September 20, 2017 / 6:22 PM / a month ago

Many leaders clueless on issues facing girls, women, survey shows

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Policymakers in developing nations may not know enough facts and figures about problems facing women and girls to help reach gender equality, research showed on Wednesday.

Only a handful of policymakers could estimate the maternal death rate in their countries, and only a quarter came close to estimating child marriage rates, according to a study conducted for Equal Measures 2030, a group promoting gender equality.

The research cast doubt on how well nations might reach gender equality by 2030, a goal included in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations two years ago, the report said.

The report was released during this week’s meeting of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, where the SDGs were approved unanimously in 2015.

Two-thirds of the policymakers polled said they believe there is more gender quality in their country today than there was five years ago.

However, that finding was split dramatically between men and women. Nearly eight in ten men saw more equality today, but only about half of women thought so, it found.

More than twice as many women than men feel the situation between the sexes either had not changed or had worsened.

“Policymakers are flying blind when it comes to gender equality. Two thirds of policymakers believe progress has been made, but they aren’t confident in their knowledge of the facts and figures,” said Alison Holder, director of Equal Measures 2030.

“We need the full picture if we’re to have any chance of meeting the ambitious promises set out in the SDGs,” she said in a statement accompanying the report.

The survey questioned 109 policymakers in Colombia, India, Indonesia, Kenya and Senegal about maternal mortality rates, child marriage rates, the percentage of women in the labor force and the percentage of women in parliament.

Those surveyed included members of central and local governments, members of parliament, senior civil servants and people with influence on policy such as heads of business institutions, commissions or trade unions.

Only 6 percent came within 20 percent of the right figure in estimating their country’s maternal death rate, and only a quarter could do so on the issue of child marriage, it said.

Fewer than a third could make a close estimate of the share of women in the labor force, and just half could come close to estimating the number of women in parliament, it found.

For example, Colombian decision makers’ estimates of the nation’s child marriage ranged from 4 to 80 percent, while the actual figure of girls married before age 18 is 23 percent, it said.

In Kenya, policymakers estimated the share of parliamentary seats held by women at 6 to 90 percent, when the figure is 21 percent, it said.

“The wide variation in responses raises questions about whether policymakers are aware, have access to or are sufficiently guided by the relevant, current data needed to assess progress for girls and women towards the SDGs,” the report said.

The survey was conducted in person and by telephone by the research firm Ipsos between July 21 and September 6.

Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org

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