The critical role that feminist and girls’ and women’s rights movements1 play in the promotion of gender equality is increasingly well documented. Moreover, there is increasing recognition that when advocates are equipped with data, and the skills to effectively use them, their efforts to influence decision makers are likely to be more credible and result in more evidence-based decision-making. However feminist organizations frequently face constraints in resourcing (funding and personnel) and capacity needed to undertake data-driven advocacy. In many places, there is also a growing pushback on a ‘gender agenda’ and a shrinking civil society space overall. This combined with underinvestment in collecting and sharing timely, quality gender data collectively limit opportunities for feminist movements to influence decision makers with data.
Equal Measures 2030 works to address a number of these issues both directly through its programming and indirectly through its partnerships, advocacy, and communications with donors, UN actors, governments, and others. This paper delves into the evidence behind this approach and, in doing so, seeks to establish a shared understanding and set of recommendations on this topic for the Equal Measures 2030 partnership.
Opportunities for engaging women’s rights organisations
Gender equality is an increasingly prominent thematic area of focus in the open government community. There are valid normative reasons behind this: women constitute half of the world’s citizens and including women—particularly diverse and intersectional voices—in all levels of governance is the right thing to do. There is—as the Feminist Open Government Initiative’s 2019 report lays out in detail—also a strong strategic case to be made about the value proposition of making OGP processes more inclusive.
The rationale for OGP member governments to more deliberately engage with women’s rights organisations and movements as part of open government processes includes:
- Broadening the base of stakeholders with “ownership”: OGP can catalyse the inclusion of more voices around the open government table as a proposition to strengthen the movement, build consensus around OGP principles, and draw in other individual and organisational resources and influence.
- Creating pathways to greater inclusion: Many WROs and movements already have strong intersectional partners (e.g., focus on advocacy for racial or ethnic minority, disability, elderly, or LGBT+ groups) and are plugged into national or regional networks. Co-creation with WROs could open pathways for member governments to better take into account a range of different population groups’ specific needs within open government commitments.
- Connecting technical processes to lived realities: Meaningful engagement with grassroots organisations— particularly women’s rights organisations and movements—can help open government processes better reflect the needs and concerns of citizens. This is particularly relevant given the findings from OGP-supported research (including EM2030 focus groups) that open government is currently seen by many citizens across regions as a capital city-driven agenda led by technical experts.
- Tapping into deep thematic knowledge: WROs are best positioned to input deep knowledge about the real challenges facing women and girls in their communities, including guidance on how women and girls engage differently with government services, or with broader transparency and accountability mechanisms. WROs bring substantial expertise and advocacy approaches for thematic issues areas (e.g., on gender-based violence or women’s political participation) that could inform stand-alone gender commitments.