Gender data for gender equality: HLPF side event recording and Q&A transcript.


On the 14th of July 2020, the IWDA IDM team’s Research Fellow, Dr Kylie Fisk participated in a High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) side-event titled Gender data for gender equality: New approaches to accelerate action. The event was co-organised by the IDM, UNHCR and World Food Programme teams as an official side event of the HLPF’s 2020 online event.

The event was moderated by Julie-Ann Guivarra, First Assistant Secretary and Ambassador for Gender Equality in Australia. The panellists, who you can hear delivering individual presentations, were:

  • Bernadette Castel-Hollingsworth, Deputy Director, Division of International Protection, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
  • Kylie Fisk, Research Fellow, IWDA IDM team
  • Ruth Maetala, Researcher and Director, Dignity Pasifik, Solomon Islands
  • Jacqueline Paul, Senior Gender Advisor, World Food Programme (WFP)

The full audio (with presentation slides) can be listened to via the youtube player below and the transcript of questions and answers can be read here:

Question 1:

Julie-Ann Guivarra:
How can the data we collect and how we collect it help give visibility to the contributions of women farmers?

Jacqueline Paul:

This question really speaks to the purpose, and the points and the key message of this event, which is about what data are we collecting, who are we collecting it with and how is the data being shared and used?

So when I’m thinking about agriculture (because WFP works in that area as well) are we working with women farmers and women producer information are we recording who owns what agricultural asset (particularly around land) are we measuring who does what – like using and investing in time-use surveys – what about the advocacy with the decision makers and the people that control the money? I think the question also speaks to the centrality of partnership and collective action. How do we make the invisible visible? And then resource women farmers and the organisations and entities that are there to work with them for the empowerment and the change that we’re all seeking.


Julie-Ann Guivarra: Relate to the need for gender data across a life course, from your experience, what are the benefits of having data that can provide insights into the intersection between gender and age? & how can we strengthen the availability of this data?


Dr Kylie Fisk:

There’s a couple of comments I’d make, one is that in my slides I talked about education deprivation and how we really see deprivation there at the intersection of gender and age but what we have to consider from a technical perspective is that we’re seeing cohort effects there so cross-sectional data will tell you about different age cohorts but not the life cycle of women who are young now. To understand actually moving through the different life stages we really need regular individual level data collection, disaggregated by gender and age, or we need longitudinal data to actually be tracking individuals, which requires a lot resource investment, but it’s worthwhile otherwise that information is just missing.

Another practice we need to end is having upper age limits on eligibility for surveys. Often surveys, particularly poverty surveys, have the upper-age limit at about 65 and it’s to do with concerns about consent and ability to participate but to me that talks to not actually having an age limit but actually to improving our data practices. So if the concern is facilitating functional difficulties such as hearing and seeing for older adults, then we as data collectors need to be facilitating that rather than cutting off older people from participating in data collection.

Another point I would make is that when we analyse data we need to be careful about the ages that we’re grouping together. There’s a general trend to take people 18-35, 35,65 and then 65+, but the circumstances between an 85 year old woman and a 65 year old woman are really huge, this is a little technical tweak that we can make in our data collection, analysis and dissemination to improve the availability of the data. We also need intra-household data to consider relational information; so an older woman who is a widow is going to be in a very different circumstance to an older married woman and we know poverty really increases with widows in the absence of socio-economic support structures. This is why we also need relational information in addition to age information and in strengthening availability we need people to advocate and lobby government to create demand, which donors can respond for ageing data.

We need to get the evidence that we have now out there. My experience is that when you show decision-makers ‘this is what’s happening with older women and younger women’ there is this natural instinct to want to know more and uncover more – what about older rural women? What about women with disabilities? So we need to put the best practice out there and meet that natural inclination to see more so I think this is how we create and maintain interest in availability of data on the lives of women throughout the life cycle, which is important and highlighted in the current coronavirus crisis.


Julie-Ann Guivarra: The challenges of data collection in fragile and conflict-affected contexts and the importance of such data for addressing the rights and needs of individuals and groups. Can you draw out how UNHCR approaches these issues?

Bernadette Castel-Hollingsworth:

When I started working with UNHCR exactly 20 years ago we were collecting data manually. I think that has changed quite a lot! So of course we have adapted because we do work in more than 70% of our operations in border, remote or conflict areas we have adapted the methodology of the tools we have applied so we are able to collect data in such contexts, however, when we talk about data collection partnerships are important even though UNHR does a lot of the data collection itself. We are always trying to work very closely with authorities including at the local level also at the national level as well as with colleagues from WFP and UN agencies, women’s organisations – these partnerships are key to make sure that we can collect the data, but also t be able to triangulate the data we have. More importantly, the partnership we are with refugee committees themselves, we consider them to be agents of change – in data collection and data analysis. They have capacities that we need to absolutely work with to make sure that our work is informed including in the most difficult contexts by what they see as important from a data quantitative or qualitative perspective.


Julie-Ann Guivarra: The importance of health access for gender equality, what are your reflections on this issue having recently overseen the collection of the data as you mentioned in the Solomon Islands?

Ruth Maetala:

I think I must say that this study recently completed is a ground-breaking work here in the Solomon Islands because in order for us to improve our targets on gender equality in the area of health I feel that the education between men and women must be closed and in order for us to achieve gender equality in the health sector. For example, because men have better literacy rates they could have confidence to ask appropriate questions when they go into a health facilities. Second, the study has revealed that 48.5% of women and 42.5% of men practice open toileting when at home. This is a high risk for us given the situation with COVID-19, so we need to focus our attention on the health sector. Third, is about whose priority is it that public health is focusing on? Is it prioritising women as its focus, or not? And finally, to close the gender gap in the health sector we need to find solutions, especially to respond to COVID-19.

This blog was originally written for the Individual Depravation Measure (IDM), a phase of the program which was a partnership between the ANU and IWDA with strategic funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

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