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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.

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.

Global Youth Conference 2012: Addressing Youth Unemployment in South Asia

Kalpana Kochhar's picture

I’ve just concluded a discussion on addressing youth unemployment around the world with experts at the Global Youth Conference currently happening and wanted to hear your thought as well as share some of my own on South Asia. Indeed, South Asia has grown rapidly and has created more and mostly better jobs. The region created 800,000 new jobs per month in the last ten years boosting economic growth and reducing poverty. Arrive in any South Asian metropolis and you’re often hit by the richness of activity throughout its busy streets.

The region’s coming demographic transition of more young people entering the work force is expected to contribute nearly 40 percent of the growth in the world’s working age (15—64) population over the next several decades. However, youth in South Asia still face many challenges during their transition to adulthood including malnutrition, gender inequality and lack of access to quality education. More working age people with less children and elderly dependants to support will either become an asset for the region to continue growing or a curse depending on the enabling environment for the creation of productive jobs.

How to Make Horticulture Value Chains Work for Women?

Miki Terasawa's picture

Sima is a chairperson of Ghoryan Women Saffron Association. Her association was formed by the Danish Committee for Aid to Afghan Refugees (DACAAR) and received a small grant to help improve their post-harvest processing. The women purchased a saffron drier and learned post-harvest processing, including hygiene, grading, sorting, and packaging. They identified two women trainers to ensure quality control. In 2010, the association doubled saffron production, and the sales price increased by almost 110 percent. From the user fee, the women saved Af 108,700 (approximately US$ 2,100) and plan to buy another drier. “Men now make tea for their wives, when we are busy during the saffron season,” Sima says.

What do Afghan Youth do for Fun?

Angela Walker's picture

It took almost two hours to drive the seven kilometers between the World Bank offices to reach Kabul University. The streets were clogged with frustrated drivers performing adroit maneuvers to steer through the stop-and-go traffic.

The tree-lined paths of the university are a still and silent oasis from the raucous, dusty streets of the city center just outside. Young people walk in pairs, stop to chat or read in the winter sunshine.

I am here to meet with a group of 18 students who use a dedicated corner of the student library funded by the World Bank. Here, students can use five computers and a printer for free. But demand is high so the wait for a computer can be two to three hours at a stretch.

The girls tell me there are few other options for them. They cannot go to an internet café on their own to do their research without a male relative accompanying them. When asked how many have computers almost all hands go up. But internet access is prohibitively expensive for them and the service very slow. The World Bank corner offers them a lifeline to do their research and access materials not available in the library.

Welcoming the Globe’s 7 Billionth Person

Michal Rutkowski's picture

According to the United Nations, this child will be born in India, and statistically should be a girl. But many of India’s girls are going missing at birth, because of parents’ desire to have boys. In 2008, the number of missing girls in India increased in 2008 to 275,000 as compared to 1,000 for the rest of South Asia.

If a girl child is lucky enough to be born, she faces high female mortality in infancy and early childhood in South Asia. What causes excess mortality among girls during infancy and early childhood? One possible explanation that has received a lot of attention is discrimination by parents against girls. Certainly, in parts of the world like Afghanistan, China, northern India, and Pakistan, such discrimination is a serious problem. Studies have shown delays in seeking medical care and lower expenditures for girls. In India, despite stellar economic growth in recent years, maternal mortality is almost six times what it is in Sri Lanka.

It’s Simply About Being Human

Joe Qian's picture

When we first discussed the prospects of inviting youth delegates from South Asia to attend the Annual Meetings, I must admit that I was initially ambivalent. However, the launch of More and Better Jobs in South Asia was imminent and it found that the region needs to create over one million new jobs a month over the next two decades to sustain employment for young people. How could we write about prospects for this group without hearing from them? With that in mind, we asked what More and Better Jobs mean to them and received an overwhelming response; over 11,000 application views and hundreds of exceptional applicants.

When the six delegates arrived, I was quickly struck by the intelligence, passion, and honesty that emanated from the group. Additional to the fresh, bold, and articulate ideas on employment themes such as equity, skills, and governance in their essays; they all took initiative for the betterment of their own communities with significant dedication and sacrifices.

What Does More and Better Jobs in South Asia Mean?

Pradeep Mitra's picture

The Track Record

Imagine adding the population of Sweden—somewhat under 10 million— to your labor force year after year for a decade. Insist that the wage workers among them earn increasing real wages and that poverty among the self-employed decline over time. What you have just described is not quite South Asia's record on the quantity and quality of job creation between 2000 and 2010. The region has done better.

Poverty has fallen, not only among the self-employed, but among all types of workers—casual laborers who are the poorest, regular wage and salary earners who are the richest and the self-employed who are in between. This hierarchy of poverty rates among the three employment types has endured over decades. Thus improvements in job quality have occurred predominantly within each employment type rather than through movement across types. The composition of the labor force among the employment types shows little change over time. The self-employed, many of whom are in farming, comprise the largest share, reflecting the predominance of agriculture in much of the region. Casual laborers make up the second largest share in rural areas.

What I Learned at the Annual Meetings...

Keshavi Puswewala's picture

I can still remember making a speech about “Experience is the best teacher,” when I was 14 years old and didn't have much of experience about life and the world.

I think the 168 hours or so that I spent in DC with fellow youth delegates were an enlightening and very powerful experience that changed my perception about the world, people, and myself. The launches, interesting live broadcasts, sessions, presentations, publications all made at least one change in the way I think and the way I interpret what I see. Now I believe I am looking at things in a broader perspective than I used to and I have started thinking about the world in a different way.

And the Youth Delegates are...

Joe Qian's picture

A huge thanks to everyone who participated in the Annual Meeting South Asia Youth Delegates competition!

With so many fascinating and well qualified applicants, it was truly difficult to narrow them down. After days of rigorous review and deliberations, we'd like the candidates below to join us.

No matter what, we would like to continue working together with all of you on different initiatives going forward. Please let us know your thoughts and how we can work together in the near future. Thank you! 

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