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Gender Statistics and Data: Pivotal for Women Economic Empowerment in Africa - UN Women

Delegates at the Africa Gender Statistics Conference held in Nairobi, Kenya in September 2022. (Photo: UN Women Africa / James Ochweri)

Fund gender data. Use gender data. This was the parting shot from Papa Seck, Chief Statistician at UN Women during a keynote address at a recent all-Africa forum on gender data. More than 120 public policy analysts and gender data practitioners from 30 African countries had convened in Nairobi, Kenya in September 2022 for the Africa Gender Statistics Conference—the biggest gender statistics convening ever held in Africa. Delegates met to interrogate gender statistics through two lenses; Agenda 2063—the African Union’s blueprint for transforming Africa into a global powerhouse, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that support gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Africa’s rallying call for gender data resonates with the global move towards data innovation and partnerships as emphasized at the just-ended 2023 UN World Data Forum.

The focus on production and use comes on the back of several multi-stakeholder initiatives since 2017 that are transforming the region’s gender data and statistics landscape.

Set in motion by a pivotal initiative spearheaded by UN Women, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), and the African Development Bank (AfDB), and further unpacked at a pan-African gender statistics forum held in Dakar, Senegal in November 2017, the multi-stakeholder initiatives aim to foster collaboration in gender statistics.

At the 2017 Dakar forum, experts underscored the urgent need for increased and improved gender data to effectively review and monitor the region’s gender equality and women's empowerment policy commitments. They also purposed to revive the Africa Group on Gender Statistics (AGGES) to make it a more effective coordination and capacity mechanism and improve engagement with regional economic communities. AGGES was established in 2008 by the Statistical Commission for Africa. ECA currently serves as its secretariat.

“The proposal was to ensure that AGGES could deliver better on its mandate to support and advise on gender statistics needs, and challenges, and on the local implementation of the global development agenda,” said Fatouma Sissoko, Gender Statistician, ECA.

The Dakar forum also pressed for more support to improve the quality and standardization of gender statistics practice as across the continent. The development of a Minimum Set of Gender Indicators for Africa (MSGIA) as per the imperatives of the Beijing Platform, as well as data production using the Africa Gender Index (AGI) were also identified as regional priorities. The Index is currently jointly supported by AfDB and ECA and is aimed at assessing the wellbeing of women compared to men from an economic, social, and empowerment perspective.

The result of all these initiatives? Impressive resource boosts and ramped up development of gender data as well as general statistics in Africa.

For instance, through its Statistical Capacity Building Program funded by AfDB, COMESA has contributed to building gender data and statistics capacity in 37 countries in the region. On its part, UN Women’s global flagship gender data and statistics programme (dubbed Making Every Woman and Girl Count) has steered an increasing number of countries across the continent to strengthen how gender data and statistics are produced and used. A multi-partner-funded initiative, in its first phase, Women Count invested more than $13 million in Africa. The programme is currently in its second phase.

In partnership with NSOs and other partners, UN Women has also supported national surveys to fill critical gender data gaps in Africa. These include data gaps on violence against women, for which a total of eight countrieshave carried out national surveys. Uganda’s survey is already informing law and policy in the country. Several countries, including Uganda and most recently Kenya, have also carried out time use surveys to establish how women and men spend their time in relation to daily tasks such as household work, paid work, and commuting. These are critical to better understand the social and economic effects of how women and men use their time, and to inform related socio-economic policies and decisions including on remuneration and social support.

At least fifteen African countries including South Sudan, Sudan, Niger, and Mozambique have carried out national gender statistics assessments or evaluations of their national statistics development strategies (NSDS) to identify data and capacity gaps for improved coordination and inform further development of their statistics systems.

In response to these assessments and high-level advocacy, governments have expanded existing or developed full-fledged gender statistics projects in Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Cameroon, Senegal, and Sierra Leone. These projects have been instrumental in developing and monitoring policies and programmes to improve the lives of women and girls.

What about the use of gender data? There are numerous successes in this area as well. A good example is in Kenya where county gender data profiles developed with the support of UN Women and partners triggered the development of gender-responsive policies and legislation in Kitui County—a County Gender Policy, an Empowerment Bill to allow the County to target women in income-generating activities, and a Mainstreaming Bill to ensure that gender is factored in when allocating public resources.

Significant gains have also been realized from the proposed use of Africa Gender Index. With data from 51 of 54 countries on the continent, the first joint edition of the AGI Report offers a comprehensive picture of gender equality and thus provides invaluable evidence for planning, policy, and decision-making.

Source: UN Women


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