Where’s the “real-time” data on gender equality?

By Alison Holder, Director, Equal Measures 2030

It’s the first Global Goals Day of Factivism; a chance to embrace the facts that help us understand the state of our world as it is today. With Equal Measures 2030’s (EM2030) mission of connecting data and evidence with advocacy and action on gender equality, Factivism is why we exist.

Good Factivism requires good data, and this includes timely data. The partners behind today’s day of action (including TRENDSGPSDD and Project Everyone) have shared an important up to date fact about the state of gender equality to remind us that men dominate positions of political power, holding 75% of Parliamentary seats globally. This fact resonates with the findings of EM2030’s SDG Gender Index: no country has yet reached gender equality and half of countries — home to 2.1 billion girls and women — won’t meet a set of the most important gender equality targets by 2030 if the current pace continues.

Lack of progress on gender equality threatens the whole of the Global Goals agenda: 22% of the indicators for the 17 SDGs are gender specific, and many more of the SDG indicators aren’t gender specific but should be in order to reflect the uneven progress on key issues for girls and women.

But up-to-date data is particularly hard to come by for gender equality. EM2030 knows this first-hand. In building our SDG Gender Index — the most comprehensive tool available to monitor gender equality aligned to the SDGs — we combed gender data sources across the world and across sectors to compile data measuring 51 gender issues across 129 countries.

Despite the massive data compilation effort, we undertook with our global, cross-sector partnership, our Index (like others) is heavily reliant on population Census, household survey and administrative data. But censuses are conducted only every ten years, internationally standardized household-level surveys tend to be updated every 3–5 years, and administrative data (data generated through birth registration, education and health systems, for example) are collected on an ongoing basis but only compiled and reported several years later.

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the pressure for timely data on gender equality. Many groups, including EM2030 and its partners like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and FEMNET, have raised the alarm that COVID-19 could set gender equality back by decades. But at a global level, there is insufficient up-to-date data to systematically prove this point. Even worse, there is a real risk that COVID-19 leads to even less timely gender data, with lockdowns and strained public budgets threatening data gathering efforts.

COVID-19 has exacerbated the pressures, but the need for more up to date gender data is not new. Lack of timely gender data was raised by policymakers and gender equality advocates alike in stakeholder surveys conducted by EM2030 in 2017 and 2018.

In 2018, we worked with Ipsos to survey 625 gender equality advocates around the world. Just 19% of gender advocates considered gender data “up to date.” 86% of advocates described gender data as “somewhat” or “mostly” incomplete. 9 in 10 advocates attributed gender data gaps to governments not prioritizing the collection of data about issues affecting women and girls.

Similar concerns about timeliness of gender data came directly from policymakers themselves. In 2017 EM2030 and Ipsos surveyed 109 policymakers in five countries (Indonesia, India, Kenya, Senegal and Colombia). When asked about the “quality” of gender data in their countries, two thirds of policymakers were dissatisfied with data timeliness:

On the inaugural Global Goals Day of Factivism we need to celebrate the power of facts to capture attention, expose injustice, and drive accountability. But we must also recognize that when it comes to gender equality, up to date data is hard to come by. These gender data gaps must be filled, especially through cross sector and systemic investments in national statistics systems . Data2X estimates that the gap in financing for gender data systems in lower-income countries is between $170M-$240M a year. With COVID-19 in mind, we also need to prioritize real-time monitoring of critical gender issues that we know respond quickly to shocks, such as income, access to education and health services, rates of violence and unpaid care burden.We know that setbacks in progress on gender equality threaten the whole of the 2030 agenda, but we’re “flying blind” without sufficient data to understand the real-time global impact of shocks like COVID-19 on women and girls. Even before COVID-19, more than a third of countries were moving slowly — or even in the wrong direction — on key gender issues. To ensure Factivists have what they need to keep gender equality progress on track, their demands for more timely gender data must be met.

It’s 2020 (shudder). Who has time for feminism? (Hint: We all should.)

By Amanda Austin, Equal Measures 2030’s Head of Policy & Advocacy 

2020 is a year of upheaval. The [sense] of unease, uncertainty, and loss is pervasive. It is felt in all aspects of my life: as a working parent, a woman, an immigrant, and a social justice advocate. This is likewise true for my un(der)employed musician partner, for everyone I speak to among my family, my friends, and my colleagues living around the world.

With each day bringing headlines to make us shudder, we’re struggling to get from today to tomorrow without losing it. Trying to raise our heads above the waves can feel exhausting. This has to be true too for the policymakers making decisions everyday to try to rebuild.

Let me offer some help, here, Mx. /Mr./Ms./Mrs. Policymaker: feminism.

Want to design an effective cross-sector response to a public health crisis? Feminism.

Want to help your economy get back on its feet? Feminism.

Want to protect the rights of all of your citizens? Intersectional Feminism.

Want to build back better both at home and internationally? You guessed it. Feminism

The 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action — the most progressive blueprint ever for achieving gender equality and women’s rights — is 15 September 2020. A huge amount of progress has been achieved, but if 2020 has done anything, it’s reminded us of just how much further we need to go. Here are four pressing critical challenges demanding action:

Bending the Curve Towards Gender Equality research earlier this year from Equal Measures 2030 found that 67 countries — home to 2.1 billion girls and women — wouldn’t achieve any of the five key gender equality targets studied by 2030 if their pace of change continued. This was pre-Covid. UN Secretary-General António Guterres later noted “COVID-19 could reverse the limited progress that has been made on gender equality and women’s rights”.

Trends research drawing on data from the United States and India estimated women’s job loss rates due to COVID-19 are about 1.8 times higher than men’s. These data do not capture the significant shrinkage of the informal economy, where an estimated 740 million women work worldwide and where loss of work has been acute and immediate under lockdown conditions. This is compounded by the fact that women carry a greater burden of unpaid care responsibilities in every country around the world. According to one survey, COVID-19 has increased the time women spent on family responsibilities by an estimated 30% in India alone.

Within one week of France’s lockdown, reports of domestic violence increased by 30%; anecdotal evidence suggests the same trend in many countries. Marie Stopes International, a provider of contraception and safe abortion services, estimated that the pandemic could prevent 9.5 million girls and women from accessing their sexual and reproductive rights and services this year with potential significant impact on lives, health, and wellbeing for decades.COVID-19 has made existing inequalities worse just as other health and humanitarian crises have done before it. Policymakers should seize the momentum of the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform, the Generation Equality campaign, and multi-stakeholder Action Coalitions to channel investment that enable our communities and societies to rebuild. A feminist lens and feminist leadership can guide us out of this crisis. Female leaders are already showing the way. Let’s follow their example to support greater equity for women and girls from 2020 onward.