Counting the invisible: Why collecting better data about the lives of girls matters

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Reading Time: 3 minutes

If you can’t see a problem, you can’t fix it. Data is a powerful way of making problems visible – providing critical information and revealing insights into situations that can ultimately be used to fuel action and create change. Unfortunately, there’s a lack of reliable data that show the real life challenges girls face – making girls and their rights invisible to their communities, governments and the world.

In Plan International’s latest report, Counting the Invisible, we examine the global gap in data surrounding the lives of girls and women, and introduce a new partnership that Plan International is spearheading to ensure girls and their rights are visible, accounted for, and protected.

Why data matters

The world has come together in a united effort to change the world by 2030 with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – 17 #GlobalGoals that aim to fight poverty, climate change and inequality. Goal 5 specifically targets gender inequality, and with the SDGs commitment to “leave no one behind”, it’s more critical than ever to have a fulsome understanding of the issues girls face, so that no girl is overlooked.

With reliable gender data, we can better understand – and subsequently work to address – the inequalities in the individual experiences of girls, boys, men and women. For instance, we know girls face specific barriers simply because they’re young and female. But, without consistent data to illustrate the scope and highlight the reality of the situation, we’re left with gaps in our knowledge. How many girls drop out of school because of early, forced and child marriage? How many are victims of sexual violence at home or at school? How many become mothers before the age of 15? Questions like these can be answered when gender data is collected safely and ethically, and analyzed accurately.

Seven barriers to girls’ education.

A variety of barriers stand in the way of a girl’s education. With gender data, we can better understand these issues and work to resolve them.

How data is creating change already: An end to child marriage in Guatemala

A group of 4 girls.

Mayra (in brown) and her friends were among the youth advocates who helped petition for an end to child marriage in Guatemala.

In August 2015, the national Congress in Guatemala passed a new law to end child marriage. Plan International’s Because I am a Girl movement played a key role in coordinating the efforts of local partner organizations, communities and girls to advocate for change.

Strong data collected by civil society groups provided evidence on the prevalence of child marriage and its impact on the lives of children, especially young girls – helping to successfully influence lawmakers!

“I was part of team of people who brought about change,” shared Mayra, a youth advocate who joined Plan International in petitioning for change.

SEE ALSO: Success! How we empowered girls to end child marriage in Guatemala

Transforming the lives of girls & women with data

Together, with Data2X, the International Women’s Health Coalition, KPMG, ONE campaign, and Women Deliver, Plan International is determined to lead the way in ensuring gender data is collected and tracked against the SDGs – because girls and women must be counted.

Take a look at the current state of gender data and learn about the approaches that Plan International and our partners will be using to address the shortcoming in data, and how this can change the lives of girls and women by 2030.

Read the report