Using Gender Statistics Crucial for Realizing Sustainable Development Agenda, Speakers Say, as Commission on Status of Women Continues Session
Improving the availability and use of gender statistics to inform policy was crucial for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, speakers in the Commission on the Status of Women said today, urging Governments to update collection methods and collaborate with a range of partners to truly understand women’s situations.
In a panel discussion on “challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls”, experts evaluated how well data being collected today reflected the reality of women and girls around the world and suggested modern methods for gathering information.
One quarter of the 230 indicators developed in 2016 by the United Nations Statistical Commission explicitly or implicitly addressed gender equality, said Andreas Glossner, Commission Vice-Chair, opening the panel. Yet, 80 per cent of those created to monitor Sustainable Development Goal 5 (gender equality) lacked accepted international measurement standards.
Linda Laura Sabbadini, Head of Research of the National Institute of Italy, blamed part of the problem on imbalances in attention by national statistical institutes. For decades, they focused mainly on adult men in the labour force and excluded women, children and the elderly from official data. “We need a big alliance between national statistical institutes and Governments” to guarantee the quality of gender statistics and quality of gender policies, she asserted.
Aija Zigure, President of the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia, pointed out that some dimensions of women’s experiences were difficult to capture through traditional surveys. Collective efforts were needed to ensure a complete picture. Partnerships among various Government agencies and civil society groups were important for improving the quality of the data collected. Administrative records, often held by law enforcement agencies, were also relevant.
Sian Philips, Executive Officer, Gender Equality Branch, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia, said: “When we leave women out of statistical systems, it is difficult to devise policies that respond to the lives of both women and men.” Australia had launched the individual deprivation measure, which examined the poverty of individuals within a household to better understand how women’s experiences differed from those of men.
Janat Mukwaya, Cabinet Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Affairs of Uganda, said her country was among 17 in Africa that had ratified the African Charter on Statistics. With support from the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), it had developed 106 national priority gender-equality indicators to help it fast‑track progress.
Along similar lines, Lucia Scuro, Social Affairs Officer, Gender Division of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), described the Montevideo Strategy to achieve gender equality in Latin American and the Caribbean. One pillar area involved bringing together national statistical offices with gender equality agencies. Another initiative, involving 19 countries, had led to the creation of indicators for measuring the proportion of hours spent on unpaid domestic and care work.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers agreed on the need to improve the collection, dissemination and analysis of gender data. Government representatives outlined national efforts to integrate the work of national statistical bodies with others for justice and law enforcement. Speakers from non-governmental organizations, however, underscored that standard indicators did not reflect the full situation of women and girls. Some urged Governments to make use of non-traditional data sources and to recognize data from grassroots organizations.
“We have no data on self-employed earnings,” said one civil society speaker, stressing that half of the world’s women were self-employed. Others focused on the need for gender data at the village, district and local council levels, where globally, an estimated 20 per cent of women were represented. That information was imprecise, however, due to a lack of data.
Also speaking in the interactive discussion were representatives of Morocco, Iran, Angola, Egypt, Switzerland, Ethiopia, Cuba, Mexico, Philippines, Iraq, Pakistan and Indonesia.
Speakers from the following non-governmental organizations also participated: Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing; Plan International; United Cities and Local Governments; World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts; Fundación Microfinanzas BBVA; Widows for Peace through Democracy; Human Rights Advocates; Soroptimist International; Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights; and IPAS.
Antonio de Aguiar Patriota (Brazil), Chair of the Commission also spoke, as did Papa Seck, Chief Statistician of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, and Imelda Atai Musana, Deputy Executive Director of Statistical Production and Development in the Bureau of Statistics of Uganda.
The Commission on the Status of Women will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 22 March, to continue its sixty-first session.
The day opened with a panel discussion titled, “challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls”, which featured presentations by Janat Mukwaya, Cabinet Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Affairs of Uganda; Linda Laura Sabbadini, Head of Research of the National Institute of Italy; Lucia Scuro, Social Affairs Officer, Gender Division of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); Aija Zigure, President of the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia; and Sian Philips, Executive Officer, Gender Equality Branch, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia.
ANDREAS GLOSSNER (Germany), Vice-Chair of the Commission, said the panel would assess lessons learned and actions for improving the production, analysis and dissemination of data in the context of monitoring and accelerating the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The discussion aimed to identify the data needs of national policymaking bodies to inform evidence-based policymaking on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Towards those ends, experts would discuss how to enhance the links between data producers and users. The topic was important in part because data were available for less than one quarter of the indicators to monitor the gender-related Sustainable Development Goals. More than 80 per cent of those to monitor Goal 5 (gender equality and empowerment of women and girls) lacked accepted international measurement standards.
Ms. SABBADINI said official statistics for a long time had been “gender blind”. She described imbalances in the attention given to different thematic areas by national statistical institutes, which, for decades, had been economic centred. They mainly focused on male economic actors and did not include women, children and the elderly. “Gender statistics must be a priority,” she said. “They should be considered a practice that affects the daily work of a national statistics institute, permanently.” Selecting the wrong indicators carried negative consequences. In the Calabria region of Italy, there were strong barriers against women accessing the labour market. The Government had passed a law offering incentives to companies that employed women. However, those incentives applied only to women living in areas defined as “disadvantaged”. Calabria, however, was not included in that classification, which created problems for the policy. Explaining that statistics were also useful in campaigns against violence against women, she said “we need a big alliance between national statistical institutes and Governments”, to guarantee the quality of gender statistics and quality of gender policies.
Ms. SCURO described instruments in Latin America and the Caribbean to bring together statistical bodies and those for women’s advancement. Noting that the regional women’s conference was 40 years old, having first convened in Havana in 1977, she said its agenda contained commitments for the public policies needed to achieve equality in the region. There were permanent gaps that must be closed. ECLAC convened the regional Governments, and every three years, reached agreements, the last of which was in October 2016 and called the Montevideo Strategy. It contained 5 approaches and 10 implementation focus areas. The ninth area focused on information systems, bringing together national statistical offices with gender equality agencies. The link between the global commitments and the regional agenda was one example of how the region was working to reduce the gender-equality gap. A working group of a statistical conference outlined techniques for national statistical offices to promote women’s advancement. It had classified unremunerated use of time. Thanks to the efforts of 19 countries, which each had different methods of measuring unremunerated work, there were now specific indicators for global indicator 5.4.1 which was developed to follow up on the 2030 Agenda. ECLAC also had worked with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) to create a percentage of time spent on unremunerated work, in order to deal with gender inequalities.
Ms. ZIGURE said that, after the 2011 comprehensive review of gender statistics programmes by the Statistical Office, the Commission underscored capacity-building to improve gender data collection. Describing challenges in the production, dissemination and use of gender statistics, she said it was a cross‑sectional issue. Noting that gender equality was monitored under Goal 5, among others, she said that about one third of the more than 200 indicators were gender relevant. In general, compiling statistical administrative records, which often were held by responsible bodies, such as for law enforcement, were relevant. National laws also played a role, as they defined the dimensions to be recorded. There were some dimensions that were hard to capture through traditional surveys, which meant that collective efforts were needed to ensure a complete picture. “We benefit from learning from each other”, she said, noting that efforts to develop tools would continue, as would the sharing of best practices. Partnerships among various agencies and civil society organizations were important in order to develop better gender statistics, in particular for measuring progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Such aspects were not exclusively related to the Goals, they related to daily work to satisfy growing data use needs and communicate in a shared language.
Ms. PHILIPS said Australia placed gender equality at the centre of its foreign and trade policies. Without gender data, it was impossible to support the evidence-based policies that were needed to transform women’s and girls’ lives. The challenges of monitoring the gender-sensitive implementation of the 2030 Agenda could not be overstated. “When we leave women out of statistical systems, it is difficult to devise policies that respond to the lives of both women and men,” she said. Describing three ways Australia was investing in gender data, she said the first area was poverty. It did not make sense to measure household data, as relying on it made accurate disaggregation impossible. Her country was investing in the individual deprivation measure. Inter-household measurement mattered, as did intersectionality and in that context, she underscored the importance of measuring intersectoral deprivation. The second area Australia was investing gender data in was violence against women. It had supported 12 violence-prevalence studies in the region. Globally, one in three women would experience violence. In the Pacific, between 60 and 80 per cent of women would experience such abuse. Finally, Australia was investing in gender data as it addressed disability inclusion. Its disability inclusion strategy highlighted the lack of disability data as among the biggest barrier to inclusion.
Ms. MUKWAYA said gender statistics were important for keeping Uganda’s commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment on track. Noting that her country’s Constitution outlined that men and women were equal before the law, and that the national development plan worked to ensure gender equality and equal opportunities, she said there were several other policies in place to address women’s leadership, women’s access to reproductive health services, gender-based violence and women in conflict. In terms of statistical development, Uganda was among 17 countries in Africa that had ratified the African Charter of Statistics, which focused on achieving gender-related statistics. With support from UN-Women, it had developed national priority gender equality indicators, anchored in the 2030 Agenda. There were 106 priority indicators that helped the country fast‑track progress in attaining gender equality. Describing challenges, she said Uganda did not have data in the lowest administrative units. Also, gender statistics were compiled through periodic or census surveys. The long-time lags between them did not always serve the immediate or shorter-term planning needs.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers agreed on the need to improve the collection, dissemination and analysis of gender data. They underscored the importance of gender statistics in painting a full picture of women’s reality around the world. Many outlined national efforts to integrate the work of statistical bodies with others for justice and law enforcement, for example, with some stressing that the quality of data was just as important as the quantity. Several urged stronger collaboration among Government agencies, academia and the private sector.
The representative of Morocco said gender data was needed to address women’s low participation in political life and measure violence against women. “We have to see what we’re measuring and why we’re measuring it,” she said, stressing that countries had different capacities to do so and asking what could be done to strengthen national capacities.
The representative of Iran said strategic decision-making about sustainable development required accurate data to inform policymaking. Outlining national efforts to provide data on women, she underscored the importance of international cooperation in developing databases that measured women’s potential, particularly marginalized women, who lost benefits due to imprecise information.
The representative of Angola said her country had approved a domestic violence law and cooperated with a host of actors, including universities, non-governmental organizations, the police, the justice minister and statistical bureaux. Yet, when domestic abuse occurred, it was up to the woman to bring a case against her husband, which impacted negatively on data collection. She asked Ms. SABADINI how to overcome such problems.
Ms. SABADINI, in response, said Italy faced a similar problem in that many women did not recognize the violence by a partner. It was a problem from a cultural point of view. She urged carrying out campaigns and education initiatives in schools. “It is very long work,” she said. Informing about the consequences of spousal violence was crucial, as children exposed to such abuse could perpetuate it.
The representative of Egypt said providing indicators for monitoring the Goals was challenging for developing countries, especially for multiple social characteristics. Sharing Egypt’s experiences, he said efforts had been made to integrate the national statistical system. It also had launched a women’s empowerment strategy. He encouraged the use of crowdsourcing in data collection.
The representative of Switzerland, describing challenges, said her country did not yet have data to measure young people’s extracurricular activities or the proportion of women in local government. UN-Women should develop a way to measure such aspects. She asked about the prospects for developing international measurement standards in the next three to four years, given that 80 per cent of the indicators to monitor Goal 5 lacked such guidance.
The representative of Ethiopia focused on time-use surveys conducted by his Government to measure non-paid work. He asked about modalities to apply at the community level to determine women’s economic empowerment.
The representative of Cuba, outlining national efforts to accurately reflect women’s reality, said her country had created an institutional working group that involved representatives of various ministries. The national statistical office was the “pillar” that collected all data to evaluate how the country was implementing the 2030 Agenda.
ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil), Chair of the Commission, said violence against women did not disappear with economic development. There were developed societies with a high degree of violence and lesser developed ones that were more peaceful. Often, violence was associated with inequality rather than development. He asked about organizations that studied the relationship between women’s economic empowerment and violence within the household to show that as women became more economically empowered, domestic violence was less likely to occur. He asked if statistical bodies were studying the gender pay gap in the public and private sectors, and if ECLAC in particular engaged with other United Nations economic commissions.
Ms. SCURO replied that there were no statistics relating to women’s varying economic status. Domestic violence was underestimated, due to the type of records with which ECLAC worked. Qualitative studies were needed that focused on how women’s income could benefit their domestic relationships. ECLAC had initiated work with the European regional commission and now shared work with United Nations Statistics Division to classify time-use activities. She expressed hope of working more often with other commissions.
The representative of Mexico said surveys had been conducted on violence against women. The Government worked to ensure that all information could be used by the State and was of international interest. It was important to measure data in countries of the global North and South, and in those countries with similar heterogeneity. It was vital to disaggregate data at the subnational level, as well. He asked what Italy was doing at the subnational level to help create global measurements.
The representative of Senegal said her country’s national action plan included a gender-equality strategy. “It’s not easy to obtain gender-specific data”, she said, in part because some data were linked to social and cultural factors. A national gender review would be carried out.
The representative of the Philippines, sharing best practices, cited the 2009 magna carta of women, which mandated all Government offices to collect and maintain gender disaggregated data to assist them in policy formulation. The Philippines statistical handbook on women and men had been published with the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), and in 2016, the country had launched a pilot project to develop measurements of asset ownership.
The representative of Iraq said her country had problems in collecting data on women living areas controlled by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), especially related to sexual violence, kidnapping and persecution. That information should be used against people charged in Iraqi tribunals, and as such, assistance should be given to such countries in conflict.
The representative of Pakistan underscored the importance of data in planning, stressing the country had robust data-collection system that disaggregated by gender, education and health, as well as domestic violence. The system enabled the tracking of Government compliance with global and national commitments.
The representative of Indonesia, sharing best practices, said the Ministry for Women’s Empowerment and the statistics ministry had produced three publications: on the gender perspective in human development; on Indonesian women; and on Indonesian children. She asked panellists how best to collect data at the village and district levels.
A speaker from Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing, said new research and data was needed. “The standard indicators are not appropriate and do not reflect the full situation of women,” she said, noting that her organization was interested in women at the base of the economic period who worked on the streets and were poorly reflected in national statistics. Stressing that half of the world’s women were self-employed, she said “we have no data on self-employed earnings”. Indicator 8.3 on informal employment was a step in the right direction.
A speaker from Plan International described a lack of information on adolescent girls aged between 10 and 14 years. Data on adolescent girls were often collapsed into those on women or youth. New methodologies and indicators were needed. She asked how the United Nations, Governments and civil society could use the Goal indicator framework to invest in and collect better data on adolescent girls, many of whom were taking on unpaid care and domestic work.
A speaker from United Cities and Local Governments said women’s participation in local decision-making was the basis for development and required relevant data. Globally, an estimated 20 per cent of councillors and 5 per cent of mayors were women. However, the information was imprecise due to the lack of data on women in local councils. Data collection on gender equality in local governments must be a priority.
A speaker from the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts said girls’ voices must be heard through meaningful data collection. She urged that data disaggregated for age and gender be collected for all Sustainable Development Goal targets.
A speaker from Fundación Microfinanzas BBVA focused on development through financial inclusion, stressing that, without monitoring, it would be impossible to determine progress on Sustainable Development Goal 5. Sixty‑one per cent of the 1.8 million entrepreneurs in Latin America were women and 83 per cent of the women her organization served were vulnerable. “If we want to reach the 2030 Agenda, women must be economically empowered,” she said. “The first step is to get the numbers right.”
A speaker from Widows for Peace through Democracy said the marital status category in data collection was essential for providing information on widows, who were often subject to discrimination and had few opportunities for work. Many were homeless and vulnerable to modern slavery. The qualitative method of data collection in Nepal should be more widely carried out.
A speaker from Human Rights Advocates said disaggregated data was a tool for achieving equality for women in the work force. Arcane collection methods were male-biased and failed to consider women’s unremunerated work. Addressing intersectionality and improving statistical structures would help determine if and how far gender equality had been achieved. She asked how to improve collaboration and tailor data collection to a more individualized basis.
A speaker from Soroptimist International urged Governments to recognize data available from grass-roots organizations and to make use of non-traditional data sources.
A speaker from the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights said those communities were among the most vulnerable to violence, yet they were not reflected in the 2030 Agenda. The Agenda’s failure to name lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people would translate to failure of national programmes to include strategies to address their needs. Those issues must be included in national development plans and Sustainable Development Goal voluntary reporting processes.
A speaker from IPAS said that, according to World Health Organization (WHO) data, every eight minutes, a woman died from complications due to unsafe abortion. The quality of existing data must be improved, as most surveys did not collect reproductive health data on girls under age 16. She urged Governments to improve the use of maternal and reproductive health data to support implementation of Goals 3 and 5.
PAPA SECK, Chief Statistician, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, responding, said it was working with various agencies on indicators related to Goal 5, for which methodologies were not yet available, particularly those for measuring women’s representation in local government — Goal 5.5 — and those for gender budgeting — Goal 5.3.
IMELDA ATAI MUSANA, Deputy Executive Director, Statistical Production and Development, Bureau of Statistics of Uganda, said the issue of marital status was one way to bridge the data gap.
Ms. ZIGURE urged working collectively to develop new indicators that would attract new data sources to cover sensitive areas that were more difficult for data collection.
Ms. PHILLIPS drew attention to Australia’s individual deprivation measure, in which the Government had partnered with academia and others to produce solutions that were grounded in the needs of men and women in their communities.
Ms. SABBADINI said her organization had not found that violence against women decreased when women’s economic empowerment increased. “At the general level, this is not true,” she said, noting that, in Sweden, women’s empowerment was higher than in Italy, but the incidence of femicide was also higher. The gender pay gap was higher in the private sector than in the public sector, due often to the way overtime and bonuses were paid.
Ms. SCURO said the development of a common language and technological terminology was one of the first issues to address.