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To build a brighter future, invest in women and girls

Jim Yong Kim's picture
Also available in: 中文 | العربية | Español | Français

Arne Hoel

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? Fostering women’s labor force participation, business ownership, and improvements in productivity could add billions to the global economy.

In Senegal, a call to invest in people and the planet

Jim Yong Kim's picture
Also available in: Français | Español | العربية

For three days this month, the West African nation of Senegal was in the spotlight of global efforts to combat climate change and improve education in a rapidly changing world.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Senegal’s President Macky Sall co-hosted a conference in Dakar to replenish the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) – a funding platform to help low-income countries increase the number of children who are both in school and learning.

African leaders and partners stepped up to announce their commitment to provide an education that prepares children to compete in the economy of the future and advances socio-economic progress.

Heads of state from across the continent described their challenges—including terrorism, insecurity, the influx of refugee children who need an education, the strain on national budgets, and the cultural bias against educating girls.

Edutainment changes the way we do development

Arianna Legovini's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español | Français

Improving people’s lives is more than offering services. It requires people to be active participants in development, demanding services and products that add value to their lives and engaging in behaviors that are conducive to increasing their own welfare. Health prevention is a case in point.

At our HIV Impact Evaluation Workshop in Cape Town, South Africa in 2009, I listened to Nancy Padian, a medical researcher at the Women’s Global Health Imperative, presenting a systematic review of random control trials testing the effectiveness of HIV prevention campaigns.

The study she presented explained how three dozen HIV prevention campaigns had failed to change sexual behavior and reduce HIV incidence.

The presentation gave us pause. The review dismissed the communication campaigns as an ineffective means to change behavior and slow down the HIV epidemic.

A closer look revealed that the campaigns lacked inspiring narratives, and were communicated through outdated and uninteresting outlets such as billboards and leaflets.

The question we asked ourselves was: Can we do this differently?

Be the generation that ends FGM

Sandie Okoro's picture
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Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is an everyday reality for millions of girls and women around the world. I am no longer shocked when a woman confides in me that she has been “cut,” or tells me the consequences she lives with. Recently, I have had the privilege to meet with FGM survivors who are also activists, and they are fighting to stop the practice in a generation, reminding me that one person can make a difference in ending FGM. 

As we mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, on Feb. 6, we are supporting #EndFGM, a survivor-led movement gaining momentum and power around the world.

FGM/C, known as cutting, is a form of violence affecting at least 200 million girls and women worldwide. Every day, about 6000 women and girls suffer the practice, enduring prolonged and irreversible consequences during their entire lives

FGM/C is inextricably linked with ending extreme poverty; girls who experience it are more likely to be forced into child marriage, more likely to be poor and stay poor, and less likely to be educated. Beyond the data and the statistics, researchers have shown that FGM deprives women of sexual health and psychophysical well-being. 

What keeps the President of the World Bank up at night?

Jim Yong Kim's picture
Also available in: 中文 | العربية | Français | Español
Residents of Kashadaha village visit the Kashadaha Anando school in Kashadaha village, Bangladesh. © Dominic Chavez/World Bank
Residents of Kashadaha village visit the Kashadaha Anando school in Kashadaha village, Bangladesh. © Dominic Chavez/World Bank

This year’s World Economic Forum Annual Meeting comes at a time of good news for the world economy. As we said in this month’s Global Economic Prospects report, for the first time since the financial crisis, the World Bank is forecasting that the global economy will be operating at or near full capacity. We anticipate growth in advanced economies to moderate slightly, but growth in emerging markets and developing countries should strengthen to 4.5% this year.

Can tackling childcare fix STEM’s gender diversity problem?

Rudaba Z. Nasir's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español
Girls attend school. Pakistan. © Caroline Suzman/World Bank
Girls attend school. Pakistan. © Caroline Suzman/World Bank

Growing up in Pakistan, I often wondered why boys were expected to become doctors or engineers while girls, including me, were encouraged to pursue teaching or home economics. So, when my cousin Sana became the first woman in my family to start a career in engineering, she also became my idol. But a few months later, my excitement soured when Sana quit her job halfway through her first pregnancy. Sana’s story, however, is not unique. Women make up less than 18 percent of Pakistan’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professionals. Traditional gender roles and lack of access to formal childcare often play a critical role in many women’s decisions to forgo STEM careers.

Syrian refugee children’s smiles shine again in Istanbul

Qiyang Xu's picture
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© World Bank

Nothing is more satisfying than putting a smile on a child’s face. It is especially true when the child has been a victim of war.
The viral image of the three-year-old Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, whose dead body was quietly lying on the beach captivated us. Kurdi’s loss of the chance to flee to a safer life invigorated us to act. We decided to help refugee children adapt to their new lives when arriving in a new country.
And so, our team from the World Bank Youth Innovation Fund (YIF) partnered with Small Projects Istanbul (SPI), a Turkish non-profit organization, to help 20 Syrian children find some happiness and joy in Turkey after fleeing their war-torn country.
YIF provides an opportunity for young employees of the World Bank Group to design, implement and evaluate development projects in client countries focusing on innovation, efficiency and impact on development.
After submitting a proposal to the YIF Proposal Competition, and winning, our journey began. Our project, Turkish Language, Mentorship and Psychological Counseling Program, aimed to  support these children to effectively integrate with the local society, develop self-confidence, and have access to education while living in Turkey.

World Bank Group Youth Summit 2016 winners build two computer labs in Afghanistan

Jewel McFadden's picture
Photo: ROYA Resources of Young Afghans.

This time last year, more than 400 excited youth filled the Preston Auditorium for the World Bank Group Youth Summit 2016: Rethinking Education for the New Millennium.

After receiving 875 submissions from young entrepreneurs, the Youth Summit Organizing Committee (YSOC) chose six finalists to pitch their ideas in front of a live audience and expert jury. ROYA Mentorship Program was one of two winners who received the grand prize to attend the International Council for Small Business 2017 World Conference in Argentina, funded by the World Bank’s Information and Technology Solutions (ITS)-Global Telecom and Client Services Department.

The yearly conference brings together the world's foremost specialists and thought leaders in entrepreneurial research to support management education for small businesses.

Girls’ education and the future of a nation

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture
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School girls in Berastagi, North Sumatra, Indonesia. © Axel Drainville via CreativeCommons
School girls in Berastagi, North Sumatra, Indonesia. © Axel Drainville via Creative Commons

In 1978, we both started our high school education in our home city of Semarang. Our alma mater is located on a major artery in the heart of the city, and occupies a beautiful Dutch colonial building. The robustness of its architecture befits the reputation of our school at that time: a school led by a passionate principal who promoted discipline and effective learning.

In our school, every boy and girl had an equal opportunity to learn and thrive. This is something Raden Ajeng Kartini –national heroine and a pioneer for girls and women’s rights in Indonesia– had fought for. The school was fully equipped with labs for chemistry, physics, biology, and foreign languages. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to receive quality education at one of the best public schools in Semarang. Our school also fared well at the provincial and national level. 

Voices of non-violence

Chloe Fevre's picture

Today, October 2nd, is the International Day of Non-Violence, a day that reminds us of the serious development challenge of interpersonal violence.
Violence is a multi-causal phenomenon. Therefore, preventing violence requires a multi-sectoral approach. What does this concretely mean? It means that to prevent violence in a sustainable way, we need to address its multiple causes at the same time. It also means to move away from a punitive perspective solely focused on the criminal justice system and acknowledge the shared responsibility for violence prevention and the need for different sectors and government agencies to contribute to solving the issue.