The Colombian Observatory of Women…more than an observatory


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Mujeres en Colombia

Women in Colombia Photos: Jairo Bedoya

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “Observatory” as a building or place given over to or equipped for observation of natural phenomena. The entry also includes an additional definition: a situation or structure commanding a wide view.  

On March 5, 2020, in Bogotá, we could observe the birth of a structure equipped to monitor the legal, economic, political and social realities of women in Colombia.  

You know the old saying, an image is worth thousand words. Well, here you can find a few amazing images generated by the Observatory or, I should rather say more technically, some very cool data visualizations. 

But let me try a few words. The Observatorio Colombiano de las Mujeres provides a high-resolution snapshot of today’s average woman in Colombia. And it does so in a very commanding way. The Observatory already brings together data on women from multiple  institutions in Colombia, from the National Statistical Office to the Ministry of Health, the World Bank Group and ONU Mujeres, among others.  This is unprecedented when it comes to data on women in Colombia. While the country is truly prolific in producing high quality data—including on women—never before multiple pieces were brought together to provide such a wide view. 

But the Observatory goes well beyond that. It shows how the conditions of that average woman varies across departments and over time. It exposes the gaps in the conditions of women vis-à-vis those of men in multiple areas. And how such gaps evolve over time and across territories, between urban and rural contexts. And it looks beyond Colombia too. When possible, the Observatory compares women in Colombia with those across Latin American and the Caribbean and globally. 

Very rich data is available an easy click away. Evidence is customized in several ways—comparing women with men, for instance, or comparing women across age groups, or looking at their conditions across departments. It is conceived to be useful to everyone, policymakers, journalists, academics, students and the common folk.  

I am not going to tell you what the data shows. A blog cannot do justice. But let me only tell you two things I find the most interesting.  

First, you will find some quite shocking facts about Colombia women. You might think, well, that is not news. We already knew women have a precarious status compared to men in Colombia. It is true. But the Observatory will tell you the precise magnitude of such gaps. Some are truly shocking. Don’t take my word. Find them. 

This leads to my second point. My absolutely critical stat—being a poverty economist: for every 100 poor men in Colombia, there are 118 poor women. 
Please do check the Observatory and find your critical stat. Exposing those infamous gaps is the start of a chain reaction towards change: evidence, awareness, consensus and effective policymaking.  In a way, this Observatory is part of building, the engine room that powers the journey to gender equalization in Colombia. Don’t just observe, act on it.


Gisela Garcia
April 28, 2020

Many thanks Jose for sharing this! fascinating data, indeed!
The stat that strike me the most is that one in three women in Colombia agree with the following statement: "A man’s duty is to make money, a woman’s duty is to take care of the home and family.”
Wow! And when you looked at women in rural areas, 50% of them agree.
Yes, there are men responses too. And, for now, let's not focus on them -but in case you are curious, they are even worst (40% percent of Colombian men agree with the above statement, and 55% of Colombian men in rural areas do...)
Acknowledging that this a problem is a first step and, thus, I congratulate Colombia for publishing this data. Yet, we definitely have a lot of work to do. Glad the Bank is helping understanding and addressing this.

Solange A. Alliali
April 28, 2020

Jose, many thanks for including one Afro descendant pictures among all the pictures of Colombian women.
I have worked more than 7 years on that portfolio and despite a very comprehensive report ( regional) it does not appear that much is still done. For that there would have to be a single focus on them separately, and I am not sure the rest of the population is ready, just like they were not up until the time we started emphasizing specific indigenous women components in our health projects. kind regards