Telling Stories: The Power of Data in Narrating the Lives of Girls

Today, October 11th, marks the sixth International Day of the Girl Child, celebrated around the world to bring attention to the rights and well-being of girls. Every year, a global theme is set for the Day by UNICEF – and this year, that theme is “Girls’ Progress = Goals Progress: What Counts for Girls”.

The theme continues a recent global focus and emphasis on the importance of better gender data, especially with tracking the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals. Earlier this year at the Women Deliver Conference in Copenhagen, Melinda Gates pledged $80 million over the next three years from the Gates Foundation towards closing the gender data gap and accelerating progress for girls and women around the world. A new multi-partner coalition was formed, with organizations like Plan International, Women Deliver, International Women’s Health Coalition, KPMG and ONE Campaign to particularly track and drive progress on the gender targets of the SDGs. The newly released latest report on Plan International’s Because I am a Girl series, titled “Counting the Invisible”, explains how improving the data and information on girls is essential in our quest to secure their rights and build a more gender equal and just world.

Without data, we don’t know where the biggest gaps and needs are. We can’t identify the most marginalized and most vulnerable if we can’t see them. We can’t efficiently focus and prioritize our resources – and perhaps most importantly, we cannot track if what we are doing is making a difference and working. To ensure that we are indeed delivering on the SDGs to those most in need – especially girls – we have to have data. And we need that data to equally represent the lives and situations of all genders.

But that is not all we need data for. Numbers have another function as well:

They tell stories. 


Data is not just numbers, charts and figures – it explains the world to us. Numbers turn into narratives, charts convert to compelling accounts of realities and lives of people around the world. We need data – better data – to convince others that what we are doing is important and makes a difference. We need numbers to convey us facts like:

These kinds of numbers paint a powerful and sad story of a world in which girls’ basic rights to survival, health, education and life free of violence are violated every minute of every day. In this world, girls are not valued as full human beings, equal to their male peers. Girls are mistreated and abused, discriminated and overlooked, forgotten, brushed aside.

But numbers can tell a different side of this story as well:

Numbers can tell us a story of a world that does better when girls and women do better. Numbers tell us that girls who get to grow up healthy and be educated grow up to be women who make a difference in the lives of others. Data shows us that investing in girls is not only the moral imperative and our global responsibility – but is also perhaps the smartest move we can make for development and progress. Numbers tell us that if there ever was a silver bullet to a better future, it most likely is the Girl Child.

This is why we need better gender data. We need it to know that we are focusing our efforts on the rights things, and also doing things right – but we also need numbers and data to paint a picture of a world, the way it is now and the way it could be.

Do you see it? Do you see what the world could be, if girls’ rights were truly protected and realized?

We see it. And it’s a beautiful, beautiful world.


On this Day of the Girl, Girls’ Globe is launching a campaign to focus on stories told by data. We will continue to share stories and narratives of the lives of girls and women around the world, as conveyed by the data we have available now. With a solutions-based focus, we to bring you stories of girls from around the world to help you also see the future we could build by investing in girls and women and ensuring that tomorrow’s world is truly a gender equal world for everyone. 

Illustration by illustrator, artist and educator Elina Tuomi.

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Category: Development    Girls' Globe News
Tagged with: Big data    data    Day of the Girl    Global Goals    IDGC    International Day of the Girl    SDGs    storytelling