As we mark International Women’s Day, women and girls are better off than just a few decades ago. Boys and girls are going to school in equal numbers in many countries. Women are living longer, healthier lives.
But even with the steady progress we’ve seen over the past few decades, one of our biggest challenges today is to avoid falling prey to a sense of self-satisfaction. We don’t deserve to, not yet.
We need a renewed sense of urgency and a clearer understanding of the remaining obstacles. When it comes to improving the lives of women and girls, we have blind spots. In fact, we know of three shocking inequalities that persist in education, the working world, and women’s very security and safety.
Blind Spot No. 1: Education of Girls.
We have made impressive gains in achieving universal access to education, but what we’re failing to see is that girls who are poor—those who are the most vulnerable—are getting left behind.
While wealthier girls in countries like India and Pakistan may be enrolled in school right alongside boys their age, among the poorest 20 percent of children, girls have on average five years less education than do boys. In Niger, where only one in two girls attends primary school, just one in 10 goes to middle school, and stunningly only one in 50 goes to high school. That’s an outrage.
Middle East and North Africa
Take a moment and think of the women who inspire you. Make a list. Who are the top 11 women? Would you include a construction worker from Jamaica? How about a midwife in Sudan or a jewelry maker in Costa Rica? What about a student from India or a small business owner in Egypt?
When most of us think about people who inspire us, we consider world leaders, celebrities, or those who’ve changed the course of world history. Or we might think of individuals who have had a significant influence in our lives—our role models or people we strive to emulate. The people who make it to our “inspiration list” are there because we relate to them, regardless if we’re man or woman.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day this week, we present 11 stories of women around the world who’ve made amazing strides to achieve their goals and make long-lasting impacts on the lives of their children, families and communities.
I got together with my friend Asma'a one evening at a popular Cairo café overlooking the Nile. Like many of the young Egyptians I had met that summer, Asma'a was smart, motivated — and unemployed. Since graduating with a law degree, she had applied for countless jobs to no avail, and had all but given up on finding a job in her field of study. She was particularly upset that evening because her parents had forbidden her from accepting a waitressing job, deeming the work to be morally inappropriate. Feeling ever more desperate, Asma'a said she would be willing to take any job just to be able to work.
Asma'a is one of 865 million women worldwide who have the potential to contribute more fully to the global economy. These women represent a powerful resource for driving economic growth and development. Yet the underuse of women's talents and skills is holding many countries back. An International Monetary Fund study estimates that if women like Asma'a were to participate in the labor force at the same rate as men, they could raise GDP in Egypt by 34 percent. Employed women also invest more of their income in their children's health and education, helping families to escape the cycle of poverty.
“You are a Bangladeshi. Did your country benefit from seceding from Pakistan?” I was recently invited to meet with members of the Yemeni National Dialogue who are debating the future of the state. The wounds of the past are deep in Yemen’s history – war between the South and the North and conflict within Regions – and not surprisingly the talk of regional secession is present in the discussions. The question drew a murmur in a room full of policy makers and activists from different parts of Yemen. It had clearly touched a raw nerve.
The National Dialogue is an important moment in Yemen’s rich history. It has brought together political parties, social groups, women, youth, and regional representation around a dialogue to craft the future of Yemen. Some argue that the process is incomplete and imperfect – not all stakeholders are present; there is a fear of elite capture; and in some parts of the country there is armed conflict. But, despite these challenges it is to Yemen’s credit that it is hoping to forge a state through dialogue – not the typical image of Yemen portrayed in the international press.
The Group of 20 leaders met for an intense 24-hour period over two days, discussing the situation in Syria and the global economy. Watch this video blog to hear what World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim thought shouldn't be forgotten in these important discussions.
Birkaç hafta önce İstanbul’da gerçekleştirilen Birleşmiş Milletler Orman Forumu’nun 10. Oturumunun açılışı ve Türkiye Başbakanı Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’ın orman kaybının durdurulması konusunun ciddiye alınması yönünde küresel topluluğa yaptığı ateşli çağrı ile ilgili bir blog yazısı yazmıştım. Başbakan Erdoğan bu çağrıyı alışılmadık bir şekilde iklim değişikliği veya biyolojik çeşitlilik kaybı ile ilgili endişelere herhangi bir atıfta bulunmadan yapmıştı; bunun yerine basit bir şekilde “bunu ahlaki sorumluluk gereği gerçekleştirmemiz gerekiyor” demişti.
Erdoğan konuşmasında "İnsanlığın karşı karşıya olduğu küresel tehditler ‘bana ne başkasından’ deme lüksünü ortadan kaldırıyor’” demiş ve eklemişti: “Biz sadece gövde taşıyan, gövdesinin üzerine kafa, o kafanın içinde beyin taşıyan fizyolojik varlıklar değiliz. Biz kalp, ruh ve vicdan taşıyoruz.”
Peki günlerce süren tartışmaların ve müzakerelerin sonucunda BM Forumu neyi başardı? Forum, Erdoğan’ın çağrısına karşılık verdi mi?
Her ne kadar bunu hemen görmek mümkün olmasa da, bu soruların cevabı tek kelime ile “evet”. Parantez içinde ifade edilen metnin neticede daha açık bir anlayışa ve somut eyleme yol açtığı bu tip müzakerelerde görüşlerin birbirine yavaş bir şekilde yakınlaşması her zaman belirgin bir şekilde gözlemlenemeyebilir.
A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about the opening of the 10th Session of the United Nations Forum on Forests, in Istanbul, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s impassioned challenge to the global community to get serious about stopping the loss of forests. Unusually, he did this without reference to the usual concerns about climate change or biodiversity loss, but instead quite simply said – we have a moral responsibility to stop this.
"The global threats which humanity faces eliminate the luxury of saying, ‘What do I care?’” Erdoğan said. “We are not only creatures of bodies, heads, and brains. We carry hearts, we carry souls, and we carry a conscience.”
So what did the UN Forum accomplish after days of discussions and negotiations? Did the Forum rise to Erdoğan's challenge?
Last week, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography released data showing that CO2 atmospheric levels had briefly passed 400 parts per million (ppm) and were close to surpassing that level for sustained periods of time. This is bad news. At 450 ppm, scientists anticipate the world will be 2 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial times, and world leaders have agreed that’s a point of dangerous consequences.
Along with this grim news came important new research findings from Professor V. Ramanathan of the Scripps Institution at the University of California, San Diego, and other researchers regarding short-lived climate pollutants – black carbon, methane tropospheric ozone and some hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). While we continue – and must continue – to hammer away at reducing CO2 emissions, their work supports the argument that also reducing these short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) can have an immediate effect on slowing warming and the resulting sea-level rise.
- CO2 emissions
- Black Carbon
- Climate Change
- short-lived climate pollutants
- Communities and Human Settlements
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- The World Region
- South Asia
- Middle East and North Africa
- Latin America & Caribbean
- Europe and Central Asia
- East Asia and Pacific
Clearly that was no flash in the pan. Last week, I chaired a high-level ministerial dialogue on the margins of the IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings where government ministers and senior representatives of more than 40 countries came together to compare notes on how natural capital accounting is working for them.
Country after country – represented by finance, development, or environment ministers – talked about how natural capital accounting fit their countries’ priorities and how it could be a tool to address some of their key policy challenges. With each statement from the floor, it was clear that natural capital accounting is no longer an academic concept. It is alive and well and being utilized across the world in developing, middle, and high-income countries.
If you want to fundamentally change how countries use energy, value their natural environments, or combat climate change, you have to talk to the people who hold the purse strings.
That’s what we’re doing this week. Finance ministers from countries around the world are in Washington for the annual World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings. We’re talking with them about these issues and more as we help countries shift to more sustainable development.
Underlying everything: climate change. This isn’t just an environmental challenge – it’s a fundamental threat to economic development and the fight against poverty. I can’t repeat that often enough. If the world does not take bold action now, a disastrously warming planet threatens to put prosperity out of reach for millions and roll back decades of development.