See also: Anniversary of the New Delhi Attack Reminds Us that Tackling Violence is Urgent
December 16, 2012 will in the foreseeable future be remembered as the day in which six men savagely gang raped a 23-year old female student on a bus in New Delhi. The young woman died from her injuries 13 days later. The event shocked the nation and sparked unprecedented uprisings in the Indian capital and across the country. It put the international spotlight on India and reminded us that violence against women remains a leading cause of female mortality worldwide.
Today, on the one-year anniversary of what is simply referred to as the “Delhi Rape”, we are compelled to pause and reflect. Four men were sentenced to death for the crime in September – did this bring closure? Beyond the protests and public appeals for change, has there been meaningful change in India?
See also: Anniversary of the New Delhi Attack Reminds Us that Tackling Violence is Urgent
Madame Ngetsi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of thousands of women in the world who—despite their talent, drive, and potential to contribute to the economic development of their countries—may never be able to fulfill their dreams of starting their own businesses. Their dreams may be dashed because of outdated legislation that reproduces debilitating gender roles.
If she were a man in the DRC, Madame Ngetsi’s initial steps in starting her business would be to obtain a certificate confirming the headquarters location, notarize the articles of association, and register with the Commercial Registry. As a woman, however, a significant roadblock stands in her way: She is legally mandated to first obtain her husband’s permission to register a business. This legal requirement, found in the family code rather than in any commercial or business code, is fully in effect in the DRC. Permission letters are readily found on file at women-owned company registries. Married men face no such requirement.
“We have a fantastic opportunity to work together,” Dr. Kim told hundreds of investors at the 15th Annual Global Private Equity Conference, hosted by the Bank Group’s private sector arm IFC and the Emerging Markets Private Equity Association (EMPEA).
“…Private equity is going to play a critical role in whether or not we can truly have high aspirations for the 1.2 billion people living in absolute poverty in the world,” he said in a speech that was liveblogged and followed on Twitter with #wblive and #GPEC2013.
In two weeks, economic policymakers from around the world will gather in Washington, D.C., for the World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings. As has been the case for the past five years, there will be much talk of economic crisis and of strategies to restore confidence, kick start growth, and create jobs. There is growing evidence that we are on the right track, but this agenda still requires much more work.
The meetings, though, also offer an occasion to look beyond the short term crisis-fighting measures. It is a chance for leaders to adopt a long-term perspective and assess where we stand and where we are headed.
If they do, they will see that today we are at a moment of historic opportunity. For the end of absolute poverty, a dream which has enticed and driven humanity for centuries, is now within our grasp.
I’ve been thinking a bit about norms recently – how do the unwritten rules that guide so much of our behaviour and understanding of what is acceptable/right/normal etc evolve over time? Because they undoubtedly do – look at attitudes to slavery, women’s votes, racial equality or more recently child rights.
So in advance of International Women’s Day, I ploughed my way through a really important new World Bank study, On Norms and Agency: Conversations about Gender Equality with Women and Men in 20 Countries. Like the Bank’s path-breaking Voices of the Poor or the more recent Time to Listen, it’s an attempt to take the global temperature on a big topic through a process of rigorous and deep listening involving 4000 women and men around the developing world.
Such studies are lengthy, complex and expensive, but are incredibly revealing and useful, especially as they start to accumulate. We’re trying a mini version with the Life in a time of Food Price Volatility listening project – first year results out soon.
The report is 150 pages and pretty heavy going – subtle, nuanced and complex, and very hard to extract easy headlines. A close reading will yield much more than a skim, but for the time-poor blog reader, here are some of the findings that jumped out at me.
Join Deepan for a live chat on Tuesday, March 5 at 4:00 p.m. Sri Lanka time. Location: facebook.com/worldbanksrilanka.
Gender norms and stereotypes not only affect women, they have an impact on men too. As a child whose father lost his job, I had to quit school and pick up the responsibilities of a man, to support my family financially. It has been more than 13 years and I have never stopped working; this is stressful. Studies show that men’s stress and childhood trauma increase the probability of them perpetrating violence against their partners, in comparison with a man who hasn’t had a stressful life or a traumatic childhood.
Of course, I don’t beat women, harass them, or even tease them because of my difficult upbringing. I guess most of you share the same sentiment. If I’m not someone who perpetuates violence against women and girls, then why is it my problem, right? I’m a good guy, I respect women, I treat them equally and definitely have never harmed them physically, so why worry about all of this?
|Watch the video highlighting the report's findings.|
My mother always told me that first impressions are deceptive. Turns out, this is true also when it comes to gender equality.
I lived in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, for six years, working in the World Bank’s country office on social development and gender issues. I still recall arriving in Vientiane, the sleepy city by the mighty Mekong river, and being taken by surprise of how empowered women seemed to be. I noticed women driving their motorbikes in the city, female shop owners serving delicious mango and papaya, and women in the latest business suits hurrying back to the office.
In a country where poverty has decreased by 25% since the 1990s, it was easy to get the impression that women are truly enjoying the benefits of development on equal terms with men. The laws are supportive of women as well. These have clear targets in place that promote women’s human development, economic opportunity, and participation.
A woman works in a small shop in Ghana.
Photo by Arne Hoel
What will it take for the world to wake up and realize the advantages of supporting women entrepreneurs in the developing world?
If that sounds like an odd question to be asking in the 21st century, just consider some facts. We know that globally women make up almost half the world’s workforce. And we know that in developing economies, 30-40% of entrepreneurs running small or medium sized businesses are women.
But here’s something you may not know – at least 9 out of 10 women-owned businesses have no access to loans. So, just imagine the frustration of a woman in a developing country, who has started a small business, is attracting a good clientele, has a business plan to grow her business, but can’t get a loan to expand. That's not an isolated story. It’s a frustration shared by many women in the developing world. And the frustration of those women sounds echoingly similar to the frustration still lingering in the voices of older women from rich countries, telling how some three decades ago they were refused bank home loans, despite having a guaranteed income.
The phrase “gender gap” may be well known – but what about the gender gap for data? Today at an event at the Gallup Organization in Washington, D.C., U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim called for better data-gathering on girls and women as an essential way to boost women’s empowerment and economic growth.
“Gender equality is vital for growth and competitiveness,” said Dr. Kim at “Evidence and Impact: Closing the Gender Data Gap” in Washington, co-hosted by the State Department and the Gallup Organization.
But the lack of gender-disaggregated data hampers development efforts in many countries, Dr. Kim said.
“We need to find this missing data. We need to make women count.”
|The soon to be completed women's meeting hall will house various activities to help women develop themselves.|
While leaving leaving the LoLoMo eco-resort, the rain seemed to carefully time its return for our last leg of the trip. We were heading back towards Munda, and then turned to yet another island to visit the Buni Village Women’s Project. This was project was in its first year of implementation. A large hall, together with rooms for guests, toilets (not standard in the rural Solomons), benches and a large blackboard was almost complete. The local carpenter was busy there in the building, planing wood for tables and benches.