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‘Leaving no-one behind’ demands focus on gender for Sustainable Development statistics

“What is measured becomes visible; what is visible can be monitored; and what is monitored can be improved”.

These words were left ringing in the ears of more than 65 gender statistics experts last week as the final speaker at the UNECE gender statistics work session took the floor in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Improving gender statistics means two things: breaking down all statistics by sex, as far as possible; and ensuring that data are collected on topics that are important for understanding gender issues in society, such as gender-based violence, maternal health and work-life balance.  Only when they have this kind of information to hand can policymakers devise ways to increase gender equality, end discrimination against women and girls, and evaluate the success of their efforts.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls on the world to take care that no-one is left behind.  This means ensuring that progress is not just an improvement in averages, but that gains are felt by disadvantaged groups.  For women and girls, this means monitoring their health and educational outcomes; their representation in positions of power; their economic position; and their vulnerability to violence, discrimination and social exclusion.

Goal 5 of the SDGs calls for gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls.  But gender equality is fundamental to all aspects of development and, because of this, the need for gender statistics in the SDG framework runs much deeper than just one goal.  According to the UN Statistics Division in New York, there are more than 70 indicators throughout the 2030 Agenda that contain some element of relevance to gender.  With each of these comes the need for high quality data, on often hard-to-define or sensitive topics.

The challenge now facing statisticians is to develop new or better ways to collect, compile and communicate gender statistics.  The work session, hosted by the European Institute for Gender Equality and Statistics Lithuania, heard from 37 countries and organizations about their work to produce, analyze and disseminate statistics on topics ranging from the gender pay gap to women’s entrepreneurship, and from gender stereotypes in Italy to women’s representation in senior corporate management in Finland.

Participants agreed that the need for international partnerships is growing, and asked UNECE to host gender statistics work sessions more frequently to provide a platform for developing these partnerships among the statistical community.

Details of the work session, including papers and presentations, can be found at www.unece.org/stats/documents/2016.6.gender.html 

Many indicators of gender equality for UNECE member States can be found in the UNECE statistical database at www.unece.org/data