At a high-level conference in Washington recently, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz recollected an experience he had visiting a small town in Pakistan last summer.
“…development is like a cart with two wheels - one man and one woman. If one of the wheels isn’t moving, the cart won’t go very far,” one woman described to Wolfowitz.
President Wolfowitz reiterated this statement during the conference, stressing that gender equality is not only a women’s issue, but also a larger development issue. Gender is directly incorporated into the third Millennium Development Goal, however gender is intimately tied with other MDGs because of the role that women play in developing countries as mothers and caregivers. Danny Liepziger, VP and Head of the PREM network, stated that “if we are interested in the health of children, then we’re interested in the literacy of the mother.”
Yet, Wolfowitz warned that we are slipping behind in promoting gender equality. We have already missed the 2005 target of eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education. Unless we act now, by 2015 it is forecasted six million girls will be left out of school, the majority of which will be in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Liepziger added that “the issue is really to bring the gender question down to the project level and to specific interventions in countries. We know for example that 30 percent of the difference between growth rates between Ghana and Botswana is explained by the difference in education levels of women.”
Now, the trick is to put these words into action.