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'All People Want to Do Is Live Their Lives'

Elizabeth Howton's picture

World Bank panel discussion on gender identity in South Asia Dr. Suneeta Singh made that simple yet powerful statement during a panel discussion on “Empowering Gender Minorities in South Asia” on March 14, 2012 at the World Bank. Singh, a former Bank staffer and CEO of consulting firm Amaltas, spoke via videoconference from Delhi, India, while Nepal’s first openly gay elected official, Sunil Babu Pant, dialed in from Kathmandu.

Pant told the story of how he built a grassroots movement of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) people in Nepal, beginning in 2001. A turning point was in 2007, when the Supreme Court ruled that gay and transgendered people “are natural” and mandated certain benefits and an end to discriminatory laws. Today, the country is drafting a new constitution, and Pant said that if passed, it will be one of the most progressive in the world with regard to the rights of sexual and gender minorities.

More and Better Jobs in Bangladesh

Sanjay Kathuria's picture

We launched South Asia’s first regional report, ‘More and Better Jobs in South Asia’ in a series of events in Dhaka early last week.

Through events including a seminar with youth at the University of Dhaka, a formal report launch the next day, a TV interview with the South Asia Chief Economist, Kalpana Kochchar, and an op-ed in the leading English language newspaper, the report helped  generate discussion on core economic challenges facing Bangladesh, as job creation are highly correlated with the challenges of faster growth.

Bangladesh, along with other South Asian countries, has seen steady job growth and a substantial decrease in poverty over the past three decades. The country has added nearly 1.2 million new jobs every year over the last ten years, and this has been accompanied by increasing real wages and declining poverty amongst all categories of workers. This performance will have to be improved in the future, owing to Bangladesh's early progress in its demographic transition. With substantial reductions in infant and child mortality following a significant decline in fertility rates, Bangladesh's working age population is growing more rapidly than its young and old dependents. In turn, this can be attributed to Bangladesh’s success in nurturing the desire for smaller families, through its reproductive health program as well as its emphasis on girls’ education.

Women, loud and clear

Swati Mishra's picture

These few words from the ‘The Face of Female Farming’ aptly capture some of the roles and responsibilities of women in our society. Yesterday, the world celebrated the 101th year of International Women’s Day. Today, we continue to celebrate and honor women and girls worldwide by highlighting some interesting work and articles produced by the World Bank in the field of gender over the past year.

Women in transition

Caroline Freund's picture
In a new study, Mélise Jaud and I examine how countries transit from autocracy to democracy.  We find that 86 countries have tried over the last 50 years, with 42 successful and quick, 13 successful but slow, and 31 failed.  We also look at the determinants of attempting transition, given you are in autocracy--as well as the determinants of sustained success, given that you try to transit.

What Women Can Bring to the Asian Century

Isabel Guerrero's picture

Today we celebrate International Women’s day. Like every year, hundreds of events will happen worldwide to highlight the importance of rebalancing the global gender equality and integrating women in economic, development and peace processes. We will probably read or hear the phrase “women’s empowerment” many times, but tomorrow, people will refocus naturally on other day to day issues, as there is still concern about the effects of the financial crises, its impact on people’s pockets and the lack of employment for new generations.

It is true that South Asia navigated the financial crisis better than most regions and that over the last two decades it has experienced a long period of robust economic growth, averaging 6 percent a year. The idea that the world has entered the Asian Century is now becoming a reality and some countries in the region are working hard to become global leaders and getting ready to give the world economy a big boost. But if South Asia wants this boom to happen, the region needs to go far beyond today’s celebration to bring women on board now: women are a key force to shape the region’s future.

Alert! Arab world women at bottom of global workforce participation

Tara Vishwanath's picture
World Bank | Arne Hoel | 2011Worldwide, women remain at a disadvantage relative to men and the same is true in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. But, there is a stark paradox in gender equality: while, for the most part, MENA countries have made admirable progress in closing gender gaps in education and health outcomes, these investments in human development have not yet translated into commensurately higher rates of female participation in economic and political life. For example, female labor force participation rates at 25 percent are half the world average and the lowest among other regions.

Think Finance, Think Access, Think Equal!

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture

Read it in Chinese.

Read in French.


I am often invited to pose as an example of how far women can go. And I am typically asked how I feel about my career having worked in positions that were often exclusively held by men. I am of course proud of my achievement, fully aware that at no time in my upbringing was I told that I could not do certain things because I was female. But I am also aware that many women around the world face barriers and challenges that prevent them from succeeding in politics, from earning a living, from looking after their families, from running successful businesses or even from opening a bank account.

I “googled” the words “women and barriers” and I got 48,500,000 results. The World Development Report 2012 on Gender Equality and Development says clearly: Gender equality is smart economics. So leveling the playing field is not only about doing the right thing, it will help economies to develop. Our work on development should help us aspire to get less hits when we search for “women and barriers” on the web.  Removing barriers to access to finance for women and making finance equal is not a small weapon in this battle.

Wanjiku’s Story: One Woman, a Common Experience

Asa Torkelsson's picture

One Sunday, I was invited for a late lunch at the house of Dorcas Wanjiku Njoroge in Thika. Deeply seated in armchairs in the living room, we enjoyed sukuma wiki, ugali and a bit of cooked meat while she told me the story of her life.

Today is International Women’s Day, and the empowerment of rural women is the theme of the ongoing 56th session of the Commission on the Status of Women. At the World Bank, it is a day to “think equal and to act equal.”

It is in this context that I share the life of Wanjiku, as told by her.

Wanjiku was born on in 1933 at a tea farm in Kiambu where her parents worked. As she grew up, she took care of the many children at the farm and was not taken to school, as her father did not see the use of education to a girl.