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Sustainable Communities

The gender gap in financial inclusion won’t budge. Here are three ways to shrink it

Kristalina Georgieva's picture
Marie Hortense Raharimalala visiting a bank agent in Antananarivo, Madagascar. A biometric fingerprint is used for identification. © Nyani Quarmyne/International Finance Corporation
Marie Hortense Raharimalala visiting a bank agent in Antananarivo, Madagascar. A biometric fingerprint is used for identification. © Nyani Quarmyne/International Finance Corporation


I opened my first bank account as a new student at the London School of Economics in 1987. This seemingly small act meant that I could manage my own finances, spend my own money, and make my own financial decisions. It meant freedom to decide for myself.

That financial freedom is still elusive to 980 million women around the world. And, worryingly, this does not seem to be improving. Our Global Findex database shows that while more and more women are opening bank accounts, a global gender gap of 7 percentage points still exists—and it has not moved since 2011.

There are some bright spots. In Bolivia, Cambodia, the Russian Federation, and South Africa, for example, account ownership is equal for men and women. And in Argentina, Indonesia, and the Philippines, the gap we see at the global level is reversed—women have more accounts than men. 

But there are also some very troubling, and persistent gaps. The same countries that had gender gaps in 2011 generally have them today. In Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Turkey, the gap in account ownership between men and women is almost 30 percentage points. Morocco, Mozambique, Peru, Rwanda, and Zambia also have double-digit differences between men and women.

One of the main reasons that both men and women cite for not having a financial account is that they simply are not earning enough to open one. We need to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to work, earn, and participate in his or her economy. This is at the core of our work at the World Bank Group, especially as we look at the skills people will need for the jobs of the future.

But there are some reasons that keep women specifically from opening accounts. The gender gap in financial inclusion can be traced back step by step through unequal opportunities, laws, and regulations that put an extra barrier on women’s ability to even open that simple bank account.

Countries have to do better in unraveling the complicated web that women face when they try to do something that for a man, is quite simple. How can we level it up? Let me suggest three things as a start: 

The role of media in conflict prevention

Michelle Betz's picture
Women refugees from Conakry, Guinea speaking about the problems they face at local radio station. Côte d'Ivoire. © Ami Vitale / World Bank


The role of media in fragile and conflict-affected societies has changed enormously in recent years, as media landscapes and technologies have transformed. The background paper to the Pathways for Peace report, “Media Noise and the Complexity of Conflicts: Making Sense of Media in Conflict Prevention,” seeks to identify and discuss the various roles media may play in governance, accountability, and the conflict cycle with regards to conflict prevention. Such a discussion is timely and relevant given the changing nature of both conflict and media technology, and the use of these tools in heralding change in conflict-prone and fragile states.

Illicit trafficking and conflict: A chicken-and-egg situation?

Virginia Comolli's picture
Gamma ray scanner station used to detect illegal items in container vans. © Chhor Sokunthea / World Bank


Transnational organized crime (TOC) is a widespread phenomenon that leaves no region untouched. Illegal trafficking—TOC’s most lucrative manifestation—has taken multiple forms, ranging from the most traditional trade in narcotics and weapons to smuggling counterfeited medicines and endangered wildlife. As these illicit flows cut across multiple national borders, they become interconnected with local security, political, social, and economic dynamics. At times, they are so embedded that the line between licit and illicit is significantly blurred. The same applies when TOC intersects with conflict situations.

My journey to Aden

Faiza Hesham's picture
Aden, Yemen - By Ahmad Omar Lajam

In October 2017, I departed on vacation from Amman to Yemen. When I arrived in Aden, my hometown, Aden received me with its sunny and hot weather that melted the icy coating around my intense longing to see the city again and the pain of being away from my family and beloved country for over two and a half years.

Maximizing finance for climate action

Hartwig Schafer's picture
Also available in: Français 
Photo: World Bank / Simone D. McCourtie


Imagine a world where communities are better prepared to handle the threats that climate change poses to our homes, lives, and health. In this future world, there will be greater resilience built into infrastructure – including our roads, our cities, and towns. Imagine a world where all communities have access to affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy, waste management services, transport systems and sustainable forests and agricultural practices. Our societies will have smart and scalable solutions built into every sector of our economies.

The Global Compact on Migration from a development perspective – views from a Meeting of Experts

Dilip Ratha's picture
This week, the fourth round of negotiations for the Global Compact on Migration (GCM) is taking place in New York. These negotiations will lead up to the intergovernmental conference to be held in December 2018 in Morocco. As a contribution to this process of negotiations, in mid-2017, KNOMAD organized an invitation-only Experts Meeting.

Ségou, an Example of Participatory Urban Planning in Mali

Zié Ibrahima Coulibaly's picture
Abandoned for a long time owing to its state of disrepair, the newly renovated Ségou municipal stadium is once again hosting the commune’s sporting events and strengthening social cohesion. Photo: The World Bank

According to World Bank data, 80% of global GDP is derived from urban centers.  It is therefore clear that currently, cities play a key role in development.

A few years ago, when we visited Ségou, the regional capital and administrative center of the Cercle de Ségou, composed of 30 communes and located 240 kilometers from Bamako, we were able to witness a perfect illustration of the paradox of Malian cities, discussed at the 2018 Bamako Forum—although they are expanding rapidly, the economic growth potential offered by an urban area is not being realized in many Malian cities.  This paradox is attributable to inadequate urban planning, which hampers the ability of the commune to be functional, economically inclusive, safe, and resilient.

Technology holds great promise for transport, but…

Nancy Vandycke's picture
Photo: Automobile Italia/Flickr
Not a day goes by without a new story on how technology is redefining what is possible for transport. A futuristic world of self-driving, automated cars seems closer than ever.  While the ongoing wave of innovation certainly opens up a range of exciting new possibilities, I see three enduring challenges that we need to address if we want to make sure technology can indeed help the transport sector move in the right direction:      

The focus is still on car-centric development

The race towards incredibly sophisticated and fully automated cars is well underway: companies like Google, Uber, Delphi Automotive, Bosche, Tesla, Nissan Mercedes-Benz, and Audi have already begun testing self-driving cars in real conditions.  Even those who express concern about the safety and reliability of autonomous vehicles still agree that this innovative technology is the way of the future.

But where is the true disruption? Whether you’re looking at driverless cars, electric vehicles, or car-sharing, all these breakthroughs tend to reinforce a car-centric ecosystem that came out of the industrial revolution over a hundred years ago.

Empowering women toward peace and stability

Hartwig Schafer's picture
Chorty Tabo, 25, holds her son, Simon. She fled South Sudan a year ago. She is part of a women’s association, working together in a hair salon in Meri refugee site in the DRC. © UNHCR/Colin Delfosse


More than 1.5 billion people worldwide live in areas plagued by violence and conflict. According to the UN, women in conflict-ridden countries are disproportionately affected. They are actively targeted as a tactic of war to humiliate, terrorize, punish, or forcibly displace them. In fact, women and girls are disproportionately exposed to sexual violence during conflict. And, as more men die, more women and families are left destitute. The World Bank Group is committed to doing more to prevent this cycle of violence against women, as set out in this IEG report.

Entrepreneurship is an important mechanism to help women rebuild their lives and dignity after conflict and during protracted conflict and crisis situations. Take the example of Chorty a war widow who successfully banded together with other war refugees from South Sudan to open a hair salon in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). According to the UNHCR story, the business is small, but the women are earning money to feed their children and take care of their families. These women are vital role models in their communities and give others hope to rebuild their lives.

Building LGBTI alliances isn’t just for solidarity, but key to shared prosperity

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Also available in: Español | Français 

Show your support for LGBTI Inclusion by tweeting as a #RainbowAlly. (Photo: World Bank)

On May 17, we will join individuals, families, and organizations around the world to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, or IDAHOT.

The annual IDAHOT commemoration is an important reminder – to all of us – that the issue of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) matters deeply for sustainable development. It matters because it is about fighting discrimination and promoting social inclusion. It matters because it is key to ending poverty and building shared prosperity.


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