“We can’t close the gender gap without closing the data gap.” That was the key message of the speech by Melinda Gates at a session titled “A Girls’ and Women’s lens on the SDGs ” at Women Deliver. With a new plan of action, new goals and a new roadmap for achieving them, it is more crucial than ever to ensure we are able to measure the progress properly. Yet, the data is still incomplete, and the dark numbers are huge. Is it really that difficult to gather data, and how do we change that?
Data is necessary for knowing what’s happening, and how to move further. Without being able to measure the right things, we cannot know where and how to invest money and time. And often, where help is the most needed, the numbers are the most misleading. As Gates pointed out later on during her presentation, “Where the data does exist, quite often it’s sexist.” Now, how can numbers and statistics be sexist? Basically, the surveys are often focusing on men and their achievements. Also, the work that is being measured often doesn’t contain the household work and other tasks that women generally do in the rural areas. According to Gates, this is a way of stereotyping men as the producer and women as the reproducer. “What about all the hidden work that doesn’t get measured?” she asks. “Although it isn’t paid, I’m sure that all of you would agree on it being work. Am I right?” Reaching out to the most distant places and getting the right information about women’s participation to society is urgent, and in order to achieve that, Melinda Gates promises that her foundation will donate 80 million dollars throughout the next 3 years to this issue. Hopefully, this will lead to us receiving more precise data where it’s currently lacking.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia thinks that we are getting better at gathering data, however, it’s not always the right numbers, or we simply cannot understand them. “We have the data, now we’re going to another level, where we’re learning to understand the data.” We are relying on numbers to determine if and how we’re making progress, within all areas; education, health and economy. This is why we have to do something about the data collection now, in order to ensure the efficiency of our work. If we don’t have the right numbers to start with, it will be impossible to measure our progress. Apart from the distance to the rural areas, Tedros mentions another difficulty in achieving the right facts. Women in these areas are usually shy and don’t always speak up about their situations. If people don’t tell the full story, the data will fail, and the measures won’t be as precise. It is a somewhat difficult cooperation, where a lot of things have to work. Therefore, we cannot forget to focus on this incredible important area of gathering the right data.
Hopefully, things are changing. With a lot of recognition, and the incredible amount of money from many foundations and donors such as the Gates Foundation, there’s great hope that our data situation will improve and the gender bias of the existing data can be eradicated. To sum it up, I’d like to use the finishing words by Geeta Rao Gupta, the Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF who moderated the panel: “To make women count, count women.” These words truly captures what our ultimate goal really should be.
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