More and better data needed to achieve women’s economic equality and rights

Pictured: Chandra Kala Thapa keeps track of her income from the sale of recently-harvested eggplant. With support from the Joint Programme, Chandra converted her field from grain production to high-value vegetables such as eggplant.
Photo: UN Women/Narendra Shrestha

This blog is written by Alison Holder, Director of Equal Measures 2030. It is the second in a new blog series on women, work and economic empowerment

When women have ownership and control over their assets, they gain increased protection and bargaining power, and more capacity to be economically independent. As the 72nd United Nations General Assembly convenes, it is gratifying to see high levels of agreement regarding the importance of women’s economic empowerment to sustainable development.

However, a glaring challenge remains: the limited amount of available and comparable data to understand the full picture.

We need more data on women’s access to economic resources – including land, property and financial services. But we also need to track all of the structural barriers to women’s economic empowerment. These include:

  • A lack of decent work opportunities
  • The burden of unpaid care work on women, and the lack of value for the care economy
  • Links between the lack of economic empowerment and violence against women and girls
  • The undermining and exclusion of feminist movements and women’s rights organisations in many parts of the world
  • Links with structural issues such as tax justice

We must also ensure we are asking the right questions in the right way. For example, we often ask both women and men about women’s behaviour, but not women and men about men’s behaviour

It’s equally important to examine not just what we ask, but how we ask it. This means using both female and male enumerators and correcting ingrained biases by providing gender awareness training for researchers and data analysts.

More than anything, however, it is crucial to make sure that once such unbiased and credible data are available, they are accessible to and being used by the right people.

At a recent forum in Nairobi, Kenya I conducted an informal poll of grassroots girls’ and women’s advocates. Many of them spoke of their mistrust of official data and of a feeling that their voices and priorities are not being reflected in agenda setting around filling data gaps.

This reveals a potential disconnect between those who make policy and those who seek to influence it. We already know that advocates want to be able to make better use of data and evidence in their influence work. They have told us that one of the things that holds them back is a lack of resources and capacity. As Equal Measures 2030, a partnership between civil society and the private sector, we are making plans aimed at addressing that in six focus countries.

The next step for us is to find out from policy makers how they perceive gender equality issues in their country, and learn about some of the barriers and challenges they face in using data for policy making. We have just conducted a survey with key decision makers in our six focus countries and will reveal the insights of this research when Member States convene later this month for the United Nations General Assembly.

Our partnership is built around using data and evidence on issues like women’s economic empowerment to guide efforts to reach the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. So it only stands to reason that we would use data and evidence to guide our own efforts to reach our goals. This survey is a first step in that direction.

Equal Measures 2030, an independent civil society and private sector-led partnership, fuels progress towards gender equality by making sure girls’ and women’s movements, rights advocates and decision makers have easy-to-use data and evidence to guide efforts to reach the Global Goals by 2030.

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