As we mark International Women’s Day 2018, there has never been a more critical time to invest in people, especially in women and girls.
Skills, knowledge, and know-how – collectively called human capital – have become an enormous share of global wealth, bigger than produced capital such as factories or industry, or natural resources.
But human capital wealth is not evenly distributed around the world, and it’s a larger slice of wealth as countries develop. How, then, can developing countries build their human capital and prepare for a more technologically demanding future?
The answer is they must invest much more in the building blocks of human capital – in nutrition, health, education, social protection, and jobs. And the biggest returns will come from educating and nurturing girls, empowering women, and ensuring that social safety nets increase their resilience.
According to UNESCO estimates, 130 million girls between the age of 6 and 17 are out of school, and 15 million girls of primary-school age – half of them in sub-Saharan Africa – will never enter a classroom. Women’s participation in the global labor market is nearly 27 percentage points lower than for men, and women’s labor force participation fell from 52 percent in 1990 to 49 percent in 2016.
What if we could fix this?
International Women's Day
Today marks the fifth International Women’s Day since the publication of the World Development Report 2012 on “Gender Equality and Development.” That WDR showed us that gender equality is both an important development objective in its own right, as well as smart economics. On the occasion of International Women’s Day, I sat down with the co-Directors of the WDR 2012, Ana Revenga and Sudhir Shetty. They shared some of their reflections on the origins of the report, its successes and impact, the challenges that remain, and why a focus on gender in development work still remains important today.
Gender relations are one aspect of our lives where the role and impact of social norms are particularly obvious. Even today, gender roles and stereotypes continue to exert significant influence over the way men and women behave, and how they interact with each other.
That is why it is critical for us to acknowledge, understand, and, if necessary, challenge existing social norms when designing and implementing projects that are meant to improve the lives of women. From reducing fertility rates in Bangladesh to combating gender-based violence in Haiti, Senior Social Development Specialist Maria Beatriz Orlando gives us examples of World Bank projects that effectively empowered women by addressing the reality of gender norms on the ground.
This refrain captures the common sentiment in Armenia, and is at the heart of the growing issue of sex imbalances in the country. , with 114 baby boys born for every 100 baby girls, above the natural rate of 105. We recently met with groups across Armenia to dig deeper into the root causes of sex preferences, with the hope of helping find an effective policy solution.
This issue has long affected countries like China, India and others in Asia, but it has emerged only recently in the South Caucasus. In Armenia, the ratio of boy births to girl births started increasing in the 1990s, when economic disruption and the desire to have smaller families, combined with the availability of sex detection technology, led many families to choose sex selection in the quest to have a son. The result? A generation of “missing girls,” as Amartya Sen first called this phenomenon.
There is a horrible old saying in some Arab countries: Women belong to their homes and husbands only. They shouldn’t be educated, work, or have an opinion. This belief, unfortunately, still dominates some areas in the Arab world. But modern, educated, and strong-willed Arab women and men find this saying backward and unfitting.
Women are 49.7% of about 345.5 million people in the Middle East and North Africa region. Some in the West think of these women as zipped up in a tent in the desert, probably beaten up by their husbands, a stereotype many of today’s Arab women fight and prove wrong.
Yes, there are still many barriers remaining in the way of closing the gender gap in the Arab world, but many advances have been made in education, politics, entrepreneurship, labor, and health. Arab women today are entrepreneurs, leaders, activists, educators, Nobel Prize winners, and much more. They are reshaping their societies and building a better road to gender equality and girl empowerment for generations to come.
Here are some of many stories on how women from different Arab countries are reshaping their societies and fighting gender inequality:
- refugee crisis
- Refugee Camps
- Road to Refuge
- Girl's Education
- Arab Spring
- gender equality
- International Women's Day
- Arab Women
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- Climate Change
- Middle East and North Africa
- Syrian Arab Republic
- Yemen, Republic of
Available in Spanish
In celebration of International Women's Day on March 8, the World Bank hosted a live web chat with gender specialists from around the world.
For just over an hour, World Bank Vice President of Sustainable Development Rachel Kyte joined World Bank Director of Gender and Development Jeni Klugman along with the authors of the report "On Norms and Agency" to discuss how women and men overcome the challenges posed by gender norms.
By Mirjana Popovic and Vesna Kostic
Mar. 8: Working Women’s Day or Jobless Women’s Day in Serbia?
By Mirjana Popovic, Online Communications Producer
In the former Yugoslavia, where I was born, International Women’s Day used to celebrate respect and appreciation for women in society: mothers, wives, female colleagues – in this order.
What is it like in today’s Serbia? The glory of the holiday has faded and new challenges have arisen.