By Minal Bopaiah, Communications Manager, PSI
Illustrations by Sophia Greenbaum, Graphic Designer, PSI
This week, the “No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project,” a highly unique and in-depth digital report detailing the state of women and girls around the world was released by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and No Ceilings initiative of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation.
As a metrics-loving global health organization, we were excited to see all the great data compiled in the report, from improving maternal mortality rates to education statistics. But as the report made clear to note, we’re “not there yet.” One in four girls are married before their 18th birthday worldwide, and only 32% of countries protect a girl’s right to secondary education.
One reason we’re #NotThere, the report notes, is because of the lack of reliable and consistent data on women – including from the global health sector. While the global health community has advocated for international standards (something still lacking in education, economic indicators and other sectors), there’s still a lack of coverage across countries and/or a lack of consistent production of these seven important metrics:
Civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) is the system by which countries record events such as births, deaths, marriages and divorces. Many developing countries lack effective protocols for issuing birth certificates; in fact, about 230 million children worldwide have not had their births registered, making them more susceptible to trafficking, underage marriage widespread disenfranchisement from owning property, voting and other civil rights.
While the global health community has become better about collecting the rates of maternal morbidity (i.e., incidence of illness caused or aggravated by pregnancy) and mortality (death due to pregnancy and childbirth complications), there is a lack of data on the cause and age of death. Accurate rates and more in-depth data would allow global health leaders to fund more evidence-based policy and programs.
In addition, while we know that violence against women affects one in three women globally, more detailed data is lacking.
But women are not limited to the risks from pregnancy and partners. There is evidence that women lose more healthy life than men due to excess disease burden – or diseases that are not associated with infectious diseases, reproductive health, and childhood illnesses – such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, osteoarthritis and other disabilities.
Depression is also known to occur more frequently in women, but mental health statistics on a whole are largely unavailable for most countries. This is unfortunate since individuals with mental health issues are often the most vulnerable members of society.
Two key indicators of preventative health care are also lacking – adolescent health of girls, including the tracking of healthy behaviors, and the utilization of health services by women, especially for non-maternal needs. Gaining more insight into these behaviors would go a long way towards the design of better health interventions for women and girls.
With more funding to support reliable, consistent and standardized reporting, the global health community would be better able to address systemic problems and allow women full participation in their communities and countries.