This week, the World Bank, in partnership with the government of Brazil and the State of Rio de Janeiro, is co-hosting a South-South Learning Forum to promote knowledge exchange among policymakers from developing countries on ways to improve the design of social protection and labor systems at the policy, program and service delivery levels.
Visiting a prison does not leave you feeling indifferent. After exhaustive security checks, you find yourself amid a sea of personal stories – many of them tragic – and the statistics begin to take on a human face. Life in prison is much more difficult than we imagine: discipline, strict schedules, cells shared with up to 20 strangers and views of the horizon that end with a security fence.
Confirming the dreadful situation of most Latin American prisons is nothing new. Overcrowding and the lack of health strategies are, along with corruption and the absence of effective reinsertion plans, some of the challenges faced by authorities across the region.
Last January, Egypt and Tunisia enacted new constitutions in the context of the political changes they have been witnessing since the 2011 revolutions that overthrew the Mubarak and Ben Ali regimes. While most public attention has focused on how these constitutions have addressed hotly debated issues such as the structure of government, the role of religion and fundamental freedoms, there has been relatively less attention to how they have dealt with economic and social issues. In this regard, it is noteworthy that the two constitutions contain clauses which give high priority to building a knowledge economy and which provide for the protection of intellectual property rights (IPRs), at the constitutional level, for the first time in the history of these countries.
“It is not what you know that matters, it is who you know” is how the old adage goes, and so I have observed from my conversations with family and friends during my recent visit back to my hometown in East Jerusalem when I asked what they thought of the often heard complaint among Arab youth that “wasta” is all that matters in landing a decent job nowadays.
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It was not my first visit to a Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV). Every time I go to one, I come out inspired. What a great program this is: many thousands of girls who have missed the education boat are being brought back into the school system all over India! To me, it is the best part of Sarva Siksha Abiyan (SSA), the Government of India’s very successful Education for All Program.
That day in January, we were in Jehanabad in Bihar. We were sitting in the court yard of the KGBV school watching the karate demonstration the students put up for us. The girls learn karate for self-esteem and self-defense; it is a great thing. During the demo, one of the other girls came up to us. “I am Kusum”, she said, “I am in class 7.” Her English was perfect, so I complimented her on that. Kusum went back and we continued to watch the karate. When the program was over, Kusum came back to the front, with a determined look on her face. “Next year, I will go to class 8” she said. “I am happy you came to visit my school.”
The three points made in my previous post—that services particularly fail poor people, money is not the solution, and “the solution” is not the solution—can be explained by failures of accountability in the service delivery chain. This was the cornerstone of the 2004 World Development Report, Making Services Work for Poor People. In a private market—when I buy a sandwich, for example—there is a direct or “short route” of accountability between the client (me) and the sandwich provider. I pay him directly; I know whether I got a sandwich or not; and If I don’t like the sandwich, I can go elsewhere—and the provider knows that.
Equality for women means progress for all. That is this year’s theme for International Women's Day, which falls on March 8 every year. To mark the occasion, we asked women from across the Middle East and North Africa region to share their views on what it's like being a woman in the Arab world; the challenges they face and what they need most to overcome them. After reading their views, we invite you to share yours.
In last week's op-ed for the Washington Post, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim provided the broader context for the Bank's concern about discrimination in general, and more specifically about anti-gay laws: "Institutionalized discrimination is bad for people and for societies. Widespread discrimination is also bad for economies. There is clear evidence that when societies enact laws that prevent productive people from fully participating in the workforce, economies suffer."
In light of International Women’s Day coming up on March 8th, I would like to share some two inspiring stories of young women that I met in Sri Lanka. They showed incredible entrepreneurialism and innovation in integrating ICT skills in creative teaching and learning at a university.
The first woman that I met was a young Information Communications Technology (ICT) training teacher, Kamani Samarasinghe, from the University of the Visual & Performing Arts. She creatively taught her class (both regular university classes and distance learning classes) through integrating a career development course into an ICT skills development class, holding virtual training sessions connecting with professor Ramesh Sharma from Indira Gandhi National Open University, and leveraging various free open education resources into her training such as YouTube videos and free typing training courses like GoodTyping. She also creates various tutorial materials (how to search, how to use Google Drive, and etc) on Google Doc and share with students.
On February 27, a high-level regional workshop kicked off in Lomé, Togo, with the participation of Ministers of gender affairs and officials from 11 economies from West and Central Africa focusing on the World Bank Group’s Women, Business and the Law 2014: Removing Restrictions to Enhance Gender Equality report. A welcome dinner prior to the official opening of the event revealed the dynamic nature of gender affairs Ministers – all women – and the common realities and issues facing their nations. Most were meeting for the first time in a unique experience that enabled sharing stories and views about laws, cultural norms and traditional roles within the family in prelude to the official discussions.
The opening remarks at the workshop reflected well the importance of gender equality for the region. In welcoming the event, Mr. Hervé Assah, the World Bank's Country Manager for Togo, noted that “underinvesting in the human capital of women is a real obstacle to reducing poverty and considerably limits the prospects for economic and social development.” Those concerns were echoed by the Minister of Social Action and Women and Literacy Promotion in Togo, Mrs. Dédé Ahoéfa Ekoué, who highlighted the importance of women’s participation in society and the economy, both in Togo and worldwide. The tone was thus set for this two-day event, which aimed at both highlighting recent reforms enacted by countries in the region and promoting the sharing of experiences, challenges and good practices among the participants in promoting women’s economic inclusion.
There is certainly much to highlight and share over these two days and beyond. Over the past two years, several Sub-Saharan African economies passed reforms promoting gender parity and encouraging women’s economic participation. For example, Togo reformed its Family Code in 2012, now allowing both spouses to choose the family domicile and object to each other’s careers if deemed not to be the family’s interests. Côte d’Ivoire equalized the same rights for women and men, and also eliminated provisions granting tax benefits only to men for being the head of household. Furthermore, Mali enacted a law allowing both spouses to pursue their business and professional activities and a succession law equalizing inheritance between husbands and wives. While the pace of reform has been accelerating in the region, it is not a recent phenomenon. In fact, Sub-Saharan Africa is the region that has reformed the most over the past 50 years: Restrictions on women’s property rights and their ability to make legal decisions were reduced by more than half from 1960 to 2010.