Photo: iStock / stellalevi

Photo: iStock / stellalevi

Exploring the Gender Gap in Identification


  • Report
  • 29 May 2019

With women and girls disproportionately excluded by official identification systems, GSMA explores the unique policy-related challenges female citizens face when accessing or using ID

Of the one billion people worldwide unable to prove their identity, a disproportionate number are women and girls. As a consequence, female citizens – particularly those living below the poverty line – are more likely to be socially, politically, digitally and financially excluded from accessing key services and systems.

Using 10 commonwealth countries as examples, this report identifies examples of both gender inclusivity and gender inequality in various official identification systems.

The findings demonstrate that the specific barriers women and girls face can be divided into two categories: legal or policy-related barriers and contextual barriers related to the broader environment within their country.

In addition to exploring the nature of these barriers, GSMA also provides a series of recommendations for increasing women and girls’ access to, and participation in, official identification systems. Recommendations include defining critical rights (including the right to own property) in national constitutions, reinforcing these rights in foundational ID policies, testing all legal requirements through inclusive consultations, ensuring user-friendly decentralized registration points, and partnerships between the public and private sector to improve digital and financial literacy among women and girls.

The report concludes with suggestions for ways in which Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) can help increase women and girls’ access to official identification. GSMA proposes that MNOs exploit their existing geographical reach and digital technology to support governments’ efforts to reduce gender identification inequality.

“Official proof of identity is fundamental to an individual’s ability to exercise their rights and secure access to a range of vital services, such as healthcare, education, mobile connectivity, social security programmes and financial services…

Women and girls are among those most likely to be left behind, especially if they live below the poverty line In fact, as many as 45 per cent of women in low-income countries do not have access to foundational IDs, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.”

This report is an output of a project funded by U.K. aid from the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID).