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Social Development

Listening to women while planning for development: Real life experience from China

Aimin Hao's picture
“Women hold up half of the sky,” Chairman Mao said. So when it comes to development, it is important to listen to women – who generally make up half of our beneficiaries – and understand their views, preferences and needs. As we celebrate International Women’s Day this week, I’m sharing some of my experience helping to increase gender awareness in World Bank-supported projects in China.

When we designed activities for the Ningbo Sustainable Urbanization Project, we carried out consultations with groups of men and women to make sure the proposed public transport system benefitted both equally. It was interesting to find that most men wanted wider roads with higher speed, while women cared more about the location of bus stops and adequate lighting on the bus.. Thanks to these consultations, we adjusted the locations of bus stops to be closer to the entrance of residential communities and reduce walking distance for bus riders. In response to the light request, we made sure that new buses purchased for the project had sufficient lighting for night use.
Conducting consultation with local women in Qianhuang village, Ningo, China.

Women can play a greater role in realizing South Asia’s potential

Annette Dixon's picture
Mumbai Train
The suburban train system in Mumbai is used by millions of women and men everyday, who rely on safe transport to access education and job opportunities. 

Last week, I took a journey on Mumbai’s suburban train system, which carries a staggering 8 million women and men, equivalent to the entire population of Switzerland, every day to where they live, work, and spend time with family and friends. Although stretched, the system has reduced mobility constraints and increased independence for millions of women who rely on safe transport to access education and job opportunities; contributing to the city’s dynamism and growth. There are similarly inspiring examples from all countries in South Asia.

As we mark International Women’s Day, we celebrate the progress made in improving women’s inclusion and empowerment, while seeking to better address continuing challenges, which are estimated to cost South Asian economies $888 billion, through devising and implementing solutions that will bridge remaining gaps.

Much to be proud of­a lot more remains to be done

South Asian countries have seen encouraging increases in greater access and gender parity in education. At the same time, the region has achieved substantial decreases in maternal and child mortality. Countries have made great strides in healthcare access through training more female healthcare workers while providing affordable care for mothers and children. The region also boasts many inspiring female leaders and role models, as well as the countless individuals positively contributing to their communities and societies against difficult odds. 

However, much more needs to be done in order to nurture all women and men to realize their potential. As South Asian countries become more prosperous, their growth trajectory will be less assured if hundreds of millions of women remain excluded from education and employment opportunities. South Asian countries will need to substantially expand their workforce in order to meet their economic growth goals and, at the same time, adequately support their increasingly large populations. Studies show that only around 1 out of 4 women in South Asia participate in the labor force, about half of what is typical in middle-income countries in other regions. Too many women face restrictions in decision-making, mobility, public safety; and far too many experience gender-based violence—the most egregious cases making headlines around the world. What can help bridge these gaps?

The long road to gender equality in Nepal

Richa Bhattarai's picture
 
The Government of Nepal is working to incorporate gender equality in all its development policies and programs. Credit: Bijay Gajmer/World Bank


Today marks International Women’s Day throughout the world. Here in Nepal, it is a joyful tribute to the fact that the country boasts three women holding key leadership positions in the country – Bidhya Devi Bhandari as President, Sushila Karki as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and Onsari Gharti Magar as Speaker of the Parliament.

All three are the first women to hold their respective posts, and the Chief Justice, especially, has been lauded as a bold and independent decision-maker.

The Constitution of Nepal 2015 has been a huge improvement from the days of yore:  Article 43 deals with the rights of women that include rights to lineage, right to safe maternity and reproduction, right against all forms of exploitation, and equal rights in family matters and property.

The Government of Nepal is also working to incorporate gender equality in all development policies and programs, including developing a gender responsive budget system.

We also have excellent examples of women making great leaps in almost all fields – science, economics, banking and finance, media, environment, education, public health, social service and development.

And in a heartening move, Chhaupadi, an inhuman practice that imposes upon women to stay outside their homes in unhygienic cow sheds during menstruation and childbirth, is set to be criminalized in the new legal code.

However, progress made in specific fields has not yet contributed to the overall improvement in girls’ and women’s lives across the country. Similarly, plans and policies do not always spur positive changes in reality.

Women’s voices should help shape Afghanistan’s future

Nandini Krishnan's picture
The National Solidarity Programme has achieved  widespread involvement of women in rural Afghanistan’s community decision through the Community Development Councils (CDCs)
The National Solidarity Programme has achieved  widespread involvement of women in rural Afghanistan’s community decision through the Community Development Councils (CDCs). Credit: Rumi Consultancy / World Bank

Women and men agree on Afghanistan’s development priorities according to the findings of the country’s most recent Living Conditions Survey of 2013/14 where more than 20,000 Afghan women and men were separately asked what they thought their government’s main development priority should be.

Both women and men picked service delivery, infrastructure development and increased security as top development priorities. Three-quarters of men and women said that the main priorities were improved access to drinking water, construction and rehabilitation of roads, and improved health facilities. About 15 to 18 percent of the respondents picked more jobs, access to agriculture and veterinary services, and improved local education facilities. Not surprisingly, in districts rated as insecure, priorities for both women and men shifted toward increased security. This emphasis on security meant that men and women in these districts gave a relatively lower priority for infrastructure services especially for road construction and electricity provision.

Private sector engagement is key to success on gender equity

Anabel Gonzalez's picture

Photo: Visual News Associates / The World Bank

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, if there is one concept to keep in mind above all others, it’s that gender equity is vital 24-7-365, and not just as a once-a-year observance.

You have heard the argument before and you will hear it again: Economies cannot reach their full potential if half the population is systematically blocked from full participation. This fundamental idea motivates the World Bank Group as it redoubles its efforts to address gaps in gender equality.

Our deepening work to close key gender gaps shows that the issues go far beyond economic inequity. Barriers to women’s full economic participation also impose moral, emotional and at times even physical costs.

We see this in the laws that prevent wives from making autonomous decisions about their careers. We see it in instances of violence against women in the workplace. We see this when harassment occurs at rural border crossings where women traders can encounter threats, and worse, from border guards.

In developing and developed countries alike, women face obstacles to starting and managing a business, to accessing finance, to earning equal pay for equal work, and to owning land or other assets. Many countries maintain laws and regulations that advantage men while discriminating against women, often relegating them to the status of a legal minor.

As Emeritus Professor Linda Scott of Oxford University’s Saïd Business School told us recently, “Women are economically disadvantaged in every country on the planet” and “women’s economic exclusion imposes a significant drag on world economies and societies.”

A key part of the Bank Group’s gender effort revolves around the importance of leveraging the private sector to ensure that reform goes beyond policy statements and creates real economic benefits for women and men. The Bank Group’s Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice (T&C) has developed an approach to gender equity that focuses on expanding market opportunities, enabling private initiative, and developing dynamic economies.

The work we are doing recognizes the entrenched nature of the obstacles to fuller economic empowerment for women. Achieving results at scale will require sustained commitment. But we also understand the importance of realizing near-term progress to catalyze change, and we recognize how interventions in particular countries can show the way forward elsewhere.

The concept is simple: Good results generate more good results.

Engaging citizens for better development outcomes

Sheila Jagannathan's picture

Also available in: Español, Français, Chinese  

The World Bank Group’s Open Learning Campus (OLC) is launching a free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) from March 15-April 26—Citizen Engagement: A Game Changer for Development?—through the edX platform. Experts from across the globe critically analyze how citizen engagement can be leveraged most effectively to achieve development results.
 
Partnering with leading institutions—the London School of Economics, Overseas Development Institute, Participedia and CIVICUS—to develop each week’s content, the MOOC aims to provide the best knowledge and cutting edge research on the subject. With over 25,000 global learners having joined previous offerings, this third offering of the popular course will continue to build a genuine community of practice.
 
Why citizen engagement? In an increasingly interconnected world, citizen engagement is critical for improving development outcomes. Around the world we have seen that when citizens are engaged, when they participate, they can improve policymaking and service delivery.
 
Simply put, if we want to solve the social, economic, and environmental challenges, we need to take into account the knowledge, experiences, views, and values of the people most directly affected by them.

To fight discrimination, we need to fill the LGBTI data gap

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Despite some progress in the past two decades, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people continue to face widespread discrimination and exclusion around the world. Many of them suffer from punitive laws and policies, social stigma, and even violence. They may also be subject to lower educational attainment, higher unemployment rates, poorer health outcomes, as well as unequal access to housing, finance, and social services. As a result, LGBTI people are likely overrepresented in the bottom 40% of the population.
 
The adverse impacts on the health and economic wellbeing of LGBTI groups—as well as on economies and societies at large—tell us one thing: exclusion and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) is a serious development issue.

We’ve already taken the first steps to address this issue, such as quantifying the loss in productivity, but there is still a long way to go. Robust, quantitative data on differential development experiences and outcomes of LGBTI people is crucial, but remains scarce especially in developing countries. Such a research and data gap poses a major constraint in designing and implementing more inclusive programs and policies.
 
The World Bank’s SOGI Task Force—consisting of representatives from various global practices and country offices, the Gender Cross-cutting Solution Area, as well as the GLOBE staff resource group—has identified the need for quantitative data on LGBTI as a priority. 
 
On Zero Discrimination Day, the World Bank’s Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez and SOGI Advisor Clifton Cortez explain the urgent need to fill the LGBTI data gap. They’ve also discussed why inclusion matters for development, as well as what can be done to end poverty and inequality for LGBTI and other excluded groups.


 

Transforming the heart of Argentina´s economic and social prosperity, its cities

Ondina Rocca's picture
Nine out of 10 Argentines live in cities and towns, making Argentina one of the most urbanized countries in the world. What’s more, 1 in 2 Argentines, along with two thirds of argentine firms, are located in the five largest metropolitan regions (Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Rosario, Mendoza and San Miguel de Tucumán). As a result, cities play a very important role in Argentina’s path towards sustainable development.
 

How can Kenya achieve a sustainable urban future?

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Cities in Africa are growing at unprecedented speeds. In Kenya, about 12 million of the country’s over 40 million people live in urban areas today. However, a child born in 2017 will see Kenya’s urban population double to 24 million by 2035 and more than triple to 40 million by 2050. A World Bank report titled “Kenya Urbanization Review” projects that by that time, about half of Kenyans will be living in cities, and Kenya’s urban population will be nearly as large as the country’s entire population today. Kenya’s urban transition has begun.
 
Despite many advantages including an ambitious program for devolution, the challenges for a smooth urbanization process remain multifaceted for Kenya:
  • Access to services remains low;
  • Informality of human settlements and jobs predominate; and
  • Poorly functioning land markets make investing in housing and infrastructure expensive and inefficient. 
The Kenya Urbanization Review points to some policy recommendations that can help Kenya ensure the smoothest transition possible during its ongoing urbanization process.

In this video, Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez weighs in on Kenya’s urbanization challenges, focusing on urban finance, land and planning institutions, and urban governance, as he discusses the main messages of the Kenya Urbanization Review.

Video: Courtesy of Arimus Media

Three misconceptions in the way of better housing policies

Luis Triveno's picture
Also available in: 中文

Photo by Dominic Chavez / World Bank

​While the need for housing is widespread, individually people have different needs—depending on whether they are single, married, senior citizens, families with children, or members with disabilities. Despite the best of intentions of policymakers, "a roof overhead" remains an elusive goal for a large majority of the world’s people. Most households cannot afford even the cheapest house that fits their needs and qualifies as “decent,” and no government alone can close this gap with subsidies. Nor are we on track to build the 300 million new houses needed to close the housing gap by 2030.

What’s missing? At least three misconceptions stand in the way of better housing policies: 
 

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