Reports - The Gender Lens


We receive many REPORTS, often by the UN and its agencies, large NGO programs, governments, academia, and more.


WUNRN tries to "pull out the specific gender dimensions," but often they are more integrated or even elusive in voluminous reports that are a challenge to read, to print.


But, we need to "look into the figures" and WHERE THEY COME FROM, and see if they are truly representative of women and girls who can be more remotely accessible as in remote rural areas and slums, and refugee camps, and fragmented in location during war and conflict.


Beyond the charts, the analysis, there are many women struggling with basic needs and rights of life, who are not covered in data and text, nor speak on Panels or attend more formal "consultations."


The vital importance of gender disaggregation, data and statistics, thematic focus for women and girls, for policy development, are so vitally important, and we keep pressing for this.


Though an "official" designation of the poverty line may be less than $1.25 a day, how can a woman, a family, survive on this? Where is the dignity needed to move beyond extreme poverty?


Do aid funds and development programs really reach village, rural women, single women households; or is the distribution politically and male controlled, frequently skewed by corruption potentially at multiple levels, and not monitored carefully, and thus never reach those for whom it is designated and need the most, often women and children?


If women are illiterate, and their daughters as well, how can they read about health, economic opportunities, technology? There are continuing efforts to increase gender literacy, but in the meantime, in many areas, the cycle of illiteracy and poverty continues.


MONEY is a huge issue on right to food, water, education, social services, including throughout the life cycle. Most reports don't show how foreign private companies come into a developing country, say they want to buy "land," or set up a research facility, offering attractive incentives to governments, and then poor people are evicted, forced to give up their livelihood, or sometimes adjust to the devastating changes as oil spills, loss of clean water, no land to cultivate even small gardens - and thus they must buy from products dumped from abroad at higher prices, maybe less chemical free and less nutritious. Who has the chalk at the blackboard here?


Who controls money in most families in developing countries? We know that if women have some control over household finances, they spend more for food, education, health, basic needs.


Women in many reports are seen as victims. Examples in violence against women and trafficking reports, those on hunger and malnutrition. Given gender equity and more equality, women are very capable agents of change for their lives and for their children, and can positively impact their empowerment.


How many reports reflect persons/women and girls of unregistered births, unregistered marriages, statelessness, undocumented migration, displacement without registration as refugees?


Women often get lumped into categories as The Most Vulnerable.


Reports can be written to fit specified outcomes and results. This is very much controlled by the donors, the report authors and editors. We learn over time which reports are more trustworthy, more useful; but for political or vested interest purposes, some reports are written to fit a desired outcome which may not at all be objective and reflective of women's and girls' realities. We are well aware of the benefits, as an example, of CEDAW Shadow Reports by civil society/women's programs and collaborations.


There can be pressure to "hide" negative information, to not reveal for documentation, to enable reports to present a more positive view to readers. It has been said many time, you get what you pay for!

Reports often encourage women to take more power, to be in decision-making capacities, to be at the peace table, to lead and impact social policy, to engage in their own economic progress. But, in truth, many women are shouldered not with just work, but also maintaining the household, providing for family needs. Additionally, women are usually the caregivers for the young, the sick, the elderly. In a time of economic crisis, women may be the first unemployed, and assume even more caregiving due to austerity measures and cutbacks in social services in so many countries.


Then, there is the huge volume of "informal work" of women, usually underpaid and without benefits, insecure, often highly speculative with complex social conditions and even with climate change and natural disasters. These women may well not be included in economic and productivity data and reports. As Marilyn Waring said many years ago, Who's Counting?