Developing countries today have unprecedented numbers of schools, classrooms, teachers—and students. Remarkable accomplishments have also been made towards achieving gender equality at all levels of education (see World Bank, 2010). Since 1999, girls’ gross enrollment rates have risen fastest in South Asia, especially at the primary level, by about 30 percentage points; in South Asia, girls’ enrollment rates at the secondary level rose almost as fast. In the other regions where girls’ enrollment rate at the primary level was already very high, girls’ enrollment rate at the secondary and tertiary levels showed impressive increases.
How would you define a “good boy” or a “good girl”? Would he help with chores around the house? Would she earn good grades in school?
In a study to learn more about how gender norms influence people’s lives today, the World Bank asked more than 4,000 men, women, boys, and girls from 20 countries about their beliefs about gender and how gender norms shape their everyday lives and decisions. The study put them into single-sex focus groups so the participants could challenge one another’s ideas and build on new ideas.
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.
I was delighted to join the recent colloquium, Getting to Equal in Education: Addressing Gender and Multiple Sources of Disadvantage to Achieve Learning. It was a great initiative, with a whole range of experts and advocates in the room, ranging from old hands to much young blood!
“Anything men can do, we can too.”
Shernette Chin of Jamaica could not imagine how her life would be without her job, which provides food on the table for her kids. To Shernette, men and women are equal. “A woman can do the same thing as a man can do. If men do carpentry, women can do it.”
Women in Iraq are making a difference every single day by serving as emergency room workers.
By treating patients, these women are having a positive impact on people’s lives.
“Receiving a simple ‘Thank you’ makes you feel like you are doing the right thing,” said one woman. “It gives you a feeling that you have accomplished something.”
A small business not only provides income, but it provides security and a better life for Khampane Kousonsavath’s family. In Laos, Khampane’s life is better when she is selling processed food. Owning her own business has been rewarding for her; she is now able to go to school and generate income for her and her family.
Pili Kafue of Tanzania speaks about her challenging role as a wife, mother and business owner.
On Nov. 11, 2011, more than 48 World Bank countries participated in the One Day on Earth campaign and filmed working women across the globe to capture their thoughts on what it means to have a job.The results were extraordinary and all regions around the world were represented.
During the 2011 World Bank Annual Meetings, we decided to give the highest visibility to the topic of gender equality in connection with the World Development Report 2012.
The report details the need of the world to close the big gender gaps that exist in order to pursue a path of true development for many countries. There is global progress, for example, in education.
But in other metrics, the data on gender equality is appalling:
Worldwide, women make up the majority of unpaid workers. And violence against women is still widespread.