India’s estimated 700,000 hijras, or transgender women, generally get little or no schooling, their families often reject them, and they join marginalized and feudal communities where their employment options are sex work or ritualized begging. They are likely to die young, of violence – like Anil Sadanandan, a transgender activist murdered in Kerala state during my recent visit to India – or AIDS. They are among India’s most destitute women, yet they are ignored by the World Bank, despite its strong focus on the “gender agenda.”
New estimates released today by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the World Bank show that the number of women dying due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth has almost halved in 20 years—from more than 540,000 in 1990 to less than 290,000 in 2010.
This is good news, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. While substantial progress has been achieved at the global level, many countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, will still fail to reach the Millennium Development Goal (MDG 5) target of reducing maternal mortality by 75% from 1990 to 2015.
South Asia is among the fastest growing regions in the world, but it is also home to the largest concentration of people living in conditions of debilitating poverty, human misery, gender disparities, and conflict. In my book, Reshaping Tomorrow, I ask if South Asia is Ready for the Big Leap.
The optimistic view is that India will achieve double-digit growth rates benefitting the rest of South Asia. The pessimistic view is that growth will be derailed by structural and transformational challenges. Which of these two outlooks will prevail?
The Optimistic Outlook
The optimistic outlook is based on favorable trends, including improved governance, the demographic dividend, the rise of the middle class, and the new faces of globalization.
All countries in the region have an elected government for the first time since independence leading to governance that is more focused on development. Improved governance will enhance the politics of democratic accountability; diminishing the importance of identity politics; and the rates of incumbency – the likelihood of a sitting politician being re-elected – are down.
“Should only men be allowed to be builders, heavy machinery drivers, or electricians? No—I want to be able to do these jobs too.” The young woman expressing this opinion is Edelène. She is 17 years old and dropped out of school in the third grade because her family could no longer afford to pay her school fees.
With her mother’s assistance, she is raising her one-year old son. We met her during our visit to the APROSIFA Carrefour-Feuille association in the suburbs of Port-au-Prince. Surrounded by roughly ten other young women from her neighborhood, Edelène shares her hopes for the future.
Policies that aim to improve the position of women relative to men are desirable not only on equity but also on efficiency grounds. While developing countries continue to improve economic opportunities for women, inheritance laws remain strongly biased against women in many societies. When the distribution of inherited wealth is highly unequal, the effect of this disparity on economic inequality is of considerable interest. Parental bequests of material wealth and human capital investments represent central forms of intergenerational transfers that affect long-term development in far reaching ways.
The Ministry of Water and Irrigation (MoWI) in Kenya has been selected as a second place winner of the United Nations Public Service Award (UNPSA) in recognition of its work to promote gender responsive public service delivery with the following motivation:
”Your institution’s outstanding achievement has demonstrated excellence in serving the public interest and I am confident it has made a significant contribution to the improvement of public administration in your country. Indeed, it will serve as an inspiration and encouragement for others working for public service.”
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Different Take on Africa
Good Governance vs. collective action
"It’s time for donors to get out of their addiction to Good Governance! No country has ever implemented the current donor-promoted Good Governance agenda before embarking on social and economic development. This was true for rich countries before they became rich, and it is true for the rapidly ‘catching up’ countries of Asia today. Countries in sub-Saharan Africa are no exception. They are therefore not helped to get out of poverty by donor insistence on prior achievement of Good Governance, meaning adoption of the institutional ‘best practices’ that emerged in much richer countries only at a later stage in their development. This is a main message of the Joint Statement of five research programmes, which has just been published. You may also like to see the PowerPoint presentation of the Joint Statement." READ MORE
A very good panel discussion this week on Gender Equality Data and Tools at the Bank reminded me of the research we did in transport on household surveys with my friend and a World Bank colleague, Kinnon Scott. In retrospect, this work should be better advertised as it touches upon many of the points that were raised on the importance of gender-relevant data for policy. The three main questions that follow permeate t
UPDATE (May 15th, 2012) Caroline Freund, World Bank Chief Economist for the Middle East and North Africa has joined the debate. See her remarks.
The Chief Economists of all the regions where the World Bank implements programs got together recently to exchange thoughts about the current state of development economics.
You can read a summary of our views related to Africa, South Asia, and Europe and Central Asia here.
And we hope you can participate in this debate by sharing your own views via the comments section below.
What is the account penetration among women in South Asia? Has the spread of bank agents affected how adults do their banking in Bangladesh and Nepal? How are people all over South Asia saving, borrowing, making payments and managing risk?
In the past, the view of financial inclusion in SAR has been incomplete, and the details unsatisfying. A patchwork of data from diverse and often incompatible household and central bank surveys was the only information available with which to construct a regional picture.
With the release of the Global Financial Inclusion Indicators (Global Findex) we now have a comprehensive, individual-level, and publicly-available database that allows for comparisons across 148 economies of how adults around the world manage their daily finances and plan for the future. The Global Findex database also identifies barriers to financial inclusion, such as cost, travel time, distance, amount of paper work, and income inequality.