By Sophie Russo, VGIF UN Representative
The lack of gender statistics has long been an excuse not to act. Because quality evidence is needed to make the case for change and design effective policies, the Evidence and Data for Gender Equality Initiative (EDGE) was launched in Busan, South Korea, at the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in November 2011. Four months later, at the occasion of the Commission on the Status of Women, UN Women and the Statistical Commission met on Friday March 2, 2012 to reflect on EDGE’s achievements and on the challenges ahead.
EDGE’s goals are to create a comprehensive database including disaggregated data on the three Es—education, employment and entrepreneurship—as well as to design international statistical standards. A set of indicators and definitions was determined by experts, which will eventually make gender data more easily comparable and useful. After the beginning of the second phase of EDGE’s development in March 2013, the new methodology and standards will be tested in 10 pilot countries. At the end of the process, gender statistics should be an integral part of national statistics, not mere ad hoc projects.
Quite understandably, EDGE cannot do this work on its own. Officials are determined to work in partnership with the OECD, the World Bank, UN entities and UN member states. A steering committee composed of statistical experts from various institutions was established to share best practices and provide counseling on the initiative’s achievements. Indeed, EDGE promotes a model that values technical and financial cooperation.
But there are still challenges ahead. Systems of data collection and national statistical capacity need to be strengthened to produce more reliable data. To achieve this, EDGE will have to improve connections and the sharing of best practices at the national and international levels. Funding is also scarce, so UN Women and the Statistical Commission must focus their efforts on acquiring funding on the basis of the Busan plan. In addition, several members of the Commission raised the concern that testing the new method in only 10 pilot countries would not be sufficient.
As the Director of the World Bank’s Development Data Group, Shaida Badee underlined, there is no quick fix. But bridging today’s evidence gaps will contribute greatly to achieving the Busan Joint Action Plan for Gender Equality and Development.