MODERATOR: You were the first country to invest in a major way in this gender data strategy [arguably before it was the increasingly "trendy" topic it is today].  With all the other challenges and priorities facing your government, why did you make the case for investment here; and what would you say to some of your donor peers listening here today?

JULIE BISHOP: I am a passionate believer in evidenced-based policy development.

We need look no further than the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to see it cannot be achieved unless the human rights of women and girls are realised. In agreeing on this agenda, UN members have confirmed that gender equality is utterly essential to sustained and equitable economic growth and development.

However to track how we are progressing, we need the data, and there is a widespread lack of data about women and girls. Frankly, we often simply don't know what is happening in many countries in terms of empowering women and girls – the quantity and quality of work available, and the prevalence of domestic and other forms of violence against women and girls.

For too long a lot of these key gender-related indicators have been unavailable and we are not in agreement about how we are going to resource data collection methodologies.

Australia's decision to invest in helping to meet this critical need reflects the Government's priorities in achieving real progress on gender equality and women's empowerment. We want to be part of a coordinated, international and cooperative effort to move us forward in this agenda.

I applaud the leadership of UN Women, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and UN Foundation for launching this exciting program.

I announce today that Australia will invest $6.5 million in this program over the next four years.

We believe it will be used to inform policy to ensure we make progress on gender equality and make sure every woman and girl is valued and given every opportunity to achieve their potential. 

I would urge donor countries, partner governments and development actors to join in what is a critical effort to get the data, get the evidence, so that we can make the policy count. 

MODERATOR: If you had a magic wand, and could improve or fix a specific element of gender data, what would you pick and why?

JULIE BISHOP: If I had a magic wand, first I would eliminate the underlying problem. I would eliminate all forms of violence against women, and then, I would not need to collect the data, but I accept that that is going to be a very special wand.

So, in terms of gender data collection, what I would do is change that way we capture data at the household level.

Globally, we capture data at the household level so it makes it impossible to assess the impact of poverty, for example, by sex, age, disability, ethnic background and other factors. So I would collect it at the individual level.

What the Australian government is doing, which is also innovative and a world first, with the Australian National University, is to come up with a measure at the individual level. It is called the 'Individual Deprivation Measure'. 

So my magic wand would be to enable us to not collect at the household level, as we are currently doing, but collect at the individual level. Individual level data means we will be able to capture different forms of disadvantage and truly deliver on our commitment to 'leave no one behind.'

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