Making girls count: Why open data matters in gender development

“Closing the gender gap is not possible without closing the data gap.” – Melinda Gates

One of the key announcements to emerge from the ongoing Women Deliver 2016 at Copenhagen is the launch of a new data and research partnership to monitor and drive progress on gender targets outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals.

Key to meeting these new gender targets is reliable and up to date information on women and girls to help ensure transparency, accountability and citizen engagement. In most countries, this data is largely missing or incomplete, be it on child marriages, dowry deaths, domestic violence, the wages women are paid, or why and how many girls are dropping out of schools. Having the data helps set concrete plans and goals and hold governments accountable.

This is especially critical in these times given the global financial crisis, natural disasters and widespread political instability. Take climate change related disasters for instance. There is evidence to show that every such crisis affects men and women differently. This is especially the case in developing countries where women face greater risks to life and health due to social structures. However the lack of adequate data to support this differentiated impact means they don’t get taken into account at the policy level.

“Making all girls visible in statistics is a critical first step towards holding governments to account and implementing the girl-focused global goals”, believes Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen. CEO of Plan International, which is one of the groups leading the joint research initiative. Progress on gender equality goals are slow because there are no numbers to track it. “We do not adequately measure the number of girls who leave school due to marriage, pregnancy, or sexual violence, simply the number in school. Millions of girls are left invisible”, adds Albrectsen.

This invisibility supports the attitude that girls and women simply do not count. Having hard numbers for where they live, what they go through and what they want will help bring down that wall.

 

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