For the first time in history, the number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen below 10%. The world has never been as ambitious about development as it is today. After adopting the Sustainable Development Goals and signing the Paris climate deal at the end of 2015, the global community is now looking into the best and most effective ways of reaching these milestones. In this five-part series I will discuss what the World Bank Group is doing and what we are planning to do in key areas that are critical for ending poverty by 2030: good governance, gender equality, conflict and fragility, creating jobs, and, finally, preventing and adapting to climate change.
The world is a better place for women and girls in 2016 than even a decade ago. But not for everyone, and definitely not everywhere: This is especially true in the world’s poorest, most fragile countries.
It’s also particularly true regarding women’s economic opportunities. Gender gaps in employment, business, and access to finance hold back not just individuals but whole economies—at a time when we sorely need to boost growth and create new jobs globally.
- Gender-Based Violence
- Adolescent Girls Initiative
- Gender Data
- financial inclusion
- maternal and child health
- inequality and shared prosperity
- girls education
- Social Development
- Labor and Social Protection
- Information and Communication Technologies
- The World Region
- international development association
He often used a stick or an iron wire to beat her. Her body was covered in bruises, sometimes in all kinds of colors. Hamada's husband, frustrated with losing his son and his job in warring Syria, directed his anger and depression towards the mother of his children.
It is a fact: War is one of many forms of violence to which women are subjected, and for some Syrian refugee women it is a prolongation of what has been happening already in their war-torn country.
They have been beaten, forced into having sex and asked to never talk about it or else get killed — by their own husbands.
For the helpless women, most of whom are mothers, the abuse has been taking physical, emotional and sexual forms.
So how do you address and understand the reasons behind this major, often undermined, issue that adds to the misery of the already miserable women refugees?
A team of researchers working with the Women and Health Alliance International non-profit organization is working on formative research to prevent intimate partner violence among Syrian refugees in Izmir, Turkey.
"Often, from a worldwide perspective, when we think about conflict, we think about the forms of violence that are highlighted in the media," said team member Jennifer Scott, a physician and researcher at Harvard Medical School.
"But what we are not talking about is what is happening in the household, and the types of violence that are related to stress, cultural norms, or social and gender norms," she added.
To address this issue, Scott and her team talk with men, women, community leaders, policymakers and religious leaders. They ask questions about what is happening in the household, what sorts of violence women and girls experience, and how has this changed as a result of conflict and displacement.
The goal, she said, is to understand that this kind of violence does not have one dimension.
"It's really multiple layers that we need to understand," Scott said. "In our experience as researchers, when we offer women and men the opportunity to speak, they want to talk about it because it's a very important issue."
The research project, set to start in June 2016, will take place at a community center in Izmir that offers services not only to Syrian refugees but also other refugees currently living in Izmir. The project will conduct focus group discussions and interviews among community and religious leaders to examine some of the factors that lead to intimate partner violence, and explore possible solutions.
The research data will inform the development of a future program to prevent intimate partner violence among displaced populations.
The World Bank Group and the Sexual Violence Research Initiative recently awarded this project and eight other teams from around the world a total of $1.2 million in recognition of their innovations to prevent gender-based violence.
"We want solutions that work and we want them now," said a community leader from La Ceiba during a meeting with national and international experts on the adaptation of an evidence-based intervention to Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in Honduras. La Ceiba is one of the cities most affected by violence in Honduras, which has the highest homicide rate in the world at 90.4 deaths/100,000 people. More specifically, rates of violence targeted towards women and girls are also alarmingly high:
- A total of 27% of women aged 15-49 have experienced physical violence since the age of 15; some regions have rates up to 40%.
- Similarly to other countries around the world, the vast majority of the perpetrators are intimate partners or ex-partners.
To end violence against women, we must ask the fundamental question of what is going on with men – the main perpetrators of this violence – and why societies worldwide are producing so many violent men?
As we know from the seminal 2013 WHO report, gender violence has reached epidemic proportions: fully one third of women worldwide – nearly one billion women – will experience physical violence from a male partner in their lifetimes. The problem has persisted or even increased in rich and poor countries alike – across age groups, classes, cultures and races.
The time has come to shift our thinking and approach to the perpetrators of this violence. We need to turn our attention to the behavior and motivations of the men and ask a different set of questions. What is going on with the men who are committing these violent acts? Why do so many men use violence against women and girls – particularly their own family members? Why is men’s use of violence against women so commonplace across countries in the world today? And how do institutions perpetuate the practice of men abusing and violating women?
Before creating the comic book “Priya’s Shakti” we spoke with several rape survivors and their accounts were critical in developing our story. What they told us had a profound impact on everyone involved. We knew we had to create a compelling and inspiring character – Priya, who is a survivor of rape and the hero of our comic book.
While finishing the comic book, we realized that the process of drawing Priya made us more sensitive and aware of the struggles of the real-life women we interviewed and who influenced our character.
We observed that the internet and watching TV is a very passive endeavor and once it is over, the viewer is disconnected from what they experienced. But, drawing and especially telling the stories of survivors of gender-based violence was a very active process and had a lasting effect on the people who were involved. .
Strategies to curb violence against women too often exclude the experiences of lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is marking this year’s 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women by highlighting the disproportionate violence and discrimination that many lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women face, and calls on the World Bank to develop policies that consider the unique needs of these women.
The laws are changing but the violence remains
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people have made great strides in the fight for full equality. As of today, 34 countries permit marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples, and many other countries have passed vital non-discrimination protections. For example, in the United States, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 expanded non-discrimination protections for LGBT people to prohibit shelters and other domestic violence services from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Sadly, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women face disproportionate levels of violence at the hands of both strangers and intimate partners. A recent U.N. human rights report noted that LGBT people are at a disturbingly elevated risk of homicidal violence, highlighting the increased risk that lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women face because of gender-based discrimination. Another study by the Human Rights Campaign and the Trans People of Color Coalition estimates that transgender women in the United States face 4.3 times the risk of becoming homicide victims than the general population of women. Factors such as poverty or belonging to a racial minority exacerbated the incidence and rates of violence experienced. Transgender people are also more likely to experience violence from law enforcement, in homeless shelters, and in healthcare settings. The recent Transgender Day of Remembrance served as a stark reminder that transgender people around the world face disproportionate levels of violence: in the United States alone, at least 21 transgender people have been killed in 2015.
There was cause for celebration at the State of Rio de Janeiro’s Office of Women’s Affairs last week. The office had just launched a new program that provides support and legal assistance to survivors of gender-based violence, which was covered by a wide range of media and commemorated by a visit from senior World Bank leadership to Brazil.
Our team is currently visiting Rio to help with activities for this new program, called “Via Lilas.” Rio’s government has a lot to cheer about; the program is both innovative and significant. Its primary component is a system of electronic kiosks, placed at stations along Supervia suburban rail lines, which contain helpful information about how women can seek support for gender-based violence.
The placement of these kiosks is strategic; the Supervia provides some of the poorest communities in the region access to jobs and services.
The rail service connects downtown Rio de Janeiro to the periphery in this sprawling metropolitan area of more than 4,500 square kilometers and 12 million people. Outlying parts of the metropolitan area, such as the community of Japeri, can be more than two hours by train to Rio’s Central station.
The “Via Lilas” kiosks will be placed at high-profile locations along the Supervia system, providing easy information access to the approximately 700,000 passengers who use the rail network each day.
The problem seems to stem from strong, ingrained cultural beliefs. Unfortunately, the problem might be getting stronger as formal barriers to the participation of women decline, as suggests Marty Langelan, a World Bank consultant, professor of American University.
Specialists know that the complexity of the problem requires changes in social norms, and that this can only come from comprehensive approaches and time. Some governments may acknowledge the same; however, they still have to deal with the pressing urgency of the theme, and therefore adopt quick, pragmatic solutions.
Currently, countries like Mexico, Brazil, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, and Nepal all have some form of women-only cars in public transportation.
While there are strong arguments that these women-only cars are effective temporary solutions, in the long-term they could reinforce the stereotypes of uncontrollable men and victimized women. They also remind us of the United States Supreme Court decision Plessy vs. Ferguson, which considered constitutional segregated black and white populations in public facilities under the idea of “separate but equal.”