A Year of Data

A Year of Data

Our focus theme for this year is

the importance of gender-informed data for building more resilient democracies.

The UN’s 2030 Agenda explicitly calls for a data revolution for sustainable development, but the gender data gap undermines programming that reflects the perspectives and needs of women and men, and the ability to measure results in a sex-disaggregated way. The challenge that this lack of gender-specific data poses is particularly acute in the area of democratic governance and women’s political empowerment. So, GWD looks forward to working together with you, our friends and partners, to gather new data or provide information on existing data sources because the better use of data in program design and measurement will help track whether we are indeed moving towards equality, women’s empowerment and more resilient democracies.

What evidence we do have is clear: democracies are more dynamic when women are in power Governments are more responsive to citizens' needs, political parties and ethnic groups are more likely to put aside their differences and cooperate, peace and socio-economic development thrive.

Throughout our Year of Data, we will fill gaps that exist in data related to women and politics. We will draw attention to data sets that exist but are routinely overlooked. And we will advocate for more data in politics to be broken down by sex - for example voters’ registers. The focus on achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #5, the gender equality goal, as well as SDG 16, the goal on inclusive and accountable institutions, has given a new urgency to collecting data relevant to women’s equal and active political participation, as a route to better governance and more peace. Further, NDI is a core member of the Deliver For Good campaign, which advocates for the achievement of ALL the SDGs with gender equality.

Join Us In Our Data Collection

Data we already have access to through NDI Programs

NDI collects data from a variety of sources and on numerous thematic areas through our work around the world. During elections, for example, NDI's partners in the Global Network of Domestic Election Monitors, have started to gather data on the violence that women experience during election periods. We publish the data from each election on NDI’s Votes Without Violence website. Keep an eye out for new country pages.

Below you will find a few key areas of focus from which we will collect data and share it with you. We will also feature a selection of good, bad and overlooked data from partners and elsewhere. This will reflect on methodological approaches: who or what is being represented in various types of data, by whom and with what accountability.

Our Madeleine Albright Institute Summer Wellesley Fellow, Tanisha Rayamajhi, wrote a blog about the power and potential of data

Many eye-catching headlines, World Bank indicators and even news on social media highlight and congratulate feminist progress based on the growing number of women elected to parliament, cabinet or other political bodies. For example, when my home country of Nepal elected its first female president, it was touted as a great step forward for women’s equality. However, these examples mask important underlying issues that limit progress for women. A single number really doesn’t tell the full story. In fact, for every side there is to a story, there should be a dataset to tell it.

The danger of accepting simplified messages from singular statistics is real, particularly when data is collected together and in the same way for both genders. The lack of gender-differentiated – and even gender-disaggregated – data creates a problem not just within the realm of politics, but in research and practice across all fields. Just as Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie powerfully warned the world in her TED talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” I would like to draw attention to “the danger of a single statistic when collected, used and analyzed identically across genders. Read More


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As women have advanced toward equality, they have made historic gains in political life and are increasingly taking on positions of power. Women’s full and equal political participation benefits their communities and their countries, resulting in real gains for democracy. Yet a growing number of reports indicate that women often experience violence when they step up into politics. Harassment, threats, psychological abuse (both in person and online), and physical or sexual assault can happen to men, too. But when these things happen to women, they are being targeted because they are women, and the types of violence they face is sexualised, and deters women from being or becoming politically active. The root of the violence lies in women’s inequality and it stops women from meaningful political participation, which means that our democracies are weaker and our societies less resilient.

The data you will find in this section will be related to NDI’s violence against women in politics programming. It is based on the findings of our different programs around the world.

Violence Against Women in Political Parties

In March 2018, NDI published an interim report, featuring topline findings from its No Party to Violence political party assessment pilot programs. The No Party to Violence assessment focuses on addressing the levels of violence that women members face within their parties. The pilots involved 64 women party members and 76 male party members from Côte d’Ivoire, Honduras, Tanzania, and Tunisia. The assessment covered a range of issues including perceptions of violence in political parties, common types of violence in political parties, and whether or not victims are willing to utilize official reporting mechanisms. Here are some of the findings.

Finding 1 Both women and men are aware that violence occurs in their political parties

When asked if violent behaviors or actions take place in their political parties, approximately 70% of respondents, both men and women, identified that violence occurs within their political party.

Finding 2 Both women and men believe that women are more likely to experience violence in political parties

Male and female respondents both indicated that they believe that women are more likely than men to experience violence within their parties. Specifically, 44% of all respondents, both men and women, say that they think that women are the most likely to experience violence. Only 4% of total respondents said they think men are more likely to experience violence as compared to women.

Finding 3 Women experience high rates of violence within their parties

Men and women respondents identified a range of types of violence – physical, sexual, psychological, and threats or coercion- occur within their parties. While both men and women agree that psychological attacks, followed by threats or coercion are the most common form of violence that occurs in their political parties, women reported higher rates of every form of violence in their political party.

Finding 4 Violence experienced by women is under-reported

As with reporting on violence against women generally and globally, the data from the pilots confirm that women’s experience of violence within political parties continues to be underreported.

Finding 5 Lack of financial resources and party support are also key barriers faced by women in political parties

Participants were asked to select from a variety of other barriers or challenges, apart from violence, that they faced as women attempting to rise through the ranks in their political parties. Over half of women respondents said that they face other key challenges.

Finding 6 Women’s leadership roles are sometimes tokenistic

Participants were asked to select a variety of ways they believe women generally get promoted or gain leadership positions within their party.

Online Violence Against Women in Politics

NDI worked with technical consultant Dr. Derek Ruths, associate professor in the School of Computer Science at McGill University and head of the Network Dynamics Lab, to build an innovative methodology to examine the nature and impact of online violence against women in politics (VAW-P) in social media - focusing specifically on examining the chilling impact of online VAW-P on political engagement of young women.

The analysis employed a mixed methods approach and worked with NDI offices and civic-tech partners in three case-study countries - namely, Colombia, Kenya and Indonesia. The approach included a survey of 1000 male and female university students in each country about their experiences with online violence, as well as quantitative Twitter data analysis. Each country case study analyzed Twitter data focusing on activity in a six month window around a significant political event, for example legislative elections, a referendum, or significant public demonstrations.

Preliminary Findings: The program confirmed the continued robustness of NDI’s typology of VAW-P, as the manifestations of online VAW-P emerging from the case-study workshops map directly onto the existing VAW-P framework, as below:

VAW-P Typology Online Violence Typology

Insults and hate speech

Psychological / Threats & coercion / Economic Physical Threats
Physical Physical Threats
Sexual Sexualized distortion

The program has already yielded important findings regarding the nature and prevalence of online VAW-P itself. For example, the preliminary survey analysis from Indonesia showed that approximately half of active Twitter users in the study have been harassed online, and approximately one in five respondents had experienced harassment offline. The workshop in Indonesia also revealed that reputational harassment - harassment meant to damage or discredit the reputation of a woman in her community - was prominent as was the use of words or phrases with religious relevance, whereas sexual-based harassment was comparatively less common. This stands in contrast with Colombia, where in comparison a very high amount of sexual-based online harassment was found - often in combination with other types. Across all three case study countries, workshop participants highlighted the fluid and evolving nature of language, and brainstormed ways to account for this nuance in the study methodology. For example, in Kenya, workshop participants noted that a number of harassing words/phrases that were in common usage in the spoken language, had not yet made it into written text online on Twitter. These varied lessons point to the need for contextually- and linguistically-specific lexicons, that can be refreshed, modified, and implemented with human coders alongside computer algorithms.

The program has also led to important lessons learned for NDI’s methodology for working with CSO partners to measure and respond to online VAW-P. These include the value of bringing together a range of organizations to engage in the interactive process of developing a rich and representative lexicon; the importance of providing partner organizations with a professionally facilitated opportunity to practice elements of the data analysis methodology; and the importance of taking into account intersecting identities - such as race, class, and disability - for building a robust understanding of how harassment happens and its impacts.

Finally, over the course of the program, NDI’s has increased its understanding of the intersections between online VAW-P and disinformation. Based on the outcomes of the various activities in both parts of the program, it is clear that the utilization of online VAW-P by state-based actors for the purposes of gender-based disinformation constitutes a specific form of attack on the integrity of the information space. This disinformation can in turn be used by non-state-based actors to pursue online VAW-P to their own ends. Women’s direct or bystander experience of these tactics causes them to withdraw from public debate, limiting both the number of women willing to participate online and the range of issues discussed. This is an important area that has not yet been explored by this program or any other NDI programming.

The Good, the Bad and the Overlooked

Each quarter we will highlight and reflect on data from partners or other organizations. We will update this page to reflect various examples of data, especially those that represent women’s experiences. In particular, we will stress data collected by women, about women (The Good); data that fails to separate figures out according to sex or that misrepresents women’s experiences (The Bad); and data that focuses on women’s experiences that is too often ignored because of traditional theories and frameworks that determine what is considered ‘legitimate’ data and what is not (The Overlooked).

Egalitarian Metropolitan Spaces

Note from NDI: the current SDGs include Goal 5, which aims to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. For the first time there is also a global objective related to cities, SDG 11, which aims to “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.” The following is an excerpt from a longer paper published by Metropolis.

Currently, Metropolis brings together 137 governments of major cities and metropolitan areas. However, only 23 (17 percent) of these governments are led by women. Women’s unequal participation in the arenas of social, political and economic power is not the only factor that leads to significant gender inequality. Women’s frequent situation as dependants, as well as their unequal access to land ownership, water and other resources, restricted freedom of mobility, and troubling levels of gender violence, all contribute to the restricted or non-existent rights and opportunities for women and girls in our metropolises.

The way that societies structure the urban space is both an expression of the inequality that underscores social relations between genders, and the mechanisms through which they are reproduced. Currently, 54% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, and demographic indices suggest a marked trend towards the population concentrating further: metropolitan areas are home to 1.6 billion people worldwide (41% of the total urban population) and it is expected that they will accommodate a further 600 million people by 2030. This is why it is vitally important that women are represented in local governments. Research on panchayats (local councils) in India shows that the number of drinking water supply projects is 62 percent higher in areas where the councils are run by women, in comparison to areas with male-led councils. In Norway, there is also a direct causal relationship between the number of women on municipal councils and coverage for public childcare services.

The Population Council's GIRL Center

This quarter we are highlighting the work of the Population Council's GIRL Center, through their “Adolescent Data Hub,” a unique global portal for data on more than 1,390,000 adolescents and young people living in low- and middle-income countries.

The Adolescent Data Hub is home to the world’s largest collections of data on adolescents and serves as a resource to facilitate data sharing, research transparency, and a more collaborative research environment to drive continued progress for adolescents. The GIRL Center developed the Adolescent Data Hub to serve as a key resource for researchers, organizations, and stakeholders seeking data on adolescents. 

The Adolescent Data Hub includes information on datasets that meet the following criteria:

  • Individual-level interviews of males and females ages 10-24 years
  • One or more rounds of data collected in year 2000 or later
  • Collected in low- and middle-income countries
  • Data are publicly available

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