Data's role in the pursuit of a gender equal world by 2030

By Lean Alfred Santos 10 September 2015

Supporters hold banners and wave signs bearing the slogan, “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality and Women's Rights” in the streets of New York on March 8, International Women's Day. Despite various debates and efforts to promote women’s empowerment and equal participation over the past few decades, “irreversible, sustainable and substantive” gender equality remains inadequate. Photo by: Ryan Brown / U.N. Women / CC BY-NC-ND

How can data help in the fight to against gender-based violence?

“To know how to solve a problem, you first need to know what it looks like,” Anna-Karin Jatfors, deputy regional director of U.N. Women in Asia-Pacific, told Devex in Manila. Based in Bangkok, Thailand, Jatfors was in the Philippines to accompany U.N. Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who was at the Asian Development Bank to announce a collaborative study between her agency and the Manila-based institution on tracking Asia-Pacific’s progress on gender equality.

Jatfors said some countries still don’t have prevalence data, which makes it difficult for governments and organizations to track progress and implement programs effectively.

Apart from making quality, disaggregated data easily accessible, the U.N. official said there are three ways stakeholders can help fight gender-based violence: end impunity by having perpetrators acquitted; invest in resources, including police training and developing gender-sensitive courtrooms; and make a concerted effort to involve all sectors of society.

“Gender equality is about solving majority not minority rights. It is about socio-economic inclusion. … It is not free or cheap [but] it has a high rate of return as always,” Mlambo-Ngcuka said. “Gender inequality is political and needs the political action and commitments of the highest leaders.”

Despite progress in addressing violence against women on a national level, 35 percent of women and girls — or about 1 in every 3 females around the world — have experienced a form of violence in their lives.

“The good news is that there has been tremendous progress in terms of legal and policy [steps] … but the challenge is, of course, implementation,” she said. “We have not yet seen these laws being implemented into reduced prevalence.”

Many countries have yet to adequately enforce these laws for various reasons — victims of gender-based violence may not have access to services and the resources to see lawsuits through, social norms indirectly supporting these instances may have discouraged victims to file suit, or gender stereotypes may have discredited victims’ accounts, among others.

‘Time for a bold move’

Mlambo-Ngcuka is however hopeful that the next set of development goals would help put an end to gender-based violence and realize true gender equality by 2030.

“Never has there been a moment like this before where there is a real possibility to substantially change power relations between men and women … [it] is a time for a bold move,” she said Tuesday during a speaker forum at the ADB headquarters in Manila attended by Devex. “Our vision is of a ‘50:50 planet by 2030’ — a world where women and men, girls and boys have substantive equality.”

Despite various debates and efforts to promote women’s empowerment and equal participation over the past few decades, “irreversible, sustainable and substantive” gender equality remains inadequate.

While more than 70 percent of men worldwide were employed in 2013, only 47 percent of women held jobs that year, according to International Labor Organization data. Wages have been disproportionate as well, with women only earning 60 to 75 percent of what men do, according to World Bank data.

And this disparity in employment and wages is taking a toll on the economy, Mlambo-Ngcuka said. Citing ILO data, the U.N. Women chief said this is costing Asia around $45 billion per year — which should serve as enough proof for why gender equality makes economic sense.

“We know that if female employment were to match male employment, we could increase GDP everywhere,” the expert explained, adding that gross domestic product per capita in areas such as the Middle East and North Africa and South Asia could increase 27 percent and 19 percent, respectively, if women are much more involved equally in economic activities.

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About the author

Lean 2
Lean Alfred Santos@DevexLeanAS

Lean Alfred Santos is a Devex development reporter focusing on the development community in Asia-Pacific, including major players such as the Asian Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Prior to joining Devex, he covered Philippine and international business and economic news, sports and politics. Lean is based in Manila.

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