Access to information is fundamental for women’s empowerment. States and other stakeholders should ensure women have full rights and facilities to access information as a mechanism to overcome gender inequality.
An access to information approach to gender equality and women’s empowerment means ensuring women are able to access information to make informed choices on elements of their lives, push their governments and other power holders to guarantee their rights, have greater agency and control over their lives, and more meaningfully engage in public life.
While the right to information is instrumental in ensuring physical, economic and political empowerment, women face structural obstacles and barriers that undermine their ability to fully exercise this fundamental right. Under international human rights law, States have an obligation to promote and protect both gender equality and access to information. States must ensure that all barriers for women in accessing information are eliminated.
Access to information and gender equality are part of States’ commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and are included under Goals 16 and 5, respectively. These goals are closely linked and are instrumental for the full enjoyment and exercise of a range of human rights – such as freedom of expression – and for the achievement of the SDGs as a whole. The ability of governments to promote access to information and the ability of women to access this information are critical for the development and fulfilment of open government principles of transparency, accountability and participation.
The Open Government Partnership set out a series of commitments for States to take action on access to information and gender equality, to tackle poverty, inequality, environmental degradation, and other issues. To live up to these commitments and tackle gender inequality, States must take action to enable women’s full enjoyment of the right to information.
This briefing sets out the role of access to information in achieving women’s empowerment and tackling gender inequality, and provides recommendations for governments and civil society.