Today marks the fifth International Women’s Day since the publication of the World Development Report 2012 on “Gender Equality and Development.” That WDR showed us that gender equality is both an important development objective in its own right, as well as smart economics. On the occasion of International Women’s Day, I sat down with the co-Directors of the WDR 2012, Ana Revenga and Sudhir Shetty. They shared some of their reflections on the origins of the report, its successes and impact, the challenges that remain, and why a focus on gender in development work still remains important today.
On March 8, in celebration of International Women’s Day, Marion Bunch, Chief Executive Officer, Rotarians for Family Health & AIDS Prevention and founder of family health days, will participate in a World Bank event about inspiring women who made a difference in the world through innovative programs in the areas of education and health.
For the past five years, the sea – a small three letter word– has delivered more than its share of pain to Syrians. But two Syrian women, ‘Om Mohammed’ and ‘Om Issa,’ had not planned for this fateful encounter with the water. Om Mohammad was fleeing the inferno of barrel bombs that were dropped on Darayya, a suburb of Damascus. Meanwhile Om Issa was fleeing her homeland to protect her son after government security services began tracking him in order to force him to serve in the regime’s military.
There is no place left in the country for mothers or their sons.
When I started my career in the world of global development some twenty odd years ago, a number of female leaders inspired me. Rachel Carson had left an epic legacy with her book ‘Silent Spring; Wangari Maathai, the founder of the Green Belt Movement, had won a Nobel Peace Prize and Jane Goodall was reminding us all of nature conservation causes. And that’s just to name a few of those who were most visible.
One of my first experiences in the developing world was in Mozambique. While there, I saw the devastating impacts of floods not just at the national and community level, but especially on women and girls.
There is a lot that development practitioners don’t know about the Pacific Islands. When it comes to the laws of these small island nations scattered throughout the ocean separating Asia and the Americas, most people outside the region know even less. Add the dimension of gender to the mix and you might be met with blank stares.
A common Sri Lankan proverb states that a woman’s wisdom only extends to the length of the kitchen spoon’s handle. With near universal female lower secondary school completion, and more girls than boys receiving tertiary education, the knowledge of Sri Lankan females has clearly moved beyond the length of the kitchen spoon’s handle. However, the evidence suggests that .
Sri Lanka’s population has more women than men; there are 106 women for every 100 men. But when it comes to the labour force, there are only 54 women per 100 men, and 52 women employed for every 100 employed men. In the last 10 years, the female labour force participation rate has declined slightly from 39.5 percent to 34.7 percent, and the female unemployment rate has been consistently twice that of males during this period or longer So why aren’t Sri Lankan women – who are on average more educated than Sri Lankan men – engaged in the labor force in similar proportions? This question has been raised and discussed in policy circles, gaining momentum in recent times.
Gender relations are one aspect of our lives where the role and impact of social norms are particularly obvious. Even today, gender roles and stereotypes continue to exert significant influence over the way men and women behave, and how they interact with each other.
That is why it is critical for us to acknowledge, understand, and, if necessary, challenge existing social norms when designing and implementing projects that are meant to improve the lives of women. From reducing fertility rates in Bangladesh to combating gender-based violence in Haiti, Senior Social Development Specialist Maria Beatriz Orlando gives us examples of World Bank projects that effectively empowered women by addressing the reality of gender norms on the ground.