A Feminist Blueprint to Achieving Gender Equality

Lessons learnt from the 2022 SDG Gender Index as to how we can achieve the 2030 Agenda

The 2022 SDG Gender Index provides a snapshot of where the world stands on the vision of gender equality embedded in the 2030 Agenda. Unfortunately, it reveals that even before the pandemic, the world was not on track to achieve this vision; the progress that had been made was too slow, too fragile and too fragmented.

Since then, Covid-19 has dramatically impacted all sectors of life, disrupting economies, claiming lives, and building barriers to basic rights such as education, welfare and security. It’s difficult to analyse the full impact – particularly as data gaps hide the experiences of the most vulnerable and hard-hit – yet we know from the United Nations (UN) Secretary General, António Guterres, “that years or even decades of development progress have been halted or reversed” as a result.

Whilst the Index showcases where progress is (and isn’t) happening, it also pulls out the crosscutting themes that often appear in the countries and regions that are making this progress. Drawing on this and the experience of our ‘global to local’ gender equality partnership, we outline six recommendations that, taken together, provide a blueprint for change that may ease the impacts of COVID-19 whilst getting us back on track to achieve the 2030 Agenda.

We must remove or reform discriminatory laws whilst also applying laws that ensure gender equality. The implementation of these laws must be monitored and enforced, which is possible when they are bolstered by political will and matched by policy and budget commitments, public campaigns and steady shifts in gender norms.

Countries that make good use of laws to facilitate women’s economic inclusion, for example, have been found to have better health, nutrition and educational outcomes for women and their families, more resilient employment for women and more women in their parliaments.

Gender-responsive budgets, progressive taxation and strong investment in public services are needed to fund the social transformation for gender equality. As countries recover from COVID-19, investments in the care economy should be prioritised over austerity policies which are less effective in reducing public debts, whilst also ensuring that unpaid care work is visible in national statistics and that publicly funded care services are affordable and accessible.

Attention should also be turned toward the great losses from tax exemptions that favour the richest, cross-border tax abuse and evasion, as well as public funds that are diverted for military expenditure instead of social infrastructure.

Index data reveals that public investment reduces income inequality and that there is a strong need for countries to disaggregate public budgets by gender, age, income and region.

The participation of girls and women in public life is not only a core human right but it is also essential for countries’ social and economic health. Yet gender norms about leadership, as well as poverty, care burdens and violence against female public figures often exclude women and girls from decision-making spaces.

A study in India finds that the presence of female leaders in village councils influenced girls’ aspirations, parents’ expectations for their daughters, and how long girls stayed in school. The visibility of women in public office also shifts people’s perceptions about leadership – a step towards ending the gender norms that hold girls and women back.

It is also essential to address structural inequalities and discrimination. We can do this through easing care burdens to allow women the freedom to take on leadership roles, as well as investing in education and training on civic participation, mentorship schemes and programmes that enhance girls’ aspirations.

Closing gender data gaps is vital in monitoring progress and influencing the decisions of policy makers. We must close gaps by increasing the supply of data (especially data that allows for intersectional analyses) whilst also increasing capacity for the use of this data.

This involves engaging feminist organisations in the production, interpretation and storytelling of data, ensuring they have access to the data needed to hold policy makers accountable and influence decision-making. On the other side, norm changes are also needed to ensure policy makers value gender data and gender targets as essential and not just desirable.

Feminist movements play a critical role in the promotion of gender equality and have been key to much of the progress made so far. Yet these movements and organisations remain drastically underfunded and under-supported.

What can donors do to support them? Funding needs to be increased AND transformed. Donor practices should be adapted to meet the needs and realities of these organisations, involving them in the design of financing mechanisms and ensuring they receive direct, core, flexible and sustainable funding.

What can governments do? Governments must support the safety of feminist activists, protecting their human rights and security whilst also removing barriers to collective action. The voices, expertise and data of feminists movements and organisations must also be included and valued in decision and policy making spaces.  

Girl- and youth-led organizations are powerful advocates for social, climate and gender justice, yet they remain under-valued and overlooked in decisions that affect them. To empower young girls and women we must tackle child marriage, as our partners in India are doing, as well as barriers to education as our partners FAWE and IPBF do.

To ensure that gender equality is resilient and the rights of girls and young women do not backslide, programmes, policies and laws need to be designed with and for girls and young women, and there must be increased funding for girl- and youth-led organisations and young advocates.

Low-income countries continue to face challenges in ensuring that every girl and young woman goes to secondary school – 2022 SDG Gender Index Figure 26

The 2022 SDG Gender Index reveals stark findings on the lack of progress made since the Sustainable Development Goals were established. But it also reveals stories of hope, and the crucial building blocks that can set us on a path not just to achieve the 2030 Agenda but also to ensure an equality that is resilient, sustainable and, ultimately, unstoppable!

Read the full 2022 SDG Gender Index here or discover the data behind it here.

If representation is a rights issue, why are women still critically underrepresented? 

By Maxine Betteridge-Moes

“Leadership is a means, not an end,” wrote the feminist activist Srilatha Batliwala, an India-based scholar with the Association for Women’s Rights in Development. With this statement in mind, and in order to make sustainable progress on gender equality by 2030, we must not only fix the system that holds women back from positions of power and authority, but also ensure that women that do arrive to these leadership positions can hold onto their authority and exercise their power to achieve social transformation for generations to come.  

The 2022 SDG Gender Index measures women’s leadership and representation across 14 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. Of the 56 indicators used to measure gender equality in the Index, four indicators directly measure aspects of women’s leadership, namely: women in parliament, women in ministerial posts, women in science and technology, and women in climate change leadership. In its second edition, the Index measures progress over time and has evolved into an even more useful tool for advocates to hold their governments to account in achieving gender equality.  

Alison Holder, the director of Equal Measures 2030 says the Index shows that while some countries have made significant progress on women’s representation in recent years, a persistent lack of gender data masks disparities across different sectors and groups of women.  

“If you dig into the Index, there is a mixed picture in terms of progress on women’s representation,” she said. “We have to celebrate progress where it’s happening, but there isn’t one single trend or story we can draw about women’s leadership from the Index.”   

“It’s the system’s problem”

Women’s representation and feminist leadership are two important concepts for gender equality, but they are not one in the same. While women’s representation is easier to count and measure through data and statistics, feminist leadership considers how power is executed and decisions are made. As champions of grassroots feminist leadership themselves, many of EM2030’s partners have found ways to redefine, value, use, share and distribute power.  

“One of the challenges is that the focus is usually on fixing the woman rather than fixing the problem,” explained Emily Maranga, the program manager at GROOTS Kenya. “So we use the power of our collective to carry out advocacy and encourage women to take up leadership. Because if the leadership spaces are open and women are not taking them up, that’s not the woman’s problem. It’s the system’s problem.” 

The volatility of women’s leadership

The best available data in terms of measuring women’s leadership is their political representation in parliament and senior government roles. According to the Index, the world on average made significant progress on women’s political representation between 2015 and 2020: 90 countries made ‘very fast’ progress on increasing women’s representation in parliament and 78 countries made ‘very fast’ progress on increasing women’s representation in senior government roles.  

“We can’t ignore, however, that this progress comes from a very low base and the world is still far from where it needs to be to meet the target of gender parity in political participation,” said Holder. In 2020, just 26.4% of parliamentary seats and 24.7% of senior government roles globally were held by women. The volatility of these statistics also can’t be ignored, as women’s representation can fluctuate widely depending on the political agenda of ruling parties. For example, the Index shows that between 2015 and 2020, several countries including Ethiopia, Lebanon and Mexico saw major leaps forward in the percentage of women in senior government positions, while several countries including Estonia, Slovenia and Poland fell back significantly in the wrong direction. The result is an overall global grade of ‘very poor’ for these two indicators.  

Source: 2022 SDG Gender Index, Equal Measures 2030

Other indicators on women in science and technology and on women in climate change delegations paint an even more mixed picture. As of 2018, only 31% of science and technology research posts were held by women, and on average, the world had made ‘no progress’ on increasing the share of women since 2015. In terms of women’s representation in climate change delegations, Holder describes a “tale of two halves”. While 55% of countries made ‘some’ or ‘fast’ progress on increasing women’s participation in climate change leadership between 2015 and 2020, a large proportion of countries (41%) moved in the wrong direction on this measure and reduced the proportion of women in their climate change delegations. At COP26 in Glasgow in 2021, the global summit to accelerate action on climate change, women accounted for, on average, 33% of government delegates, just as they did in 2019 and 2020.  

Persistent data gaps

The increased participation and presence of women in politics and public life is a vital step towards advancing gender equality – but it is not the only factor. Women often encounter hierarchical and exclusionary power structures in decision-making spaces that undermine their active participation and engagement. Transforming this structural context is key for their political empowerment and authority. 

Data on women’s representation in parliament and senior government positions is relatively easy to find, but it indicates that women in these formal political spaces come from more privileged backgrounds. Comparable data on women’s representation at the subnational level is scarce, and for nearly half of all countries, sub-national data does not exist at all. Most countries do not collect data on women’s representation in the private sector and in NGOs, which is needed to provide a clearer picture of women’s voice and influence across sectors. Data is also missing across all sectors on the participation and experience of other groups including ethnic or racial minorities, the LGBTQ community, women with disabilities and others, to arrive in leadership positions. 

“The Index report expresses the importance of having better gender data that allows us to measure intersecting inequalities to look at the situation for women on average, but crucially the situation for different groups of women to ensure equality and justice,” said Holder.  

The road ahead 

Even as most countries worldwide seem to be making some advances on women’s representation, the SDG Gender Index sounds the alarm at its slow pace, its limited scale, and its profound fragility. It’s still too soon to gauge the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on girls and women around the world, and future humanitarian crises will further expose and intensify the severe inequalities laid bare in the Index. What matters now is what we do next. 

The first step for women’s rights advocates like EM2030 is to continue promoting the visibility of female politicians and decision-makers across public and private sectors, and collecting and using disaggregated data to plug persistent gaps around women’s leadership and representation. Donors must invest more in data monitoring and accountability across all sectors, fund grassroots organizations and invest in more training programs on political systems, women’s right to participation, and their roles in decision-making. Finally, governments can promote quota systems to help bring women into political spheres, use international frameworks to bring diverse women into emergency responses, conflict prevention, and peacebuilding, invest in structural and legal reforms that provide women with social and legal protections, and finally, call for gender-balanced decision-making bodies.  

The road ahead for gender equality, and particularly for women’s representation and feminist leadership will undoubtedly have its bumps. But as Lina Abirafeh, the former Executive Director of the Arab Institute for Women puts it: “Right now, we need to defend and reclaim our space, our voice and our words. And then we can move forward.”  

International Women’s Day 2022: More women in climate leadership, but gender equality is yet to be met

By Maxine Betteridge-Moes

In a speech upon her appointment as the first Indigenous Governor General in Canada in July 2021, Mary Simon spoke about the disproportionate and devastating impact of climate change on Indigenous communities in Canada’s Arctic.  

“Our North is a well-lived and lived-in homeland for Inuit, First Nations and Métis people,” she said. “Our climate allows society to be possible.” 

In Canada, like in many other places around the world, those that contribute the least to climate change are enduring the most of its impact. Yet, despite being more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, Indigenous people, and Indigenous women, have long been excluded from leadership roles that could help to address this profoundly unequal phenomenon.  

Data from the 2022 SDG Gender Index shows that leadership of national delegations on climate change has become more gender equal, and more women are participating in decision-making spaces around the world. In recognition of the theme “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow” which celebrates the contribution of women and girls who are working to change the climate of gender equality, the Governor General’s words resonate deeply.  

“Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow
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‘Back to normal’ is not good enough 

Change, however, is slow. The data shows that while many countries are making progress, others are achieving none, and some are even moving in the wrong direction. The 2022 SDG Gender Index uses a wide range of datasets and indicators to judge the impact of climate change on women and girls to track global progress towards gender equality. It serves as both a warning, sounding the alarm on problematic areas and calling attention to risk, and a spotlight, revealing areas of strength and unexpected headway.

A reason for hope 

Let us begin, however, on a positive note: the Index shows that 55 per cent of countries, including Canada, made ‘some’ or ‘fast’ progress on the climate change leadership and women’s participation in climate change leadership’s measure. The 10 fastest moving countries from 2015-2020 are in the Global South, and many of them have made notable progress on the three indicators related to Sustainable Development Goal 13 on Climate Action, namely: climate change leadership, women’s perception of environmental policy and climate change vulnerability. The Sub-Saharan Africa region ranked second only to the Asia Pacific region on women and the environment, out-performing Europe and North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Middle East and North Africa.  

Women are at the forefront of climate change leadership in many of these countries. India and Indonesia, for example, rank among the top countries in the Asia Pacific region for their progress on Goal 13, which is driven in part by women’s representation on climate change delegations and the share of women who are satisfied with efforts being made to preserve the environment. Continuing this trajectory in other regions is important if we are to see more rapid progress by the next edition of the Index in 2025. 

Cause for concern 

Now, for the bad news.  

Worryingly, the Index shows that the two indicators on C02 emissions and climate vulnerability had the largest number of countries either making ‘no progress’ or even moving in the ‘wrong direction’.  North America and Europe, regions that perform relatively well on other indicators, made no progress between 2015 and 2020 on these two indicators. And in Latin America and the Caribbean, the region’s score of 56.8 constitutes a ‘Very Poor’ overall performance on Goal 13. 

These findings show that achievements in advancing gender equality in the context of the climate crisis are too slow and patchy at best. Goal 13 is one of the three SDGs with the lowest global average Index scores, along with Goal 17 on partnerships and Goal 16 on justice. It is deeply concerning that the world continues to fall short on these crucial areas, which can address some of the highest priority issues for girls and women. 

Gender data gaps persist 

Ranking countries’ progress towards gender equality within the context of the climate crisis through existing available data is only half the battle. Gender data gaps – areas where data is not disaggregated by sex or not collected at all – persist across all sectors. EM2030 and its partners have faced major challenges in collecting data which allows for the gendered examination of environment and climate issues. The lack of data on many environmental issues means we are left in the dark on women’s needs and contributions in many contexts.  For example, we could not include SDGs 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), 14 (Life Below Water) and 15 (Life on Land), because of a lack of social impact indicators for these SDGs, let alone indicators that can be used to understand how these issues affect girls and women.  

But of course, data alone is not enough for successful advocacy. It needs to be accessible, usable, and communicable. This is precisely why our work at EM2030 to connect data and evidence with advocacy and action on gender equality is essential to meaningfully transform the lives of women and girls around the world.  

Gender equality is still within reach 

On International Women’s Day, we echo calls to celebrate women’s participation and leadership in climate change adaptation and mitigation. This may be an ambitious goal, but it is still within reach. Upon her installment, Canada’s Governor General promised to “promote and recognize leading examples of community and Indigenous-driven conservation and of climate action” to inspire other Canadians. Gender data will allow other global leaders to examine the opportunities, as well as the constraints, to empower and rally behind women and girls to have a voice, make decisions, and contribute to building a sustainable future for us all.  

Tableau and Equal Measures 2030 Data Fellowship Launch

On May 12, 2021, Equal Measures 2030, in partnership with the Tableau Foundation, launched the first cohort of data journalist fellows. These 16 data journalists hail from Kenya and India and will work with Tableau and EM2030 over the next year to write stories about gender issues using Tableau visualizations. They will complete six days of classroom training to enhance their Tableau skills and work with Tableau mentors throughout the project to ensure ongoing growth and learning. They will also work with EM2030’s staff and national partners to produce data-based stories that are relevant to gender issues in their countries. By the end of the fellowship, the journalists will have gained skills in Tableau that will enable them to more effectively use data in their storytelling.

At the inception of the fellowship, we have asked the fellows to reflect on what keeps them motivated to work in journalism, how Tableau will help them in their work, and why they are participating in this fellowship.

Why journalism?

“When practised in a true feminist sense, one upholds the agency of people that one is writing about, keeps their voices intact and at the centre of the article/video that one is creating and ultimately passes the mic and amplifies the voices of the marginalised.” -Aarushee Shukla, India

“Journalism brings issues to fore that would have otherwise stayed hidden.” -Maria Powerson, Kenya

“…what always motivates me in pursuing journalism currently is how to harness data revolution and reshaping the gender narrative through creative communication and social justice storytelling” -Rosemary Okello-Orlale, Kenya

“As the world continues to move towards an accelerated climate change scenario, we are forgetting about the poorest and the most marginalised communities that will be the most affected. I want to keep reminding the world about the people that they have forgotten about and this is what keeps me motivated.” -Shreya Raman, India

Why Tableau?

Learning Tableau will be crucial in giving me the technical skills necessary to produce data journalism stories and in driving my higher ambition to tell stories that influence positive change.” -Ivy Nyayieka, Kenya

Tableau will be like opening flood gates. It will allow me to make infographics in my own stories, in the stories of people who might need my help and also, it would help me to visualise stories for the company.” -Nancy Agutu, Kenya

I will use the skills learnt to amplify the writing work I already do, particularly influencing policy, to create a greater positive impact for equality in tourism.” — Lucy Atieno, Kenya

“The effective use of tools to analyse and present data in an efficient yet aesthetic manner is critical so that the products reach a wide and diverse audience.” -Lalita Pulavarti, India

Why this fellowship?

My strength when telling stories lies in human interest stories with a bias in women and children. I would love to tell my stories in a more powerful way using better tools and ways of doing so.” -Saada Hassan, Kenya

I feel the Data fellowship is a perfect fit for development practitioners to build data-related skills that will enable us to share a more wholesome picture of what’s happening on the ground.” -Pooja Singh, India

“I saw this scholarship as a great opportunity to expand my knowledge-base in data journalism as well as learn new skills that can enable me to transform lives through fact-based stories.” -Viola Kosome, Kenya

I want to tell stories with a deliberate angle that includes affairs affecting genders. It is vital for storytellers to be informed on biases and how they can influence society’s policies, regulations, and people’s lives.” -Sharon Kiburi, Kenya

“Since May 2020, I have been curating #WomenLead, a newsletter about women in politics. A desire to build on that work, and a wish to steer evidence-backed, compelling conversations about the gender skew in India’s politics is why I applied for the fellowship.” -Akshi Chawla, India

Each month, we will be spotlighting different fellows and the work they are doing through this project. We are excited to share these wonderful gender advocates and their stories with you over the next year!

Learn more about the EM2030/Tableau partnership.

Advancing Gender Equality: Leveraging the Sustainable Development Goals as we mark International Human Rights Day 2020

By Aarushi Khanna, Regional Coordinator Equal Measures 2030 and Paula Trujillo, Policy and Advocacy Advisor 2030

Sai Jyothirmai Racherla (Sai) Deputy Executive Director of ARROW, EM2030’s regional partner in Asia — does not see universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights as mutually exclusive but rather mutually reinforcing and complementary. On this International Human Rights Day, we spoke to Sai. In this conversation, she tells us about the opportunities and experiences of feminist organizations engaging in international, regional, and national human rights mechanisms and frameworks to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and ensure accountability for women’s and girls’ rights.

According to Sai Jyothirmai Racherla the right to decide if or when to become pregnant — or whether to continue a pregnancy or not — is a fundamental human right which cannot be fulfilled unless duty bearers ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights. Similarly, preventable maternal deaths are a violation of the right to life, and reduction of maternal mortality ratio is a key SDG indicator

For ARROW, the Agenda 2030 and human rights frameworks are inextricably linked. Achieving the SDG goals will pave the way to fulfilling, defending, and protecting all human rights to ensure the SDC principle of “leaving no one behind” which clearly leans on non-discrimination and equality.

“Despite resistance and difficulties [towards women and girls’ rights in the current political climate] these spaces have upheld gender equality and SRHR through persistent efforts of women, youth and LGBTIQ advocates” she explains.

ARROW — alongside with their partners including youth-led, youth serving, women led, LGBTIQ, and CSOs from across the Asia Pacific region — have engaged with the SDG process prior to its adoption in 2015. Together with other women’s rights organizations, they have worked tirelessly to contribute to the progressive gender equality-focused, sexuality-affirming language of the resolution, the goals, targets, and indicators. Together with partners, they engage at all levels in the SDG processes such as the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) of the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) and the monitoring of the SDG Goal 5 on gender equality progress in 19 Asian countries.

Equally, EM2030’s regional partner in Asia engages regularly and systematically with the Human Rights Council (HRC), where they have seen affirmative responses around gender equality and SRHR. For example, the Violence Against Women (VAW) resolution in June 2015 had progressive SRHR and gender equality language and was the first ever UN resolution incorporating the term “comprehensive sexuality education”. Likewise, Sai notes, the 2018 UN annual resolution on Discrimination Against Women and Girls (DAWG) played an important role in calling for the development and enforcement of policies, good practices, and legal frameworks that respect the right to bodily autonomy “a crucial concept around SRHR, including on abortion, since the Beijing Conference”.

But where do data and evidence play a role in engaging with these mechanisms and processes? For ARROW this role is clear: their key strategy as an advocacy organization is to monitor governmental commitments to women’s health using rights-based and gender-sensitive indicators both in line with the SDGs and the human rights framework. ARROW uses data and evidence to measure progress, gaps and challenges around gender equality and SRHR in their countries of interest. This information helps hold governments accountable for their commitments made in international, regional and national norms, law and policy contexts. For Sai “data and evidence-based advocacy is crucial to the development of laws, policies and programmes [to advance gender equality]”.

So, what do organisations need to effectively use these mechanisms and galvanize the advocacy opportunities they represent?

“We need to establish [for example] formal communication [channels] between the HRC and the SDG annual follow up and review processes. Both processes should link up with each other to ensure human rights are protected, fulfilled, defended and respected for all equally and equitably and development is ensured in all its diversity and inclusiveness” she explains.

Human rights and sustainable development frameworks offer complementarities that can be harnessed. ARROW’s experience shows that these mechanisms are windows of opportunity that are being used by feminist organizations to support their national and regional advocacy strategies for the advancement of gender equality. Data and evidence collected locally and nationally are powerful tools that reflect the living reality of women and girls taking into account all their intersecting identities and therefore influence the design, implementation and monitoring of gender sensitive policies, laws and budgets that guarantee their human rights.

Unseen: 52% of women without access to the internet

By Anne Connell, Senior Data Advisor, Equal Measures 2030

29 October is Internet Day: access to the internet is skewed in favour of men.

Globally, 58% of men have access to internet, compared to 48% of women. Some women and girls simply lack internet at home, in their schools, or in their places of work — in part because of women’s overrepresentation in the informal economy, care work, and home-based work. For many, including in Europe and North America access is too expensive or service provision is severely limited in rural or underserved areas. Cultural factors also influence the gender gap in uptake of new technologies: for example, in Asia and the Middle East gender norms may mean that men have greater mobility in public and access to internet cafés, or can use the internet at work, while women only have access within the home.

Internet access and use is a critical cross-sectoral issue. It’s not only about technology — about the newest hardware or cutting-edge app. The internet is increasingly playing a central role in society, and some suggest that the digital revolution may hold promise for “leapfrogging” access to economic and social change in African countries, such as Kenya with the launch of mobile money technologies like M-Pesa. Yet it may also reinforce — or even deepen — existing disparities if we aren’t careful.

Though the cost of this digital gender divide is high, it can go largely unseen. Lack of connectivity and skills for the digital age are not issues that are typically prioritized by gender advocates, or even thought of as “gender equality issues.” A 2018 Advocates Survey that EM2030 conducted with over 600 advocates around the world highlighted priority issues such as violence against women and girls, reproductive health and health care, education, and women’s economic empowerment. Women and girls’ access to technologies did not emerge as a priority.

This even though the internet is increasingly linked to “core” gender equality issues. Internet is a crucial way for women and girls to learn, enter markets and earn income, and access critical information and services. This is particularly true today in the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Take a timely example: the connections between internet and gender equality in education have been laid bare by the pandemic. Internet can improve the quality of education, opening doors to information and opportunities for learning, both in and outside the classroom. But as the COVID-19 pandemic has moved many aspects of education online in countries around the world, lack of connectivity is not only an inconvenience, it is a crisis. There currently isn’t nearly complete enough data to fully understand the effects of COVID-19 on education or the well-being of girls — but early evidence suggests that there may be educational losses and widening gaps between girls and boys, affluent and less affluent students, and rural and urban communities.

Internet access and use is linked to other areas that gender advocates prioritize, too.

The internet — and the skills to use new technologies — make it easier to connect with other business owners, start new businesses, seek out financing, sell products to new markets, and find better-paying jobs. As online commerce and mobile money continue to expand, over 900 million women remain unbanked and excluded from the digital economy, in large part because of lack of internet access.

Internet access is even linked to the issues that top the list of advocates’ priorities: violence against women and girls, and women’s health. The digital gender gap can preclude women and girls’ ability to get health information (e.g. on sexual and reproductive health) or information regarding important social services (e.g. services for victims of domestic violence). And as tight lockdown restrictions are creating what UN Women calls a “shadow pandemic” of gender-based violence, internet technology — including encrypted web-based mobile messaging services and apps providing information to survivors — can even prove to be lifesaving.

These links between connectivity and gender equality build up equitable access to the internet for women and girls is a roadmap to cross-sectoral growth. How can governments and the private sector better support the globally untapped 52% of women and girls currently not online?

Governments and the private sector must engage with women’s rights organisations in the creation of technology policies and national broadband strategies. For one, including more voices around the table would expand the base of stakeholders with ownership over technology issues, and build consensus around technology principles. Private sector actors — especially mobile network operators, who play a central role in enabling access in low-income countries — should also see the real value in tapping into new markets through technologies and content tailored to women and girls.

For civil society organisations — and women’s rights organisations, in particular — policy discussions around internet and communications technologies could be leveraged to draw connections across issues and advance gender equality. Internet advocacy organisations that already push for expanded access to the internet (for example, for lower data bundle costs, waiving data usage fees, or zero-rating websites with educational content) should partner with women’s rights organisations to strengthen advocacy. Direct input from gender advocates could ensure that the rollout of new technologies takes into account different population groups’ specific needs and use patterns so that technologies reflect the real challenges facing women and girls in their daily lives.

Governments, the private sector, and gender advocates alike can and should be more ambitious in thinking about internet connectivity to inclusion and opportunity. Women and girls need access to technologies — and the skills to use them — so that they are not left behind in an increasingly digital world.

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.