Closing the Gender Data Gap

On July 19, 2012, the US State Department and Gallup co-organized a conference in Washington, DC on “Evidence and Impact: Closing the Gender Data Gap”.

Joann Vanek, Director of WIEGO’s Statistics Program, represented WIEGO at the conference.  In her opening remarks, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mentioned that Ela Bhatt, founder of the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in India and founding chair of WIEGO, understood the power of statistics in the hand of workers and asked researchers to collect and analyze data on home-based workers as part of the campaign for the 1996 International Convention on Home Work. The researcher she asked was Marty Chen, International Coordinator of WIEGO, who together with Jennefer Sebstad (another research friend of SEWA’s), compiled data on home-based workers for the campaign. That collaboration – the joint action of researchers and organizers – led to the formation in 1997 of the WIEGO network.

Excerpt from Clinton's speech:

I’ll start with the story of one of my personal heroes: Ela Bhatt, the founder of the Self-Employed Women’s Association in India. She earned her law degree in the early 1950s at a time when not many women were in the law and certainly not many women in India. She used her degree to work for a local textiles labor union, but the law only granted rights and recognitions to industrialized laborers. All around her, she saw plenty of women doing lots of work in the informal economy.

Ela learned that only 6 percent of women in India were officially counted as employed. And she recognized that the first step to helping women who were obviously very hardworking but invisible to business and government would be to bring their work into public view. Now, one easy way to prove the economic value of women in the informal economy would be to ask them all to take the week off – (laughter) – and just see what happens. But Ela Bhatt had a better idea. She convinced researchers to collect and analyze data about all the work people – mostly women – were actually doing from their homes. And once the numbers came out, policy makers couldn’t ignore them. And in 1996, thanks in large part to Ela’s leadership, the International Convention on Home Work recognized the rights and contributions of those who work from their homes and established new standards for employment conditions.

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Video of Clinton's speech:

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