UN Women and PARIS21 argue that gender data leads to better decision making amid the COVID-19 pandemic

UN Women and PARIS21 joint webinar

30 June 2020, 10:00 am – 11:30am EST

On 30 June, UN Women and PARIS21 hosted a webinar on mobilizing gender data for better decision making amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The session featured speakers from both organisations, and included country perspectives from Kenya and the Maldives.

The effects of COVID-19 threaten hard-won gains in gender equality. In his opening remarks, Chief Statistician of UN Women Papa Seck emphasised that the pandemic's significant social and economic impacts, leading to increased risks of violence against women and a massive increase in unpaid care work. Women and girls are already experiencing these impacts through job losses, lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services and inability to attend or complete education. More and better data is essential to understand and address the effects of the pandemic on women and girls.

In the first half of the webinar, colleagues from UN Women’s global gender data programme, Women Count, and representatives from Kenya’s National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) and the State Department for Gender (SDfG) highlighted their experiences from the deployment of the Rapid Gender Assessments (RGAs) in response to COVID-19. Sara Duerto Valero, Regional Advisor for Gender Statistics in the Asia-Pacific region, shared the recipe for successful RGAs in her region: country ownership facilitated by multi-stakeholder partnerships with the government, private sector, civil society organisations and other UN agencies.

Colleagues from Kenya confirmed these insights, sharing their own experience in the design of their forthcoming RGA. Their inter-agency committee on gender statistics, supported by the Women Count programme, includes central and local government agencies, as well as gender experts from NGOs and UN agencies. Engaging the committee on the RGA resulted in an improved and more sensitive survey tool. Using UN Women’s guidance as a starting point, Caroline Gatuiri Mutwiri of KNBS shared how subject area experts added sectoral modules to address priority areas for the Kenyan context. KNBS offered guidance throughout this process to avoid duplication of COVID-19 data collection efforts. According to Verity Mganga of Kenya’s SDfG, this multi-sectoral approach will allow the RGA to inform all phases of the COVID-19 response and to support future resilience.

In the second half of the webinar, colleagues from PARIS21 and the Maldives National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shared insights on how COVID-19 has shifted the gender data landscape. Leveraging insights from the PARIS21 gender statistics assessments conducted in partnership with UN Women, PARIS21 Policy Analyst Liliana Suchodolska highlighted the urgency of addressing gender data gaps on a systemic level, by strengthening gender statistics in National Statistical Systems. She emphasised the need for a holistic approach, addressing limitations in the enabling policy environment while developing capacity for both production and communication of gender statistics. With this in mind, PARIS21 will soon launch a new e-learning module on Communicating Gender Statistics, in partnership with UN Women.

Fathimath Riyaza, Deputy Statistician of NBS Maldives, offered a similar perspective from the Maldives. Despite substantive disruptions to data production, NBS has leveraged partnerships with mobile providers, UN Women, PARIS21 and local civil society organisations to advance gender statistics in the face of COVID-19. Looking to the future, NBS is continuing to address gender data and capacity gaps in legal and policy frameworks for statistics, including their statistical law and their forthcoming national strategy for the development of statistics. These interventions set Maldives on a course to deliver more and better gender data for COVID-19 response and beyond.

Three important themes emerged from this conversation. First, that COVID-19 is an accelerator of demand for gender data. Intersecting inequalities and gendered effects of the pandemic have drawn more attention to prevailing gender data gaps. COVID-related data collection can inform where gender statistics systems need to be strengthened for future resilience. Second, COVID-19 has created opportunities to promote innovation in gender statistics. The urgency for gender data to respond to the crisis has advanced the use of new methods and sources to expand gender data collection. Third, COVID-19 has shown how partnerships can strengthen gender statistics.  By mobilizing broader data ecosystems and promoting inclusive, participatory approaches, we can go further together.

The crisis serves as an opportunity to bring to light the challenges national statistical systems are facing. Now, more than ever, these systems must be well equipped to guide national responses to the pandemic. UN Women and PARIS21 are working together to tackle these challenges. Interact with our efforts through the Women Count Data Hub and the PARIS21 Academy.

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