More than a data point: Making sure every girl counts

Data, calculations, statistics: words that may not exactly make you burst with excitement. But when we talk about eliminating extreme poverty or HIV/AIDS, getting girls into school and keeping them safe from violence and discrimination, or improving the lives of billions struggling to get by across the world, data all of a sudden becomes intensely personal—and extremely necessary.

That’s because—more often than not—every data point represents a person. When we’re making progress according to the numbers, that means a girl is going to school, a mom is having a healthy baby, or a person is receiving treatment for AIDS. Other times data reflects a girl who was married too young, a teenager who has become infected with HIV, or a child who has died from a mosquito bite—this is where we know we need to double down.

Students from Nyange Secondary School, Kilombero Region, Tanzania. (Photo credit: Sam Vox/ONE)

So data needs to be the foundation for the decisions we make when seeking to save lives, improve the quality of education, increase incomes and stabilize societies. Policymaking around these issues is complex; you can’t do it on a hunch. But we currently face a sexist data crisis where traditional data collection methods have not allowed us to focus on the issues most relevant to women and girls’ lives. When it comes to tackling the world’s development challenges, especially for women and girls, we need more and better data to answer three key questions:

1. What’s the problem?

Data, and especially data that is disaggregated (or separated out by sex, age, income level, and a variety of other characteristics), allows us to understand the different conditions and constraints people face.

What groups of people are less likely to have access to a healthcare facility, school or high-quality job? Who is more likely to use a bank account, get a loan, or travel freely outside of their homes and communities?

Regularly collecting and disseminating disaggregated data is the only way to answer these questions, and this data will shed light on the problems we need to tackle – the fact, for example, that girls in the poorest countries are less likely to finish school, and women worldwide are less likely to be in the workforce.

Students at Nyange Secondary School, Kilombero Region, Tanzania. (Photo credit: Sam Vox/ONE)

2. Are we making progress?

Especially with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) front and center on the development agenda, we need a way to make sure that new policies and investments are leading to progress – and leaving no one behind in the process. Data captured by the SDG indicators will allow us to see if we’re making progress in improving girls’ and women’s lives through 2030 (and beyond).

3. What’s working (and not working)?

In many ways, these are the hardest questions to answer—and where efforts to improve data have the farthest to go. We still have improvements to make with regard to data collection on problems and progress, especially around disaggregation, to be sure, but we have even more work to do to generate the data that tells us whether the projects and interventions we invest in are effective—and for whom.

To improve data enabling us to answer all of these questions, and to ensure that data gets in the hands of the advocates and policymakers that need it to inform decision-making, ONE is partnering on a new initiative: Equal Measures 2030. To fight the sexist data crisis, we’ve joined forces with Arrow, Data2X, FEMNET, the Gates Foundation, IWHC, KPMG, Plan International and Women Deliver to track progress for women and girls under the SDGs and bridge the gap between data and advocacy to improve their lives.

Learn more about Equal Measures 2030 on Twitter or by visiting the website, where you can learn more about our mission and weigh in on the data we’re focusing on.

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More than a data point: Making sure every girl counts

More than a data point: Making sure every girl counts

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