Introducing the 2023 Data Journalism Fellows in Latin America 

Equal Measures 2030 and Salesforce teamed up to create a fellowship for data journalists and activists in Latin America. The fellowship consists of data visualisation software training using Tableau, one-on-one support and a $1500 grant to support the selected fellows’ research work and production of a data journalism project. The fellowship aims to strengthen the use of data in journalism and activism and promote a network of data professionals who are passionate about gender issues.   

The fellowship starts on the 24th of October and will run remotely until early April. This year, 11 journalists and gender equality professionals from across Latin America will participate in the fellowship, including from Colombia, Guatemala and Venezuela.  

The Fellows

To kick off the data journalism fellowship, we asked our participants why data journalism was important to them and how they plan to use data to advocate for equality.  

María José Longo Bautista, Guatemalan journalist

“The data can also speak, tell stories or support them, test hypotheses and intertwine with narrative to weave journalism”.  

With an interest in investigating illegal drug trafficking and consumption from a gender perspective, Maria plans to use the grant to delve deeper into the relationship between girls who are mothers and malnutrition. 

Mariana Guerrero Álvarez, Colombian journalist.

“Practising data journalism with a feminist approach is key so that the situations that women go through are not under-reported but realities that can be told.” 

Mariana will investigate different issues in Latin America’s gender agenda, including teenage pregnancy, access to education and access to public decision-making roles in Colombia compared to other countries in the region.  

Laura María Castañeda, Colombian journalist.

“The data will prove a point that daily experience has already demonstrated: collective care has always been the territory of women, who weave well-being and the future, both climatic and social” 

Laura would like to apply a gender analysis to sustainable development issues. For example, the role of women in protecting the Amazon forests. She is also interested in the presence of women in peace initiatives after the dissolution of the FARC guerrilla: how many women are involved, what is their level of involvement, how much are they committed to actions that guarantee lasting peace and how much of the burden falls on them? 

 

Jovanna Mariám García Contreras, Guatemalan journalist.

“In Guatemala there exists a huge educational gap for girls in the country, research the reason for this, it represents a societal debt”

She would like to investigate access to education for girls in Guatemala. Her idea is to analyse data showing how many girls have had access to public primary education from 2010 to 2023 in order to address the causes and consequences of the drop-out.   

Magda Lorena Cortés Moreno, Colombian journalist.

“The data is neither neutral nor objective, which is the reason I intend to use this gendered science to continue building peace in Colombia”.  

Her research focuses on racialised women and sexual and gender dissidents, victims of forced displacement due to the armed conflict in Colombia, who are underrepresented in the records of the Truth Commission. It draws on official data and data from social organisations in the departments of Antioquia and Bolívar, the departments most affected by forced displacement. It will be a digital multimedia report and participatory artwork that transforms the data into a sensitive experience. 

   

Fernanda Diaz, Guatemalan journalist.

“Gender data is essential for journalism. Data helps to make visible how public policies are formulated and why it is necessary to incorporate the voice of women”.  

Through public spending data of the Women’s Directorate from 2020 to 2022 in municipalities in the department of Quetzaltenango, she will seek to portray how investment has impacted women’s economic autonomy and what needs to change to increase that impact (for example, to consider women’s voices). 

Omarela Depablos, Venezuelan journalist.

“I started working in investigative journalism and gender data to give perspective and visibility to the different hardships faced by women in a context of inequality”. 

She will study the situation of Venezuelan migrant women in Colombia in their struggle to be included in Colombian society. 

Jody Estefany García, Guatemalan journalist

“The use of data is key, the justice system in Guatemala is regressing at an accelerated rate and increasingly more cases are going unpunished”.  

She would like to explore how the justice system responds to women, not only in terms of gender-based violence but also in cases of domestic and workplace violence.

 

Milena Paramo, Colombian activist and CLADEM’s Regional Coordinator in Latin America.

“I am interested in examining adolescent fertility data from the last decade in our region, especially for girls under the age of 15, to verify the current situation of what CLADEM calls Forced Childhood Maternity”. To the greatest extent possible, she will also analyse data on sexual violence in this same population group. 

Shidhjmatnj Pardo Bohórquez (Shima), Programme Coordinator at La Ruta Pacifica de las Mujeres, in Colombia

“In the framework of the fellowship, two outcomes will show the importance of having updated data on the fulfilment of the Peace Agreement to guarantee women’s rights; and the second will aim to raise social awareness through feminist activism by incorporating figures and data that change social imaginaries in favour of peace. 

Danessa Luna Guatemalan activist and a women’s human rights defender at Asogen.

“Documenting the denial of justice gives us an idea of the negative impact that exists in women’s lives, as well as statistical data that is compelling for advocacy.”  
She is interested in documenting and addressing the denial of justice for women due to the corruption, co-optation and impunity that prevails in Guatemala. 


Learn more about our data journalism fellowship here: https://www.equalmeasures2030.org/data-fellowship/salesforce-em2030-fellowship-for-data-journalists/

Equal Measures 2030 launches a fellowship for Latin American data journalists 

The Equal Measures 2030 (EM2030) coalition, which brings together world leaders from feminist networks, civil society, international development and the private sector, opens its call for the “EM2030 Fellowship for data journalists“, with support from Salesforce, using its Tableau software. The fellowship will support 8 journalists and data activists from who identify as women from Colombia and Guatemala to gain skills and experience in telling stories through data that can have a significant impact on gender equality. 

In addition to extensive training in the use of data, this opportunity includes a two-year complimentary license of Tableau software, ongoing support, access to EM2030 SDG Gender Index data and a US$1,500 grant to support their work on a data journalism project. 

Based on previous experience with the data fellowship in Kenya and India, EM2030’s Head of Data and Insight, Albert Motivans, comments on how the fellows have created effective data journalism products. “We had 16 amazing data journalists from India and Kenya who presented compelling national stories by weaving data into a solid narrative structure that allowed the storyline to flow smoothly to reveal context, urgent gender issues and potential interventions.” 

“Gender equality and data are both imperative to the global community as we work towards the Sustainable Development Goals. We must understand where the gaps are to know where we need to invest and grow together.” Ashley Monson, Program Manager, Salesforce Philanthropy.  

Applying to the program  

For the fellowship, applicants must have experience in data journalism and have an example of at least one story they have already published using data-driven journalism techniques in news media. More information on how to apply and criteria here

For Julisa Tambunan, Deputy Executive Director and Head of Partnerships and Learning at EM2030, “Successful candidates understand the power of data in the hands of journalists and recognize that media is one of the most important drivers of change. They demonstrate their passion and commitment to using data to achieve gender equality”. 

Through this initiative, EM2030 aims to strengthen the capacity of women journalists and journalists from gender minorities to use data in their journalism and to foster a network of data-driven journalists passionate about gender equality issues. EM2030 also seeks to expand the reach and impact of journalism on under-reported issues and historically neglected communities and to improve connections between data journalists and global, national and local activists 

Former scholarship holders share their experiences  

In addition to having narrative stories, data techniques can contribute to changing the way journalism is conducted, impacting the production of information through evidence and visualization. 

“For information to have the potential to correct bias and influence a person’s perspective, it must be able to stick in the memory of the reader. Data visualization is powerful because it appeals to our visual memory – when we see, we remember,” said Surbhi Bhatia, a former fellow from India. For her, data can organize and generate visualizations of large volumes of history or key information. 

Another former fellow, Rosemary Okello-Orlale from Kenya, shares that this opportunity has helped her develop her storytelling skills using data. 

“The skills in data and gender analysis gained through the Tableau and Equal Measures 2030 fellowship programme make us realize that there are better ways to analyze data, especially when it comes to gender issues. The right use and understanding of data can make a difference in addressing gender inequality at national, regional and global levels.” 

One of the leading lessons that the fellows took away from this programme is the aspect of accessibility, which is shared by Aarushee Shukla, a former fellow from India. She highlights that one of the things she wants to ensure is the need to have an intersectional lens applied to the data to avoid bias and to represent the plurality of the society being reported. “I tried to capture the intersectionality by collecting demographic data on each survey participant and creating filters in Tableau for religion, caste, gender and household income to track the variation.” 

Importance of data for gender equality 

Data has a powerful and unique role to play in providing standardized and disaggregated information on the lives of women and girls to track the real impact of national and sub-national policy measures.  

By strengthening the capacity of women journalists and journalists from gender minorities to promote the use of data in their reporting on gender inequalities, EM2030 believes this can bring more attention to these issues and influence public policy and decision-making. 

Protecting Girls’ Right to Education: Data-Driven Advocacy in Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso is dealing with an alarming security crisis, which has been ravaging the north and east of the country since 2015. The people most affected by the violence are women and children under the age of 15, the vast majority of whom are girls. Girls find themselves in an even more complicated situation, with the destabilisation of the already fragile health system due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which first hit the country in March 2020.

The attacks have forced millions of people – particularly women, girls and children – to flee their homes. One of the most violent recent attacks occurred during the night of 4 to 5 June 2021 in Solhan, in Yagha province (in the north-east of the country), which left around 132 people dead according to the government.  Since the attack, almost 7,000 people are thought to have fled the affected region[1].

As education is now a new target for terrorism, large numbers of girls have lost out on their education after an attack has taken place. In early March 2020, the Ministry of Education, Literacy and the Promotion of National Languages (MENAPLN) reported that over 2,500 schools were closed because of attacks or insecurity, negatively affecting 350,000 pupils. These data conceal the often overlooked and worrying situation of girls’ education, since girls are some of the main victims of the attacks. Data gathered from the technical secretariat for education in emergencies show that 2,212 schools were closed on 5 February 2021. These closures directly affected 147,577 girls and 12,366 teachers, 4,481 of whom are women[2]. The security crisis is compromising access to education for girls and women in Burkina Faso and at the same time, exposing them to gender-based violence such as child marriage, early pregnancy, sexual abuse and rape.

The solutions for ending girls’ loss of schooling and the spiral of violence to which they are exposed means engaging in advocacy with political decision-makers. Women’s rights organisations in Burkina Faso are running campaigns to end all forms of gender-based violence, encourage education for very young children, develop leadership and empower women and girls. However, they face numerous difficulties associated with a lack of real, tangible data. The Initiative Pananetugri pour le Bien-être de la Femme (Pananetugri Initiative for Women’s Well-Being – IPBF) and its partner, EM2030, are responding to this concern – thanks to funding from the Canadian government – by implementing the “Data-driven advocacy for girls’ education in emergencies in Africa” project.

One of the project’s flagship activities is advocacy involving the IPBF’s network of partner associations. There are 25 of these organisations, from eight regions in Burkina Faso. The network consists of associations, NGOs and state bodies that deal with issues involving girls’ and women’s rights, particularly girls’ education. They are divided into three working groups representing three regions in Burkina: the Boucle du Mouhoun, Centre and Centre-North. Advocacy campaigns based on conclusive data and evidence will be run in the three regions and centrally. The aim is to influence decision-makers so that they make education for girls and women in crisis situations and/or who have been displaced because of insecurity a priority. 

Each of the working groups will produce a case study on topics related to girls’ education in crisis situations in their area so that they have access to conclusive data and can produce evidence to support their advocacy efforts. There are also plans to run four major advocacy campaigns in various regions: first, communication through mass media (radio and television); secondly, meetings with regional decision-makers in the education sector (mayors, municipal councillors, governors, regional directors of education, presidents of regional councils, regional directors of pre-school, primary and non-formal education and regional directors of post-primary and secondary education); thirdly, participation in decision-making bodies such as regional and national round-tables, municipal council meetings, the board of the Permanent Secretariat of the National Council for Gender Rights (SP CONAP Genre) and the revision of Regional Development Plans; and lastly, meeting with the Minister of National Education and the Promotion of National Languages.

The commitment shown by the IPBF and its partners is a beacon of hope for girls’ and women’s rights organisations and for thousands of young and adolescent girls affected by the security crisis, who dream of continuing their schooling and having the same chances of success as others.


[1]  TV5Info:https://information.tv5monde.com/video/burkina-faso-l-attaque-la-plus-meurtriere-depuis-2015

[2] Source: Map of data commissioned by EM2030, April 2021

Women’s leadership: What’s data got to do (got to do) with it?

By Martha Flynn, Policy and Advocacy Advisor, Equal Measures 2030

This week marks the Reykjavik Global Forum – a convening of women and feminist leaders from around the globe and across sectors, leading a discussion on what they can do together to build a more equitable world. Those attending the Forum this week, and many of you reading, will know all too well the role that women’s representation and leadership plays as a cornerstone of gender equality. A little less discussed though, perhaps, is the importance of data to this critical issue.

Data shine a light on where we are making progress on women’s representation and leadership, helping us to spot front-runners and learn what is needed for radical progress to be possible. Data has shown how, for instance, the introduction of electoral quotas in Senegal saw women’s representation in their National Assembly jump from just 23% in 2010 to 43% in 2020.

Data can also tell us where we’re falling behind, and where we need to apply pressure to accelerate change. For instance, EM2030’s Bending the Curve research in early 2020 highlighted that 77 million girls and women lived in countries without a single female minister. It has also shown the significant gaps in women’s representation and leadership in other important spaces: we know that women only make up 24% of COVID-19 task forces globally, 8% of CEOS in Fortune 500 companies and that the UN has never had a single female Secretary-General. This lack of representation not only embodies gender inequality in and of itself, but also plays a part in deepening it: a growing number of studies have documented how gender imbalances in the AI sector can lead to biases in algorithms that undermine women’s access to credit and jobs.

Due to underinvestment in gender data, there is also a lot we don’t know. Though we know where progress is being made in parliaments, for instance, we don’t have widely-available data on whether this is happening in local government or on boards that manage important resources, like fuel or water. Crucially, we also rarely have disaggregated data to tell us whether women, non-binary people or marginalised genders who face intersecting forms of discrimination and oppression are gaining seats at these tables. Despite an estimated one in five women living with a disability, for example, there is no data on their participation in the political spaces that make critical decisions about their lives.

Without this data we are flying blind. This is where the work of feminist movements and organisations can prove critical. In Kenya, for instance, EM2030’s national partner GROOTS Kenya has worked with networks of grassroots women in Laikipia North county to collect data on women’s representation in land governance boards – data that showed that women made up just 9% of registered members to ‘group ranches’ in the region. Using this data, these activists have been successful in pushing for more women to be elected to leadership roles, enabling them to influence important decisions that ensure theirs – and other women’s – land rights. This may just seem like one small story, but it’s one that demonstrates the powerful role that gender data can play in promoting women’s leadership.

So, while we all dive into the events of the Reykjavik Global Forum this week, let’s keep data at the top of our minds: what do we already know about the power of women’s leadership, and what data do we still need to shine a spotlight on all the halls (and boardrooms) of power where women in all their diversity still don’t have a seat at the table.

Tableau and Equal Measures 2030 Data Fellowship Launch

On May 12, 2021, Equal Measures 2030, in partnership with the Tableau Foundation, launched the first cohort of data journalist fellows. These 16 data journalists hail from Kenya and India and will work with Tableau and EM2030 over the next year to write stories about gender issues using Tableau visualizations. They will complete six days of classroom training to enhance their Tableau skills and work with Tableau mentors throughout the project to ensure ongoing growth and learning. They will also work with EM2030’s staff and national partners to produce data-based stories that are relevant to gender issues in their countries. By the end of the fellowship, the journalists will have gained skills in Tableau that will enable them to more effectively use data in their storytelling.

At the inception of the fellowship, we have asked the fellows to reflect on what keeps them motivated to work in journalism, how Tableau will help them in their work, and why they are participating in this fellowship.

Why journalism?

“When practised in a true feminist sense, one upholds the agency of people that one is writing about, keeps their voices intact and at the centre of the article/video that one is creating and ultimately passes the mic and amplifies the voices of the marginalised.” -Aarushee Shukla, India

“Journalism brings issues to fore that would have otherwise stayed hidden.” -Maria Powerson, Kenya

“…what always motivates me in pursuing journalism currently is how to harness data revolution and reshaping the gender narrative through creative communication and social justice storytelling” -Rosemary Okello-Orlale, Kenya

“As the world continues to move towards an accelerated climate change scenario, we are forgetting about the poorest and the most marginalised communities that will be the most affected. I want to keep reminding the world about the people that they have forgotten about and this is what keeps me motivated.” -Shreya Raman, India

Why Tableau?

Learning Tableau will be crucial in giving me the technical skills necessary to produce data journalism stories and in driving my higher ambition to tell stories that influence positive change.” -Ivy Nyayieka, Kenya

Tableau will be like opening flood gates. It will allow me to make infographics in my own stories, in the stories of people who might need my help and also, it would help me to visualise stories for the company.” -Nancy Agutu, Kenya

I will use the skills learnt to amplify the writing work I already do, particularly influencing policy, to create a greater positive impact for equality in tourism.” — Lucy Atieno, Kenya

“The effective use of tools to analyse and present data in an efficient yet aesthetic manner is critical so that the products reach a wide and diverse audience.” -Lalita Pulavarti, India

Why this fellowship?

My strength when telling stories lies in human interest stories with a bias in women and children. I would love to tell my stories in a more powerful way using better tools and ways of doing so.” -Saada Hassan, Kenya

I feel the Data fellowship is a perfect fit for development practitioners to build data-related skills that will enable us to share a more wholesome picture of what’s happening on the ground.” -Pooja Singh, India

“I saw this scholarship as a great opportunity to expand my knowledge-base in data journalism as well as learn new skills that can enable me to transform lives through fact-based stories.” -Viola Kosome, Kenya

I want to tell stories with a deliberate angle that includes affairs affecting genders. It is vital for storytellers to be informed on biases and how they can influence society’s policies, regulations, and people’s lives.” -Sharon Kiburi, Kenya

“Since May 2020, I have been curating #WomenLead, a newsletter about women in politics. A desire to build on that work, and a wish to steer evidence-backed, compelling conversations about the gender skew in India’s politics is why I applied for the fellowship.” -Akshi Chawla, India

Each month, we will be spotlighting different fellows and the work they are doing through this project. We are excited to share these wonderful gender advocates and their stories with you over the next year!

Learn more about the EM2030/Tableau partnership.

Leveraging Data to strengthen Girls’ Education in Emergencies

By Nadia Ahidjo, Program Manager, Girls’ Education in Emergencies in Sub-Saharan Africa

As we look at most public projections for 2021 and prospects for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), I think the most depressing bit of news is that if we continue as we are, all girls will only get to go to primary school in 2050. Despite numerous commitments to the girl child in the SDGs, the many laws and policies that governments have enacted, and the significant resources that go towards education for all; far fewer girls are in school and learning than should be. In Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 30 percent of primary school-age girls are out of school.

When one thinks about countries faced with conflict, terrorism, and fragility, the picture worsens. On the African continent, there appears to be no end in sight to the instability disrupting girls’ education. 2020 was supposed to be a landmark year for the African Union to “silence the guns” and put an end to conflict, but current trends tell a completely different story. There are growing, and dare I say it, alarming rates of refugee and internally displaced populations — IDPs were over 5 million by the end of 2019 in West and Central Africa. This is an increase of over 30 per cent in just 12 months. Despite these shocking figures, refugees and IDPs often remain invisible, and are rarely factored into national policies, severely limiting their access to quality education in emergencies. Humanitarian responses provide some stop-gapping, but are limited in their reach; in 2019 only 2.6% of humanitarian aid funding went to education.

This is heightened for girls in patriarchal societies — they are kept out of school in times of crisis and face significant barriers to education and vulnerabilities including child/forced marriage, early pregnancy, child labour, and gender-based violence both in and out of school. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation with school closures and diminishing financing of girls’ education in emergencies. None of these bode well for the future.

The challenge of ensuring access to quality education for girls, even in times of crisis, is further compounded by the lack of data that can help address gaps for both boys and girls, which does not enable the resources that do exist to be tailored to the actual needs on the ground in times of crises. Where the data is available, it is often not leveraged as it should be to ensure policy makers are informed and act accordingly. Recent research by the Agence Francaise de Developpement found that “although data collection on education has expanded enormously in Sub-Saharan Africa, few countries have robust data systems and even fewer are exploiting their data to improve their education systems.”

For Equal Measures 2030, these challenges should encourage us not to despair, but to collaborate with local actors who continue their work with vulnerable women and girls in times of both stability and crisis — especially local women’s rights organisations. By working with local women’s rights organisations, we can leverage the skills and experience of actors who are closely connected to girls and women in affected communities. We can also leverage new approaches to ensuring quality education for girls in emergencies. Through its work with women’s rights organisations in seven countries, Equal Measures 2030 has learned that when partner organisations ground their advocacy in data, they are more likely to reach their influencing goals. For example, EM2030 partner Kapal Perempuan cited the importance of data in their successful advocacy to change the child marriage law for girls in Indonesia. And our partner GROOTS Kenya’s “efforts to improve the availability and use of gender data have been recognised by the Kenya Bureau of Statistics, and they have been invited to play a formal role in the Inter Agency Committee on gender data statistics.”

Data can strengthen advocacy as it shows consistent patterns that require attention and action. Data is also useful in identifying effective solutions and can be used to hold governments accountable for their policies and commitments. This is summed up well by a partner respondent to our 2017 survey on capacity development needs: “No matter which route you go down, either using government data or using your own evidence that you produce, for me one of the more important questions is, how do you then use the data, or how do you use the evidence in a way that it’s facilitating you to achieve policy change? And I think that is something that quite a lot of people do need support with.” Equal Measures 2030 (EM2030) supports learning tailored especially for women’s rights organisations about how to understand and use data effectively in advocacy, covering topics including finding and advocating on data gaps and communicating data to different audiences, to name a few.

Cognisant of the power of data in the hands of women’s rights organisations, the Government of Canada, in line with its commitments in the Charlevoix Declaration, and its Feminist International Assistance Foreign policy, is supporting a bold partnership with EM2030 and its partners, FAWE and IPBF[i], based in Kenya and Burkina Faso, to drive equitable and coordinated provision of education for girls and women. Both FAWE and IPBF are renowned as thought leaders and changemakers for girls’ education in their countries, and on the African continent. FAWE aims to empower girls and women through quality education and training to give them necessary skills, competencies, and values to be productive members of their societies. They work to promote gender responsive policies, practices and attitudes and foster innovations that will provide opportunities for African women to prosper in all realms of their lives. IPBF aims to empower women and girls to defend their interests and overcome obstacles. They focus on developing female leadership and agency, especially among girls and young women.

Over the next year, we will work closely with our partners and other stakeholders in both countries to support advocacy and convening, working towards the ultimate goal of ensuring that education systems are data-driven and gender-responsive. This partnership will draw on EM2030’s specialized tools and data like the SDG Gender Index and recent Bending the Curve data. And we’ll also be producing new research and data together, to better understand the data landscape and to map opportunities and challenges for girls’ education in fragile regions of Kenya and Burkina Faso.

On the International Day of Education, we join UNESCO and other stakeholders including the Global Partnership for Education in championing the 2021 theme to ‘Recover and Revitalize Education for the COVID-19 Generation’. As we think about fragility through crises, and the ways in which this pandemic has thrown most of our education systems into disarray, it is even more urgent to leverage data to protect and ensure safe, accessible and quality learning spaces for girls.

[i] The Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) and Initiative Pananetugri pour le Bien-être de la Femme (IPBF)

Generational Change in India: How might raising the legal age of marriage from 18 to 21 change the lives of girls?

By Aarushi Khanna, Regional Coordinator Equal Measures 2030 and Sahaj**

India is home to the highest number of child brides in the world. UNICEF estimates that almost half of the child marriages in the world happen in South Asia, 1-in-3 of which are in India[1]. The existing legal framework sets the minimum legal age of marriage for girls in India at 18 which the current political leadership is considering revising to 21. An announcement in this regard was recently made by the Indian Prime Minister in August 2020. Women’s rights organisations and gender equality advocates have expressed their apprehension about the proposed change in the law.

Decisions around marriage in India are governed by a complex set of compounding factors: poverty; dowry where the younger the bride, the lower the dowry expectation; a way to protect the family honour; a means to prevent rape and pre-marital sex; and perceptions around labour and productivity[2]. All these factors serve as obstacles to conforming to the child marriage law. This is also the reason families consider education for young girls as less of a priority and more of a futile investment since girl’s productive capacities are often believed to benefit her marital family. The practise of early marriage is often justified by parents and guardians as a means of securing girls’ future and protecting them from the risk of physical and sexual violence. The law in its current form is also used by parents and community members to control and punish girls from choosing their own partner. In reality, it is a means of exercising control over young women’s bodily autonomy.

Though declining, the practise of child marriage is clearly rampant in India. Even 40 years after the enactment of the current Child Marriage Prohibition Act, the number of young women to be married under 18 remains extremely high, 1-in-4 [3]. The proportion of women aged 20–24 who were married before age 18 was 50% in 1992–93, 47% in 2005–06 and only saw a noticeable dip of 19% between 2005 and 2015[4]. Increased access to education, increased literacy of mothers, and government investment were contributing factors that have enabled this impressive dip in the last decade. India’s progress has been strong but not fast enough to eliminate the practise by 2030.

So why is the government looking to revise the age of marriage law?

Two reasons:

  • To achieve better maternal health outcomes: Early marriage in India is linked to early pregnancy and the subsequent increased risk of maternal mortality. The government is of the view that increasing age at marriage would delay age at first pregnancy and would lead to better maternal and child health outcomes.
  • The other compelling argument supports demographics: Delaying age of marriage is linked to delaying age at pregnancies and likely to reduce the overall number of pregnancies[5].

Sahaj, our partner in India is of the view that this approach is rather simplistic and removed from the ground reality. Improved maternal and child health outcomes rely on financial stability, good nutrition, and level of education and not just the age at pregnancy. Being part of the national and state level advocacy on the issue, Sahaj believes that the conversation needs to focus on factors that enable young women to be empowered to make informed decisions. Over the last decade India has seen a decline in both child marriage and fertility, these shifts have not been an outcome of legislative changes but a result of investment and interventions in health, education, skilling, and financial inclusion. The government must be cognizant of these factors and recognise that a legal intervention at this point is unnecessary.

In my opinion changing the age at marriage won’t lead to a reduction in maternal mortality. The real cause for that is the lack of and poor quality of maternal health services available.” 18 years old, peer educator, Vadodara, Gujarat

So, what can the government do? Here is a list of other areas that the government might focus on to eliminate this harmful practice by 2030.

  • Invest in improving education outcomes for girls. At the current pace of change an estimated 68% of girls ages 20–24 will have completed secondary education by 2030[6]. All barriers that lead to increased dropouts by girls must be identified and addressed to ensure that every girl completes secondary education by 2030.

  • Improve access to comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) to promote bodily autonomy, increased decision making and healthy sexual behaviours and activities that are linked to a decrease in risky behaviour and contribute to eliminating harmful practices. School closures due to Covid-19 are further hindering the delivery of CSE and reproductive health information.

  • Invest more to ensure universal access to quality contraception, maternal health services, and safe abortion services. India’s progress on meeting contraception needs of married women only improved by 6.9% between 2008 and 2018[7]. Reproductive health services have been severely impacted by Covid-19 and are likely to impact progress on contraceptive access across India.

  • Create job opportunities. The pandemic triggered a migration crisis in India. The announcement of the lockdown resulted in massive job losses of daily wage laborers who had migrated to large cities for work. It is estimated that over 10.6 million migrant workers returned to their home state with no further income prospects[8]. In such times of socio-economic uncertainty, migrant parents with young daughters are marrying them off early to secure their future and ensure their well-being.

  • Listen to girls and keep their interest at the centre of all policy and programme. Covid-19 has led to major disruption in the education system with the closure of schools and their lives, increasing risk of early marriage and other harmful practices. When Sahaj spoke to young women in different parts of Vadodara (Gujarat) about their thoughts on proposed change in law they said….

It’s my appeal to the government to change the education system, improve the quality of teaching in government schools, provide compulsory computer training, provide scholarships and vocational training to start businesses and work so girls are not a financial burden on their family and can negotiate life decisions.” 21 years old, Vadodara, Gujarat

India has committed to eliminating the practice of child marriage by 2030 as a part of the Sustainable Development Agenda. Covid-19 is adding another layer of complexity, there is a fear that years of progress made on the issue may rescind. The children’s helpline in India has already reported a 17% increase in distress calls related to early marriage in June-July this year compared to 2019[8]. In this context India must prioritise improving access to education, quality sexual and reproductive health and nutrition while empowering young women and girls.”

**Members of the Sahaj team include Hemal Shah, Nilangi Sardeshpande, Rashmi Deshpande, Renu Khanna, Vaishali Zararia

[1]https://www.unicef.org/india/what-we-do/end-child marriage#:~:text=While%20the%20prevalence%20of%20girls,the%20prevalence%20of%20the%20practice.

[2] https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/child-marriage/india/

[3] https://www.unicef.org/india/media/1176/file/Ending-Child-Marriage.pdf

[4] National Family Health Survey — 2,3,4 estimates http://rchiips.org/nfhs/

[5] https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/government-may-relook-age-of-marriage-for-women/article32364889.ece

[6] Equal Measures 2020 Data hubhttps://data.em2030.org/2020-index-projections/data-explorer-by-country/ 

[7] Sahaj Bending the Curve Factsheet, 2020 http://www.sahaj.org.in/factsheets.php

[8] https://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/struggling-to-find-work-under-mgnregs-bihar-migrants-head-back-to-cities-120101900238_1.html[9]https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-54186709

“We have demonstrated the need to have statistical data on violence against women” Danessa Luna, Executive Director of ASOGEN

By Danessa Luna, Executive Director of ASOGEN

The Asociación Generando Equidad, Liderazgo y Oportunidades (ASOGEN) is an association of women in Guatemala recognised for generating and facilitating spaces for citizen participation, leadership, political analysis, defence and empowerment of women’s human rights with cultural relevance, generational, and gender equity.

One of ASOGEN’s main lines of work is the prevention of and attention to violence against women, from a human rights and feminist perspective. Guatemala is one of the worst countries for women globally. According to the EM2030 SDG Gender Index, Guatemala shows very poor performance on two indicators related to women’s physical safety:

• The percentage of women over 15 years of age who reported not feeling safe walking alone at night in the city or area where they live, with a score of 44/100;
• The number of women killed as victims of intentional homicide (per 100,000 inhabitants), with 19/100 — making it one of the worst rated countries in Latin America.

Faced with this problem of gender inequality, ASOGEN offers comprehensive accompaniment to women and girl survivors of violence, which is a fundamental part of our strategy of empowering women as a sustainable measure to eradicate violence. Advocacy is one of the approaches we work on most within the organization to influence not only the community, but also national-level decision makers in order to achieve changes to public policy and, consequently, in women’s lives.

The women who have participated in ASOGEN’s programme have managed to break the cycle of violence they had experienced for years within the home; some have managed to gain access to justice and combat impunity while others have managed to empower themselves in their rights as women, being multipliers of their learning.

At ASOGEN, we have had significant achievements in recent years making use of data for advocacy. For example, ASOGEN is the main driving force behind the opening of specialised bodies such as the Court and Tribunal against Femicide in Chimaltenango, where we have demonstrated the need to use statistical data on violence against women, children, and adolescents in the region of Chimaltenango.

Another achievement was the opening of a temporary shelter for women survivors of violence in the Chimaltenango area. With the use of statistical data, we were able to obtain public funds and we also received a donation of a piece of land for the construction of the shelter building.

The partnership between ASOGEN and EM2030 will strengthen ASOGEN’s work on three main levels:

  • Within the team: to increase its knowledge and improve the local and national advocacy work that is already being carried out;
  • At the local level: alliances with leaders who work for gender equality will be strengthened in order to continue to have a greater impact on the use of data in each strategy;
  • At the national level: ASOGEN aims to be recognised nationally for its ability to use evidence and gender data to obtain more results in the advocacy work that allows the promotion and approval of legal frameworks and public policies in favour of women in Guatemala.

This alliance will also strengthen our skills to effectively communicate data so that more audiences join the fight against gender violence, the call for justice at the heart of ASOGEN’s work.

“Simply changing the law will not end child marriage, it is critical to ensure that the law is being effectively implemented” Misiyah, Director of Institut KAPAL Perempuan

In conversation with Misiyah, Director of Institut KAPAL Perempuan: Eliminating the practise of child marriage in Indonesia

A year has passed since the landmark move, a lot has happened in Indonesia. In September 2019, the Indonesian parliament unanimously voted to raise the legal minimum age of marriage for girls by three years to 19. Indonesian law previously allowed girls as young as age 16 and men at 19 to get married. An exception in the law were cases where parents could request religious courts or local officials to permit marriages of girls younger than 16. This disharmony in legal systems meant that in many cases there were no minimum age requirements for girls’ marriage. The parliament’s decision was a big win for the feminist movement and a hope for a bright future for the girls and women of Indonesia.

We recently spoke to Misiyah, Director of Institut KAPAL Perempuan, our partner in Indonesia, who are at the forefront of the movement to outlaw child marriage, about their journey as advocates and progress on effectively implementing the law to realise their goal of ending child marriage.

Indonesia has the 8th highest number of child marriages in world. Why are the numbers so high and why is the practise so common?

Child marriage is a complex practice, it is rooted in cultural beliefs and customs, that are linked to various other structural factors and social determinants. The National Socio-economic Survey and UNICEF show that girls, and children from poor families, in rural areas, and with low education are more vulnerable to child marriage[i]. KAPAL’s research shows immense social stigma for young women marrying after age 20, religion also dictates that it is better to marry young. This makes it extremely hard to address attitudes and norms that make child marriage acceptable.

The practise of child, early and forced marriage is a pervasive and serious problem in Indonesia. In the last ten years, the child marriage rate in Indonesia fell slightly, just by 3.5 %, but in 22 provinces the prevalence of child marriage remains above the national average of 10.82% in 2020.

It has been a year since the monumental change in age of marriage in Indonesia. What happened after? What would you say have been key moments and challenges since then?

After the law was revised, the government, NGOs, and other stakeholders shifted efforts towards ensuring that everyone knew about the changed law. Sensitisation campaigns began and are still ongoing as many hard-to-reach regions are still uninformed. It has been particularly challenging to build the awareness among people, as well as government officials, religious leaders, traditional elders, scholars, public figures, and journalists.

We all know that simply changing the law will not end child marriage, it is critical to ensure that the law is being effectively implemented. There are several efforts being made across the government machinery to strengthen the revised law. For instance, the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) developed the National Strategy for Child Marriage Prevention to be implemented by relevant government ministries. The Supreme Court issued regulations on Guidelines for Court Hearing of Petitions for Marriage Dispensation in support of the revised law. Local governments have also acted by issuing local regulations to prevent and address child marriage. Regulations and plans are important but not enough, the revised law needs to be integrated across all government programs, with adequate budget allocated for preventing and responding to child marriage.

Monitoring the implementation of the revised law right down to the lowest tier is very critical at this moment and continues to be a major challenge. Data plays an important role here. The data that the government currently holds is not inclusive and mostly limited only to the provincial level (sub national). We as an organisation have focused on generating alternative data from a gender perspective in a participatory manner. Our data is designed and collected to fill the vacuum and inform government processes.

At KAPAL we have been generating data at the village level (lowest tier) by building capacity of local women and stakeholders on data collection methods and tools to consistently generate, synthesise and disseminate data. The participatory nature of data collection creates a sense of shared ownership and offers validation. KAPAL has also been providing legal training to women leaders to address cases of child marriage at the village level. The field workers empowered with knowledge and skills are now advocating against child marriage in their own communities.

An increase in child marriage rates has been identified as an unspoken effect of Covid-19. What has been the impact of Covid-19 on women and girl’s decision-making ability on marriage in Indonesia?

Even before the pandemic, women and girls had limited agency. Amid Covid-19, women and girls in Indonesia appear to have even less decision-making power on marriage. We are seeing a spike in cases of violence against women and child marriage.

Many factors affect a woman or girl’s ability to make important decisions on their lives, including marriage. A simple example concerns schooling decisions in families on who gets to continue to higher levels of education. In a family with a son and daughter, the son’s education would be given priority due to our deeply entrenched patriarchal belief system. Similarly, in terms of marriage, women and girls are denied the freedom to make their own choices and are often unable to say no to marriage at an early age.

The Covid-19 pandemic changed the way in which we live and work. We have had to alter our approach to advocacy and capacity building, shifting everything online. At KAPAL Perempuan we launched emergency responses to the pandemic. Our efforts have focused on educating the public on health and gender issues, delivering food and other relief aid, promoting the use of online media with specific attention to communities unreached by the internet, produce and distribute face masks and ensure that gender issues are addressed in Covid-19 responses. The impact of Covid-19 is strongly felt in our work at KAPAL as well as at an individual level.

What does the road ahead look like? What more needs to be done to ensure that girls are empowered to negotiate and exercise autonomy on decisions around marriage?

There is always hope and optimism for Indonesia to move towards eliminating child marriage. Indonesia has committed to eliminating the practice by 2030 in line with the sustainable development goals. A lot needs to be done to realise our vision.

Commitment and collective action between stakeholders are key to making Indonesia child marriage-free. Monitoring the implementation of law becomes crucial to ensuring that the new minimum age of marriage set at 19 for both men and women is enforced. Most importantly, women and girls need to be made aware of their rights and feel empowered to exercise autonomy on decisions concerning their bodies and lives, especially in relation to marriage.[i]https://www.unicef.org/indonesia/sites/unicef.org.indonesia/files/2020-06/Prevention-of-Child-Marriage-Report-2020.pdf

Where’s the “real-time” data on gender equality?

By Alison Holder, Director, Equal Measures 2030

It’s the first Global Goals Day of Factivism; a chance to embrace the facts that help us understand the state of our world as it is today. With Equal Measures 2030’s (EM2030) mission of connecting data and evidence with advocacy and action on gender equality, Factivism is why we exist.

Good Factivism requires good data, and this includes timely data. The partners behind today’s day of action (including TRENDSGPSDD and Project Everyone) have shared an important up to date fact about the state of gender equality to remind us that men dominate positions of political power, holding 75% of Parliamentary seats globally. This fact resonates with the findings of EM2030’s SDG Gender Index: no country has yet reached gender equality and half of countries — home to 2.1 billion girls and women — won’t meet a set of the most important gender equality targets by 2030 if the current pace continues.

Lack of progress on gender equality threatens the whole of the Global Goals agenda: 22% of the indicators for the 17 SDGs are gender specific, and many more of the SDG indicators aren’t gender specific but should be in order to reflect the uneven progress on key issues for girls and women.

But up-to-date data is particularly hard to come by for gender equality. EM2030 knows this first-hand. In building our SDG Gender Index — the most comprehensive tool available to monitor gender equality aligned to the SDGs — we combed gender data sources across the world and across sectors to compile data measuring 51 gender issues across 129 countries.

Despite the massive data compilation effort, we undertook with our global, cross-sector partnership, our Index (like others) is heavily reliant on population Census, household survey and administrative data. But censuses are conducted only every ten years, internationally standardized household-level surveys tend to be updated every 3–5 years, and administrative data (data generated through birth registration, education and health systems, for example) are collected on an ongoing basis but only compiled and reported several years later.

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the pressure for timely data on gender equality. Many groups, including EM2030 and its partners like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and FEMNET, have raised the alarm that COVID-19 could set gender equality back by decades. But at a global level, there is insufficient up-to-date data to systematically prove this point. Even worse, there is a real risk that COVID-19 leads to even less timely gender data, with lockdowns and strained public budgets threatening data gathering efforts.

COVID-19 has exacerbated the pressures, but the need for more up to date gender data is not new. Lack of timely gender data was raised by policymakers and gender equality advocates alike in stakeholder surveys conducted by EM2030 in 2017 and 2018.

In 2018, we worked with Ipsos to survey 625 gender equality advocates around the world. Just 19% of gender advocates considered gender data “up to date.” 86% of advocates described gender data as “somewhat” or “mostly” incomplete. 9 in 10 advocates attributed gender data gaps to governments not prioritizing the collection of data about issues affecting women and girls.

Similar concerns about timeliness of gender data came directly from policymakers themselves. In 2017 EM2030 and Ipsos surveyed 109 policymakers in five countries (Indonesia, India, Kenya, Senegal and Colombia). When asked about the “quality” of gender data in their countries, two thirds of policymakers were dissatisfied with data timeliness:

On the inaugural Global Goals Day of Factivism we need to celebrate the power of facts to capture attention, expose injustice, and drive accountability. But we must also recognize that when it comes to gender equality, up to date data is hard to come by. These gender data gaps must be filled, especially through cross sector and systemic investments in national statistics systems . Data2X estimates that the gap in financing for gender data systems in lower-income countries is between $170M-$240M a year. With COVID-19 in mind, we also need to prioritize real-time monitoring of critical gender issues that we know respond quickly to shocks, such as income, access to education and health services, rates of violence and unpaid care burden.We know that setbacks in progress on gender equality threaten the whole of the 2030 agenda, but we’re “flying blind” without sufficient data to understand the real-time global impact of shocks like COVID-19 on women and girls. Even before COVID-19, more than a third of countries were moving slowly — or even in the wrong direction — on key gender issues. To ensure Factivists have what they need to keep gender equality progress on track, their demands for more timely gender data must be met.