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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:

Melihat dampak kebakaran hutan di Sumatra Selatan: Pandangan dari lapangan

Ann Jeannette Glauber's picture
Also available in: English
Indonesia, burned forest. Photo by Ann Jeannette Glauber / World Bank

Musim gugur lalu saya kaget membaca judul berita ini: Kebakaran hutan di Indonesia menghasilkan emisi gas rumah kaca setara seluruh ekonomi Amerika Serikat.
 
Judul lain berbunyi: Antara Juni dan Oktober 2015, lahan sebesar 2,5 juta hektar – atau 4,5 kali luas Bali – terbakar guna membersihkan lahan untuk produksi minyak kelapa sawit, tanaman hasil hutan non-kayu dengan nilai tertinggi, terdapat dalam, antara lain, produk makanan, kosmetik dan biofuel.
 
Belum lama ini, bersama Vice President for Sustainable Development Laura Tuck dan Indonesia Country Director Rodrigo Chaves, saya mengunjungi Sumatra Selatan, salah satu provinsi yang paling menderita akibat kebakaran hutan.
 
Kami melihat berbagai ilalang dan tanda-tanda lanskap rusak yang lain, mengganti kawasan hutan gambut yang kaya akan keanekaragaman hayati.
 
Kami berbicara dengan masyarakat setempat yang menjelaskan bahwa mereka menutup pintu dan jendela dengan handuk basah agar mengurangi asap. Keluarga mereka termasuk dari setengah juta warga yang menderita gangguan pernapasan serta sakit kulit dan mata akibat kebakaran hutan. Anak-anak mereka termasuk diantara 4,6 juta siswa yang tidak bisa sekolah, bahkan selama beberapa minggu, akibat kebakaran hutan.
 
Namun walaupun banyak keluarga kehilangan pemasukan karena usaha mereka terpaksa  tutup sementara, ada juga yang mengatakan api itu memperbaiki kondisi  tanah setempat.

Seeing the impact of forest fires in South Sumatra: a view from the field

Ann Jeannette Glauber's picture
Also available in: Bahasa Indonesia
Indonesia, burned forest. photo by Ann Jeannette Glauber / World Bank

This past autumn, I saw a shocking headline: Forest fires in Indonesia were creating as many greenhouse gas emissions as the entire United States economy.
 
Between June and October 2015, an estimated 2.6 million hectares—or 4.5 times the size of Bali— burned to clear land for production  of palm oil, the world’s highest value non-timber forest crop, used in food products, cosmetics, biofuels.
 
Recently, along with Vice President for Sustainable Development Laura Tuck and Indonesia Country Director Rodrigo Chaves, I visited South Sumatra, one of the provinces hardest hit by the fires.
 
We saw scrubby fire-adapted landscapes that had replaced biodiversity-rich peat swamp forests.
 
We spoke with local communities who explained how they covered doors and windows with wet towels, to help reduce the smoke.  These families are among the half million people who suffered from fire-related respiratory infections, skin and eye ailments; their children were among the 4.6 million students who missed school last year due to fires, some for weeks at a time.
 
While some of these families lost earnings or assets due to the fires, others spoke of how fire improves soil quality. 
 

On the “Road to Resilience”: protecting India’s coastal communities against natural disasters

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Teams from the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) have embarked on a 40-day, 10,000-km journey along the entire Indian coastline. The objective of this "Road to Resilience" trip is to support the implementation of 6 coastal disaster management and climate resilience projects covering all 10 coastal states of India. Some of those projects aim to enhance resilience and mitigate the impact of future disasters, while others are intended to help the country recover from previous events such as Cyclone Phailin (2013) and Cyclone Hudhud (2014).
 
The "Road to Resilience" initiative is also a unique opportunity to raise awareness about risk mitigation and to interact more directly with local communities, who play a crucial role in preventing and responding to disaster.
 
In this video, Ede Ijjasz and Saurabh Dani take you on the road with them to showcase some of the work the World Bank is doing to protect India's costal states against natural hazards.

Year in Review: 2015 in 12 charts

Donna Barne's picture

Now that we've reached the end of 2015, it's clear this was a year of major milestones, emerging trends, and new beginnings. Among other things, 2015 marked a historic drop in poverty, a major climate change agreement, and record low child and maternal mortality rates. Take a look at what the data show.

1. The Global Poverty Rate Fell below 10%

The (actual and scientifically derived) healing power of the sea

Timothy Bouley's picture
 USFWS/Jim Maragos

This week is unique. December 1 was World AIDS Day –a moment to unite with the community touched by HIV and push forward in the fight. December 4 is Ocean Day at COP21 – an opportunity to advance the global ocean and climate agenda toward meaningful impact and action. Two important days with two very different purposes. And yet, each significant in commemorating critical causes that are often just outside the realm of everyday consideration. But it is not only this marginality that links them– and understanding this connection can only strengthen our imperative to act. 

Growing resilient forest landscapes in the face of climate change

Paula Caballero's picture
Also available in: Français | Español
Andrea Borgarello for World Bank/TerrAfrica

Playing out this week and next in Paris is a high-stakes match between science and political will.
 
The science part is quite clear: 2015 is set to be the hottest year on record – a full degree over pre-industrial averages. Climate change is already taking a toll on countries. Add to that we have El Nino wreaking havoc in many parts of the world.  And it is going to get warmer.
 
The political analysis is more complicated. On the one hand, if the national plans, the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) drawn up by countries to tackle climate change were implemented, including actions that have been conditioned on available finance, this would likely put the planet on about a 2.7 C degree trajectory that would be catastrophic for the economic, social and natural systems on which we depend.  Clearly more needs to be done. On the other hand, it is a sign of welcome progress. The fact that almost all the world’s countries (Carbon Brief tracks 184 climate pledges to date) have put forward INDCs is a remarkable feat many would have considered impossible just a few years ago.  So there is progress, just not fast enough.
 
Paris should be seen as an important milestone in an arduous journey– a platform for generating an ever upward spiral of ambition in many fields of climate action.
 
One area that promises innumerable wins for people and the planet is land use change, agriculture, and forestry. Together these sectors account for about 24 percent of global emissions, but represent a much greater share of emissions in many developing countries. A preliminary analysis of INDCs shows strong commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, forest degradation, land use change and agriculture. And there is evidence of a growing appetite for landscape restoration measures in many of those countries. 

The ambition of Paris: A path toward clean economic growth

Jim Yong Kim's picture
Also available in: Français | Español | العربية | 中文
© Fabien Minh/Connect4Climate/World Bank


​The Paris climate talks offer a once-in-a-generation opportunity to send the clear signal: We can build prosperity and support economic growth without carbon polluting the earth, and we must act with urgency because of a volatile, warming planet.

I believe political leaders from around the world will rise to this challenge in Paris. For us at the World Bank Group, we will help our client countries and companies make that transition to low-carbon and resilient economic development.

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