Do good intentions matter if they end up contributing to harm?
In 15 years of working in international development, I have asked myself this question many times, and the answer is always complicated. I learned working on the Uganda Development Responses to Displacement Impacts Project (DRDIP) that even the most straightforward interventions – building a school, for example – can contribute to unintended consequences if they are not well thought-through. As Dr. Robert Limlim, DRDIP’s director, put it: “You build a school and it does not cause harm, but this school is built under social contradictions that impede equal access to education for boys and girls. If we want to transform social dynamics, doing good is not enough, we need to systematically address Gender Based Violence (GBV) in development responses to forced displacement.”
“I have always enjoyed studying computer and human physiology since childhood, that’s why I jumped at the opportunity of developing a scientific application with KPITB’s support. This app has even helped my younger brother understand different body organs and their functions in a fun way. The KPITB’s ‘early age programming’ program has supported many girls from public schools, who would otherwise have never received this chance of realizing their dream of developing apps.”
Such compelling words came from Hafsa, a 13-year-old female student of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s (KP) public school as she addressed about one thousand young men and women at this year’s Digital Youth Summit (DYS) in Peshawar.
Girls like Hafsa are becoming the face of DYS, an annual event that brings the spotlight on young talent and their digital innovations.
I heard similar passionate accounts during my two-day interaction with KP youth as they shared candidly how they had transformed challenges into opportunities through hard work and perseverance.
The problem is partially rooted in institutions, who having imperceptibly supplanted traditional & cultural rites of passage often fail to recognize the extent of the need for robust, wholistic and sustained alternatives. Girls experiencing menarche not only require WASH infrastructure, but meaning; they not only need materials, space and privacy to change and dispose of menstrual products, but an environment free from aspersions, taboo and social restriction.
“The World Bank is one of the world’s largest producers of development data and research. But our responsibility does not stop with making these global public goods available; we need to make them understandable to a general audience.
When both the public and policy makers share an evidence-based view of the world, real advances in social and economic development, such as achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), become possible.” - Shanta Devarajan
This Atlas would not be possible without the efforts of statisticians and data scientists working in national and international agencies around the world. It is produced in collaboration with the professionals across the World Bank’s data and research groups, and our sectoral global practices.
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.
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.
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:
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.
"I grew up raised by two parents who were farmers, but as I grew up, I hated farming." That's one of the first things I heard as I met with Ntuba Masena, the owner of a fruit and vegetable drying business in Lesotho. Ntuba remembered spending long days plowing the fields with her parents, and as a result, agriculture was the last thing on her mind. It's safe to say that it has been an unusual journey for the 61-year-old retired nurse who had reinvented herself as an entrepreneur and small business owner.
Does separating women on public transport tackle the wider problem of sexual harassment and assault, or does it merely move the problem around? How can governments combat sexual harassment on public transport without segregating transport by gender? Does the employment of women in the sector contribute to designing better solutions to improve women’s personal security in public transport and enhance their mobility? Experts on both sides of the issue debated these and other questions at a recent event on “Women as Transport Users and Transport Services Providers – What Works and What Doesn’t” hosted by the World Bank’s transport team. Data reveals that while a significant share of women all over the world experience sexual harassment on public transport, often in pandemic proportions, the majority of cases goes unreported.
The session was conceived to explore development implications of women-only transport; highlight why laws matter for women in the transport sector; and better prepare World Bank staff to discuss these two topics with their respective clients.
The women-only transport concept regularly catches the media’s attention and has been debated before. Those who favor providing women with the option of gender segregated transport say it provides much-needed safety for women and facilitates their access to income-earning opportunities and various services. Those against segregation say it further reinforces gender inequalities and entrenches sexist attitudes.