International Women’s Day Report Sounds Call for Greater Measurement of Gender Equality
March 8, 2012 (GENEVA) — This International Women’s Day, CARE isn’t just celebrating women’s empowerment. The poverty-fighting organization is measuring it too, centimeter by centimeter.
In a new report titled “Reaching New Heights: The Case for Measuring Women’s Empowerment,” CARE sounds the call for gathering more evidence in the movement to empower women and girls worldwide. It does so by highlighting the astounding results of SHOUHARDO, a program to reduce malnutrition among more than 2 million of the poorest people in Bangladesh. Researchers wondered how child stunting, a measure of the shortfall in growth due to malnutrition, could have plummeted 28 percent in less than four years, even amid a crop-crushing cyclone and food price spikes. By poring through detailed data collected under SHOUHARDO they had one clear answer: women’s empowerment.
Researchers found that women who participated in empowerment interventions to help them fight sexual harassment, move about their communities more freely and gain a greater say in household decisions were less likely to have stunted children than women who only received direct nutrition interventions such as regular food rations. In other words, the children of empowered women actually grew taller.
“SHOUHARDO gives us the evidence to prove that women and girls are now more empowered and that their families and communities are better off,” said Marcy Vigoda, deputy general secretary of CARE International. “We at CARE see the powerful ripple effects that come from greater gender equality every day. But it’s clearly documented results like these that help many others see those benefits too.”
This idea — that women’s empowerment can transform families and communities — is not new. But too often even the basic tools for measuring that progress are missing. The lack of data broken down by gender makes it hard to know how many businesses are owned by women in a given region, for example, or how many women have title to land.
In calling on the world to fill that information gap, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced in November 2011 the Evidence for Data on Gender Equality initiative, or EDGE, which is led by the United Nations and will attempt to harmonize gender data kept across nations and surveys. “There’s an old saying,” Clinton said, “’What gets measured, gets noticed.’”
CARE, in its International Women’s Day report, urges donor governments to join the United States and South Korea, the first to sign on to the EDGE initiative. CARE also details its own commitment to building the evidence base, through tools such as its new Girls Leadership Index and rigorous research, including an ongoing evaluation of how CARE-supported Village Savings and Loan Associations change the lives of women in sub-Saharan Africa.
In the struggle for greater gender equality, there are still many lessons to be learned about what works and what doesn’t. SHOUHARDO made one thing clear in Bangladesh: If you want children to have a healthier future, giving their mothers food helps. But empowering mothers — that helps even more.
Download the report and the summary 4-pager.
Melanie Brooks, Media Coordinator. Mobile: +41 79 590 3047, brooks@careinternational
Sandra Bulling, Communications Officer, Mobile: +41 79 205 69 51,
About CARE: Founded in 1945, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE places special focus on working alongside poor women because, equipped with the proper resources, women have the power to help whole families and entire communities escape poverty. Women are at the heart of CARE's community-based efforts to improve education, health and economic opportunity.