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Child marriage in the Caribbean: My Nani’s story

Kavell Joseph's picture
Also available in: Español | العربية | Français

Sunny skies and beautiful beaches come to mind when you think about the Caribbean. But beyond the turquoise water lies a history of underage marriage, a practice that still lingers throughout the region.
 
My Nani (the Hindi word for maternal grandmother), came from a low-income family from the island of Trinidad. Growing up, she worked on a sugar plantation with her siblings. But poverty and manual labor didn’t compare with what she experienced after her mother died.

Afghan teen rapper sings and advocates to end child marriage

Bassam Sebti's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français | Español


At first she looks like any bride: wearing a white wedding dress with her face covered with the wedding veil and carrying a bridal bouquet. Except that she is no ordinary bride. She is being sold.

As she removes her veil from her face, her forehead appears marked with a barcode. Her left eye is badly bruised and a big scratch on her cheek is as red as a war wound.

The girl in the music video “Brides for Sale” is portrayed by Sonita Alizadeh, an Afghan teen rapper who sings in the video about the ordeal many girls in Afghanistan go through when are sold by their families to marry at an early age in return of money.

But why is she singing about this issue?

Arab reality show tests humanity and empathy

Bassam Sebti's picture


It’s Ramadan and the Arabic TV channels are festooned with shows that vary from recurring popular soap operas, cooking and competition shows — but one has become the talk of the town.

Al Sadma, or The Shock, the Arabic version of the popular American show What Would You Do, is a reality TV prank show. But it’s not like many other tasteless reality shows that invoke fright and even terror, it is a show that invokes morality and examines humanity.

After the Adolescent Girls Initiative: Recommendations for Future Research

Sarah Haddock's picture
The Adolescent Girls Initiative (AGI) pilots taught us a great deal about how to make skills training more female-friendly and how to improve the quality of skills training broadly. They also highlighted new questions for the next generation of skills training projects to answer.

Five of the eight AGI pilots were able to successfully embed a rigorous impact evaluation design. We also had a centralized research team that ensured standardization of the research objectives and methods as much as possible. You can access the papers from the individual pilots on our website, and you can download useful documents such as our evaluation concept notes, list of core indicators, and survey instrument in our Resource Guide.

Here are some key recommendations for further research:

Unbundle evaluation designs and provide cost-benefit information by project component. AGI evaluations weren’t able to compare the relative impact of technical training versus life skills training or measure the impacts of specific project strategies, such as mentoring or placement assistance. Similarly, we can say very little about disaggregated costs of these components.

Have a cash-only evaluation arm. Youth employment interventions of all kinds are under pressure to demonstrate that their impacts are larger than what could be achieved through giving cash directly. See, for example, this relevant blog post from Chris Blattman. As part of this agenda we also need to understand the differential impacts of cash provision on young men and women.

Determine the optimal composition, intensity, and delivery of different mixes of skills. This is particularly true for life skills training, which tends to be much more heterogeneous across contexts and is far less expensive to implement than technical or business skills. Related questions around the appropriate age to focus on different types of skills and whether training works better in sex-segregated classrooms will aid in designing the next generation of youth employment programs.

Test strategies for job placement. Progress has been made in improving the delivery of skills training and in helping youth start businesses, but much less is known about how to cost-effectively assist youth to find and retain wage jobs. Interventionssome implemented in AGI pilotsthat deserve more testing include:
  • Variations in the length and intensity of job placement support: Most AGI interventions  included three to five months of placement support;
  • Performance-based contracts for the training providers, as used in both the Liberia and Nepal AGI pilots, though these have not been tested rigorously;
  • Wage subsidies, as tested among young female community college graduates in the Jordan AGI, which achieved significant short-term gains but no long-term impact;
  • Partnerships with large firms to create custom training programs.
Find ways to reduce occupational segregation. Few interventions have tackled the issue of occupational segregation head-on. Studies from the World Bank Group Africa Gender Innovation Lab show that lack of information is indeed a constraint that prevents women from crossing over into male-dominated fields, and that having a male mentor seems to help women make this transition. However, the only randomized controlled trial we are aware of, involving an informational intervention in Kenya, was unsuccessful in increasing women’s engagement in male-dominated trades. We need to learn how to break occupational segregation while minimizing women’s exposure to harassment, social isolation, and other risks. One approach to test is the encouragement of women to enter non-traditional trades in groups, as in the Liberia and Rwanda AGIs. Research is also needed on how to induce young women to enter new industries in which no clear gender assignment has yet been made, as in the business process outsourcing industry in India.

Untangle the relationships between young women’s labor and health outcomes. The AGIs in Liberia and Nepal, using a technical and vocational education and training (TVET) model, did not have significant impacts on sexual behaviors or health outcomes, while the Uganda girls' club-based approach dramatically lowered fertility and increased condom use. One distinguishing factor about the Uganda project was that it worked with younger girls, starting at age 14. Another important question to answer is whether there is an optimal age threshold or whether there are other conditions under which skills training projects can affect sexual behaviors.
 

5 Arab women who are breaking down stereotypes and building their countries

Bassam Sebti's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español | Français

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:

Every day of activism to combat violence against women

Garam Dexter's picture
Also available in: العربية
A woman gets a medical checkup at a clinic in Afghanistan. © Graham Crouch/World Bank

Why do we need to talk about violence against women? The question has been raised by many organizations and individuals, but most of the time is not properly addressed and nor even clearly understood. “Yet another human rights issue… but we are seeking economic opportunities to be able to pay the bills,” is what I have been hearing from many people in the Middle East and North Africa, where I grew up. The truth is that empowering women and protecting them from violence can actually make everyone wealthier. This topic has been a heated debate not only in the Middle East and North Africa, but also in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas.

A new strategy to address gender inequality

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture
Also available in: Español | العربية | Français | 中文
The evidence is clear: When countries value girls and women as much as boys and men; when they invest in their health, education, and skills training; when they give women greater opportunities to participate in the economy, manage incomes, own and run businesses—the benefits extend far beyond individual girls and women to their children and families, to their communities, to societies and economies at large.

Experts, communities convene to develop evidence-based approaches to prevent intimate partner violence in Honduras

Amber L. Hill's picture
The communities of Choloma, La Ceiba and el Progreso in Honduras all had one question in common:  "When can we get started?"

"We want solutions that work and we want them now," said a community leader from La Ceiba during a meeting with national and international experts on the adaptation of an evidence-based intervention to Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in Honduras. La Ceiba is one of the cities most affected by violence in Honduras, which has the highest homicide rate in the world at 90.4 deaths/100,000 people. More specifically, rates of violence targeted towards women and girls are also alarmingly high:
  • A total of 27% of women aged 15-49 have experienced physical violence since the age of 15; some regions have rates up to 40%.
  • Similarly to other countries around the world, the vast majority of the perpetrators are intimate partners or ex-partners.
These statistics clearly demonstrate the need for interventions that seek to affect the root causes that underlie gender-based violence in Honduras.
 

Join webcast this Dec. 7 -- Violence against Women and Girls: It’s Everybody’s Business

Claudia Gabarain's picture

As part of the World Bank's involvement in the #16Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign, we'll be holding a discussion  this Monday, December 7 at 9:30 a.m. EST (14:30 GMT) to look at how we can end violence against women and girls. Moderated by journalist Joanne Levine, it'll include gynecologist and Sakharov Prize winner Denis Mukwege, M.D.; pediatrician Nadia Hashimi; Imam Yahya Hendi from Georgetown University; the president of the Representation Project, Kristen Joiner; and World Bank Vice President for the Africa Region, Makhtar Diop.

Follow the live stream here and participate through the live blog hosted by experts in gender issues here at the Bank.
 

How Jordan is expanding its assistance to victims of gender-based violence

Paul Prettitore's picture
Grasping the full extent of violence against women is difficult everywhere.   In the Middle East, it can be both difficult and dangerous for women to report abuse given social attitudes toward the roles of women and men within the family. 

In Jordan, the violence against girls and women embodies the problem.  The Jordanian government’s Population and Family Health Survey captures only a portion of the scale of violence against women.  Social norms are at play; roughly 70% of Jordanian women think there are circumstances that justify a husband beating his wife.  Over one-third (34%) of Jordanian women report that they have experienced some form of physical violence since the age of 15.  One in three Jordanian women experienced some form of emotional, physical, and/or sexual violence from their spouse, and almost 1 in 10 experience sexual violence at least once in their lifetime. 

One of the major concerns resulting from the survey is that almost half (47%) the women reporting violence did not seek any type of help, with less than 5% taking steps to address sexual violence.  Very few women seek help from medical providers, police, lawyers or social service organizations. 

Over the past four years the World Bank Group has been collaborating with the Justice Center for Legal Aid (JCLA) -- a Jordanian civil society organization -- to pilot legal aid services for poor Jordanians as well as Syrian, Iraqi and Palestinian refugees.  As is often the case, poverty status is a strong indicator of the likelihood of violence in Jordan.  Poorer women were more likely to report all types of violence, and higher frequency of such violence.  They are also more likely to believe such violence is justified. 

The legal aid program provides awareness/information, counseling and legal representation by a lawyer to aid the poor in addressing legal problems.  The majority of JCLA beneficiaries – just over 70% - are women.  And one of the ‘justice gaps’ identified by JCLA is in providing effective legal services to female victims of violence. 

Jordan adopted legislation to protect victims of domestic violence in 2008, giving victims, for the first time, access to protection orders – one of the most effective tools in addressing violence.  Victims can also receive direct compensation.  It also provided confidential proceedings and procedures to detain alleged abusers.  A specialized institution – the Family Protection Department of the Ministry of Interior – was established to implement the reform, providing access to multiple services, including complaints/investigation, medical care and social counseling.   
 
Yet the law left a number of gaps in place.  It applies only to perpetrators living with the victims, so ex-husbands, boyfriends and brothers may not be covered, and the survey shows they are often the ones committing the abuse. It also leaves in place a heavy focus on reconciliation, to the possible detriment of protecting the victims.   Lack of shelters for victims, along with the inability to link requests for child custody and child support with protection orders, may prevent many women from seeking help. 

To date, JCLA’s assistance has been focused primarily around awareness and information for victims.  This focus is now about to grow.  With the assistance of the World Bank Group, JCLA is launching an initiative to provide more comprehensive services to women victims of violence.  The plans include establishing a referral system in the Family Protection Department and placing a legal aid lawyer at each of the Department’s in-take centers.

What do we hope to achieve?  There are several opportunities.  The overarching goal is to ensure poor women can access services and achieve some level of justice to address the violence they suffer.  More specifically, the referral system should aid in providing victims the legal services they need to initiate and navigate criminal proceedings, including obtaining and enforcing protection orders.     Victims will also have assistance addressing legal problems commonly linked to domestic violence, such as divorce, child custody, child support and alimony. 

As a lawyer, I volunteer my time representing poor persons, including women seeking protection orders, at the Superior Court here in Washington, D.C.  I understand the importance of providing legal assistance to female victims of domestic violence, and am encouraged to see such an initiative launched in Jordan.  

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