September 2014 Discussion: Measuring Gender Equality Under the Post-2015 SDGs

Publish Date: 
Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The United Nations post-2015 development agenda focuses on the creation of goals, targets and indicators to provide a framework to reduce poverty and inequality and promote development across the globe.

The Post2015 Women’s Coalition, a network of national, regional and international women’s rights and social justice organization, for which the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL), is the Global Coordinator, is working to contribute to the overall post-2015 processes from a feminist perspective.

A departure from the MDGs to the new development goals will be the availability of new technologies in data collection, analysis, and reporting. This “data revolution” has the potential to improve accountability by providing better tools to monitor and implement policies and initiatives. In their call for this “data revolution”, the High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda emphasized the importance of “leaving no one behind” and stressed that “data must also enable us to reach the neediest, and find out whether they are receiving essential services.”

Goal 5 of the proposed goals and targets of the Open Working Group discussions: “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” directly addresses the importance of women’s rights to development (though not completely). Gender equality and women’s rights are also mainstreamed in several targets and proposed indicators of other goals.

In July, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) released a draft of proposed indicators for the Sustainable Development Goals. For all of the goals, SDSN has identified “Core” indicators that will be used to measure development in all countries, and “Tier 2” that may only apply to certain countries. More specifically, SDSN has proposed the following indicators to monitor and evaluate progress toward achieving Goal 5:

Core indicators:

  • Prevalence of women 15-49 who have experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner in the last 12 months

  • Percentage of referred cases of sexual and gender-based violence against women and children that are investigated and sentenced

  • Percentage of women aged 20-24 who were married or in a union before age 18

  • Prevalence of harmful traditional practices, including female genital mutilation

  • Average number of hours spent on paid and unpaid work combined (total work burden), by sex

  • Percentage of seats held by women and minorities in national parliament and/or sub-national elected office according to their respective share of the population (modified MDG Indicator)

  • Met demand for family planning (modified MDG Indicator)

  • Total fertility rate

Tier 2 Indicators:

  • (Indicator on sexual health education)- to be developed

  • Mean age of mother at birth of first child

  • Share of women on corporate boards of multi-national corporations

  • Gender gap in wages, by sector of economic activity

  • Percentage of women without incomes of their own

These proposed indicators raise a number of interesting questions. At a conceptual level, are these indicators sufficient? Do these indicators capture intersectionality? Are quantitative indicators enough within the context of women’s rights and gender equality? What other indicators are important to include monitoring gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment? Fundamentally, do these proposed indicators sufficiently hold governments accountable to pursuing these development goals?

At a practical level, how meaningful are these indicators when the process for obtaining this information is flawed? For instance, one of the core indicators measures “Percentage of referred cases of sexual and gender-based violence against women and children that are investigated and sentenced.” Yet the reality is that many women worldwide do not refer or report such cases.

Other practical considerations relate to collecting this information, particularly in countries that do not currently gather this data. What must be done to assist countries currently lacking technical capacity?  What is the best way to coordinate local, national, regional and international institutions and statistical services?

Working Group(s):