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Harnessing the Power of Girls in Open Government

Allison Merchant|

Open government can – and should – more effectively harness the power and insights of girls. On this day of the girl, OGP is committing to exploring ways to include girls as agents of change within co-creation to help national and local governments unlock ambitious, impactful open government commitments.

Recently, I heard a striking example about how government data continues to miss key populations like young women and girls in the design of policy solutions. In one country, the government collects and shares information about the number of indigenous women as well as the number of teen pregnancies. This data is housed in two different ministries, though, and their systems aren’t compatible with each other. As a consequence, there is no reliable public information on the population of indigenous young women and girls who are pregnant, limiting the quality of interventions and support that government agencies and civil society can provide to this vulnerable and underserved group. When government systems and open platforms aren’t created with girls in mind, critical policy gaps like these go unaddressed.

At the heart of the Open Government Partnership lies a mission to bring together government reformers and civil society leaders to create open government commitments that make governments more inclusive, responsive and accountable. This month, the new OGP co-chairs — the Government of Canada and Nathaniel Heller of Results for Development — articulated a co-chair vision centered on increasing inclusion and participation throughout OGP to ensure that open government truly delivers for all, including the youngest in a nation.

As a cornerstone of their vision, the Feminist Open Government Initiative was created to combine research, data, and action to catalyze gender equality and equity in government policy-making and public service delivery. Over the next year, we’ll deepen the evidence base around what national and local governments can achieve if girls are brought into co-creation, provide guidance on how to apply a gender perspective to commitments that may impact women and girls differently, and coordinate scholarships for young women leaders to participate in critical moments like the OGP Global Summit in May 2019. This Initiative is guided by the theory that ensuring women and girls’ voices and priorities are part of action plan processes from start to finish will in turn increase the legitimacy and impact of open government reforms. Engaging girls now also has the benefit of cultivating future women leaders who can drive openness conversations within their careers as members of Parliament, public servants, heads of organizations, and activists.

How can we bring girls into open government? Here are three suggestions:

  1. Engage young women and girls in your co-creation processes. By tapping into existing national and local groups focused on girls, open government processes can leverage the expertise of women and girls and create solutions that better address their needs.
  2. Ask yourself: how might this commitment or policy affect girls and boys differently? Even if the policy doesn’t seem to have a clear gender perspective, a brief gender review or gender-responsive budgeting exercise can reveal hidden costs or barriers for girls.
  3. Consider where and how you can collect, analyze, and share information that takes into account intersectionalities – gender, age, race and ethnicity, and so on – so that governments and civil society have more accurate information about potential beneficiaries of commitments and can actively close gender gaps across stakeholder groups.

How have you engaged girls and young women in open government? Tell us in the comments below.

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