New Delhi: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on Tuesday pledged $80 million to help achieve gender equality around the world by improving data and information on gender disparities over the next three years.
The foundation, set up 16 years ago by the former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and his wife Melinda Gates, is known for its work in health, sanitation and education in developing nations.
The $80 million commitment was announced at the global ‘Women Deliver’ conference in Copenhagen by Melinda Gates, co-chair of the foundation.
It is aimed at generating information about gender disparities like unpaid work, asset ownership, etc., in order to help policymakers and other stakeholders address the cause of gender equality more holistically.
“Data holds power...Through reliable data, women and girls’ lives can become visible and counted, helping to inform programming and hold leaders to account," the foundation said in a press release.
Melinda Gates pointed out that by agreeing to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the United Nations in September 2015, the world has agreed to achieve gender equality by 2030.
“But we cannot close the gender gap without first closing the data gap... We simply don’t know enough about the barriers holding women and girls back, nor do we have sufficient information to track progress against the promises made to women and girls. We are committed to changing that by investing in better data, policies and accountability," she said.
Neera Nundy, co-founder of Dasra, a strategic philanthropic firm, said, “It is a good start but only a start." She suggested that while data collection is important, equally imperative is financial support to finding workable and scalable solutions to address the gender equality gap.
Through this grant, the foundation aims to address issues like knowing how much time women and girls spend on unpaid work and what implications this has on their life choices. It is also intends to improve the accuracy and reliability of data collection, which can reveal on a large scale who owns assets like land, property or credit.
Pramada Menon, an independent consultant working on gender, pointed out, “It is very important to distinguish between qualitative and quantitative data." She says numbers do not always reflect the ground reality. Citing the example of caste and lack of infrastructure in India, Menon said, “A girl not going to school is not just an issue of gender inequality—it is about the fact that she is maybe ill-treated in school because she is a dalit or is not sent to school because the school is too far from her house."
The grant will also support civil society in holding leaders to account for the commitments they’ve made to women and girls.