“Make the 2030 Agenda count for all girls, everywhere”

Remarks by Ms. Lakshmi Puri, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women on the International Day of the Girl Child at the high-level reception, “No Girl Left Behind: Unlocking Data to Power the Girls’ Rights Movement”, hosted by Plan International


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Excellency, Minister Hadju, Distinguished Colleagues, young leaders, advocates, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

Good evening.

First, “thank you” to Plan International, you deserve huge congratulations for organizing this event on “unlocking data to power the girls’ rights movement” and for choosing what is a meaningful and thought provoking title. Just by itself the title of this conference is a powerful statement!

Special thanks also to Canada for its vision and continued support, leading the charge on gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.

I take this opportunity to congratulate Plan International on the launch of their new report on 'Counting the Invisible: Using Data to Transform the Lives of Women and Girls by 2030', which takes an in-depth look at the critical role of data in powering the girls’ rights movement.

This year, the International Day of the Girl Child, brings to the forefront a topic that is close to my heart: better data for gender equality.

We all know that without progress for girls, there can be no real progress on our global commitments to justice and prosperity. But it is also clear that we need to set the right priorities. To navigate among the long list of urgent actions for those left furthest behind, we need to know exactly what their challenges are, what contributes to their vulnerability, what is the best way to reach them and how to ensure that they have the tools necessary to be agents of change.

Girls are our hidden change makers of the present and future. We need to know about them, and hear their voices. We need to ensure that they realize their full potential.

What the existing data tells us is unequivocal:

  • An extra year of primary school for girls increases their eventual wages by 10 to 20 per cent, and an extra year of secondary school increases them by 15 to 25 per cent.
  • If all girls complete secondary education in low- and lower-middle income countries, under-five child mortality will be cut in half.
  • And so many more examples: a McKinsey Global Institute report last year indicated that $12 trillion could be added to global growth by advancing women’s and girls’ equality.

This is the power of data. This is why the gender data revolution which will guide us towards our destination of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.

But let us also be very clear ... What gets measured gets done. And currently we are certainly not measuring correctly the lives of women and girls.

  • Currently we do not have data for 80 per cent of the indicators to monitor the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.
  • There are vast gaps in data for some of the topics that matter the most to girls.
  • We don’t count how many girls leave school because of early marriage, pregnancy or violence.
  • We don’t count accurately how many girls under the age of 15 get pregnant or all the risks that they face during delivery.
  • We have very limited data on the barriers faced by girls in managing their periods hygienically and with dignity.
  • We don’t count how much time girls spend working, what kind of work they do and whether they are paid for it.
  • We don’t know how many girls drop out or fail school because of the disproportionately heavy burden for house work and care work.
  • Millions of girls, especially those living in poor and marginalized areas, are left invisible by the lack of gender data. The absence of quality gender statistics prevents policymakers from drawing up the right decisions to address girls’ needs and aspirations.

As stated by Plan International, we lack data to fully capture the realities of girls in poor communities. This is a missed opportunity for the world to achieve gender equality and meet the objectives set out by the 2030 Agenda.

Investing in girls is a strategy for success and investing on statistical capacity is one of its tools.

So the message and tasks before us are clear:

Bridging the gender data gap is the bottom line for testing political resolve to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.

Statistical capacity-building is critical at all levels - global, national and local - to better inform decision-making. This is by all means a worthy investment, and it is even more meaningful in the furthest and more marginalized areas.

We all need to do our part.

UN Women is committed to the quest for gender data to inform policies and programmes to improve the lives of girls everywhere.  Last month, we launched our new public-private initiative “Making Every Woman and Girl Count.”

  • Over the next five years, this initiative will increase the production of gender-sensitive data and ensure the results are used to shape policies and increase accountability.
  • Working with our partners, we are supporting countries to strengthen their national capacity to collect, analyze and disseminate gender data on key priority issues for girls – including gender-based violence, adolescent pregnancy and reproductive health, informal employment, entrepreneurship, and unpaid work.
  • Through this flagship programme, we will work together with all our partners – Member States, civil society, academics and researchers, private sector, and foundations – to ensure the production of reliable data to target interventions to improve the lives of girls.

UN Women’s Youth Strategy also calls for unlocking data in ways that can meaningfully and effectively power the girls’ rights movement.

  • This means asking and listening to girls and young women about what they want and what they need
  • This also means empowering girls and young women to use data to hold their governments accountable and to inform youth-led solutions for gender equality and sustainable development.

Tonight, I would like to celebrate the launch of Plan International’s new report on 'Counting the Invisible: Using Data to Transform the Lives of Women and Girls by 2030'.

I would also like to mark the International Day of the Girl Child with a call to action for all our partners. The issues at stake for girls around the world are far too important and far too urgent. We must commit to using all the available tools and resources that we have at our disposal - including gender data - in innovative and effective ways to make the 2030 Agenda count for all girls, everywhere.

Thank you.