As girls across the globe stepped into their leadership shoes for #GirlsTakeover on Tuesday, their mentors at Plan International have been busy ensuring that their national leaders are accurately counting them.
The recent “Counting the Invisible” report shows how the lack of good data on girls makes it so much easier for the world to not see them – or the contributions they make and the rights they deserve. The data collection is the key to making the lives of girls and women more visible, study authors said.
“Lack of data means governments are blind to basic rights being denied to girls,” explains Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, CEO of Plan International, in a statement. “The hard truth is that millions of girls are vulnerable because we have no reliable way of knowing what is happening to them.”
Girls in Zimbabwe, for example, placed a high priority on completing their educations and delaying marriage, the report researchers found. Yet just one in three said that girls always have the chance to finish school, a step they clearly understand is a key to better jobs and economic opportunities.
Poverty, hunger, caregiving responsibilities and cultural customs all play a role in closing off those pathways, the girls said.
But what the girls in Zimbabwe and other countries say can only shed light when their experiences are seen and heard, and that means developing strategies to collect more reliable data. The data is key to policy development, but more important is that good metrics make a difference in the lives of the girls themselves.
“We cannot improve what we can’t measure,” says Albrectsen, whose organization works with high-profile partners to advance the mission. “Governments must start recording girls’ circumstances if we are to meet the ambitious agenda set for 2030. We must make sure every girl counts and can be counted.”
Image: Plan International/Olivier Girard