDGs, particularly the advancement of gender equality agendas and the acknowledgment of the impact of women’s participation in the formal and informal economy.

  • How we define and measure women’s economic empowerment (WEE) matters. In 2020, Data2X and the Center for Global Development joined forces to review existing tools for measuring WEE, furthering our understanding of how to implement WEE across cultures. This work builds on that of other partners such as IFRPI, University of Maryland. In 2021,  the WEE Measurement Learning Collaborative was set up to advance use of WEE-related measures for research and action.

Mainstreaming Gender in Strategies for the Development of Statistics
Mainstreaming gender in national strategies for the development of statistics (NSDSs), incorporates a gender perspective into statistical frameworks so that countries can identify and address gender disparities, monitor progress towards gender equality goals, and design targeted interventions to empower marginalized groups.

  • Since the start of the SDGs, there has been increasing demand from countries for tools to support strategic planning for gender data activities. PARIS21 has supported countries through their gender statistics module of NSDS guidelines resulting in countries like Lesotho and Maldives ensuring gender is not a secondary thought in official statistics. The Gender Data Network, a joint initiative of PARIS21, Data2X, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, and Open Data Watch, brings together gender data focal points to raise the standard of gender data production, improve the effectiveness of communication, and encourage gender data use across 22 countries in Africa, and in the future, to other regions.

Measuring Women’s Paid and Unpaid Work
Significant strides have been made in identifying women’s contributions to the global economy. Enhanced data collection and analysis has shed light on previously obscured dimensions of women’s roles. Innovative methodologies for time-use surveys and new gender-sensitive definitions of employment allow a more comprehensive understanding of women’s contributions across formal and informal sectors.

  •  In 2018, the United Nations Expert Group on Innovative and Effective Ways to Collect Time-Use Statistics (EG-TUS) was established to implement ICATUS 2016 and modernize the collection of time-use statistics.  The same year, Data2X published a methodology and policy review of how time use surveys measure unpaid work.

Combatting Violence against Women Surveys
The UN Beijing Declaration (1995) acknowledges that violence against women is a violation of human rights and has significant costs to the economy and far-reaching implications for women’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. The Beijing Declaration also identifies the lack of comprehensive data and information on violence against women as a significant barrier to effectively addressing this issue.

  • Data on violence against women and girls have become more available. Many countries such as Vietnam have conducted specialized surveys to gather data on violence against women, helping to identify prevalence rates, risk factors, and barriers to seeking support. UN Women, World Health Organization, and others have implemented standardized methodologies and advocated for consistent data collection practices that provide a more comprehensive understanding of the prevalence and dynamics of violence against women.

Recognizing Intersectionality
Since the start of the SDGs, there has been a growing recognition that the experiences of gender are intertwined with other factors such as race, ethnicity, and class that tend to exclude or marginalize populations, leading to more nuanced and accurate analyses to design policies to ‘leave no one behind’.

  • Partners like UN Women and GPSDD have created guidelines and toolkits to explore and unpack the intersectional dimensions of gender data. Data2X has been an active member of the Inclusive Data Charter and will start a new program of work in gender and intersectionality aimed at producing knowledge and tools to support countries.

Strengthening Financial Inclusion Data
There is a persistent gender gap in financial inclusion. Women worldwide are less likely than men to have bank accounts and access to credit and other financial instruments. Women remain both unserved and underserved compared to men in all segments of the economy. Gender data is key for policymakers and financial service providers to understand the gender financial inclusion gap and the opportunities for creating tailored solutions for women.

  • The Women’s Financial Inclusion Partnership, led by Data2X with Financial Alliance for Women and nine other partners, was created to improve the harmonization and interoperability of financial inclusion data. The 2022 Data Dictionary provides consistent definitions, improving data compatibility and reducing reporting burdens. The recently released Gender Data Playbook for Women’s Financial Inclusion codifies country learnings into a practical tool to help other countries boost the national collection of financial inclusion gender data.

Harnessing CRVS and Legal Identity for Gender Equality
CRVS systems and legal identify matter for women and girls because they empower women by providing them with formal identification and enabling access to essential services, financial resources, and other opportunities.

  • Since the start of the SDGs, UNFPA, the Centre of Excellence for CRVS Systems, Data2X, Open Data Watch, and others have collaborated to ensure the gender dimensions of CRVS are not overlooked. Two global conferences were held in 2018 and 2020 merging the topics of gender equality and CRVS for the first time. A series of knowledge briefs identified areas of progress, current challenges, and policy actions needed to strengthen CRVS systems. Under its ID4D Initiative, the World Bank has helped countries build ID systems that promote inclusion and protect people’s data and rights.

Mainstreaming Gender into Development Strategies
Achieving the objectives of the SDG gender equality agenda requires national, regional, and international agencies to establish a collective vision and a clear path forward for their own governing body, staff, and operations. There must be a focus on the pivotal role of gender data for effective monitoring and achievement of program objectives.

  • Agencies including International Monetary Fund, World Bank, USAID, regional Banks such as Inter-American Bank, and prominent multilateral networks such as the G20 have all embarked on the development of comprehensive gender strategies. These strategies share common threads, acknowledging the significance of gender data, addressing existing gaps, and underscoring the need for collaborative efforts to bridge them. Data2X has emerged as a trusted ally, offering valuable insights, guidance, and feedback to support these strategies.

The achievements described here build upon and are complemented by the work of many partners and funders who contribute to these efforts. With their help, Data2X looks forward to tackling the challenges of the next decade and beyond. Gender equality progress has not been linear, and we have seen that progress is not guaranteed. That said, Data2X continues to be steadfast in our belief that with new models for data collection and use, new technologies such as artificial intelligence, and new ways to partner with private sector actors, country governments, policymakers, and data users, gender equality is within reach…Onward!

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