Gender equality begins with producing sex-disaggregated data
We live in an increasingly data-driven world. A fundamental principle of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to collect and disseminate disaggregated data in order to leave no one behind. Reliable, accessible and timely disaggregated data is key to design targeted policies and programmes that promote women’s advancement and expand their opportunities in all spheres of life. Over the last two decades, countries have been making progress on producing sex-disaggregated data: 80% of countries are now collecting sex-disaggregated statistics on unemployment, mortality, education and training.
We need to move beyond outcome data and recognise the importance of social norms
Yet, we are far from having enough data, especially on the drivers of gender inequality. Less than one-third of countries worldwide are collecting statistics in critical areas such as violence against women, unpaid care work or disaggregating data by sex on informal employment and entrepreneurship. In addition, only 13% of countries worldwide have established a budget for gender statistics (UN, 2013).
‘’Standard’’ gender-disaggregated data can tell us how many girls are in school or how many women are working in comparison with men. But it fails to show us why we see these disparities in outcomes. For example, the data shows us that 48% of girls drop out of secondary school in Mozambique, but additional data is required to understand why. One crucial reason is the fact that 41% of girls marry under the age of 18, and thus end up dropping out of school. So, unless we can track and measure these underlying factors, we won’t be making much progress towards achieving Agenda 2030.
Over the past decade, the OECD Development Centre’s Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) has consistently advocated and provided data to allow and encourage stakeholders to look at discriminatory laws, social norms and practices to address gender inequalities. The fourth edition of the SIGI in 2019 – which includes 180 countries – sheds lights on the main improvements and challenges that women face in four of the major socio-economic areas that affect their lives: discrimination in the family, restricted physical integrity, restricted access to productive and financial resources and restricted civil liberties.
Greater investments are needed to bridge the gender data gaps
As the 2019 edition of SIGI was being developed, the persisting scarcity of data became even more evident, together with the fact that data scarcity is not a developing country issue. Indeed, no country has yet managed to build a full set of indicators to monitor SDG 5. For instance, data on the prevalence of female genital mutilation is only available in 29 countries, whereas the evidence shows that this phenomenon is much more widespread. Ongoing international and national efforts to fill these gaps and harmonise statistical standards are promising; scaling up these efforts will be critical in the post-2015 agenda. For example, the UN Women flagship data gender programme ‘Making Every Woman and Girl Count (MEWGC)’ is aimed at measuring and reflecting the diverse realities of women and men at the global, regional and national levels.
On the basis of this ambitious initiative, the OECD has partnered with UN Women in Tanzania to jointly carry out a SIGI country study, which will allow to collect the primary data needed to give local stakeholders a deeper understanding of how discrimination against women plays out in different regions in the country, particularly in relation to compounding factors such as urban/rural differences, socio-economic status, ethnicity and education level. This effort will also support the country in strengthening both the statistical and analytical capacities of its government at the central and local levels.
So, what can we do to accelerate progress towards gender equality?
Three types of action to pave the way to gender equality:
- Collect sex-disaggregated data at the individual level to gain a better understanding of women’s barriers to accessing financial and productive resources. The collection of data needs to be coupled with qualitative research methods to take local conditions into account.
- Enhance efforts to collect data on the reported prevalence of all forms of VAW among all groups of women to understand better the determinants and patterns of violence and to design evidence-based responses. Administrative data is also crucial to monitor the proportion of reported crimes actually reaching court and the effectiveness of policies meant to protect survivors of gender-based violence.
- Report publicly and regularly on progress towards gender equality, even when objectives are not met. Governments should define clear indicators and rigorously evaluate the impact of their initiatives. In that context, officials may use the SIGI data on legal discrimination, which the United Nations has officially endorsed as a source for monitoring SDG 5.1.1 on “whether or not legal frameworks are in place to promote, enforce and monitor equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sex”.