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Hope for the world’s poorest springs in Myanmar

Axel van Trotsenburg's picture
Also available in: Español

Aung San Suu Kyi, state counselor and minister of foreign affairs for Myanmar, addresses an IDA 18 replenishment meeting on June 21, 2016. © Aung San/World Bank

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, state counselor of Myanmar and Nobel Peace Prize winner, told representatives from governments rich and poor at a meeting this week in Myanmar that reducing poverty and ensuring that everyone benefits from economic growth calls for a deep focus on addressing the challenges of fragility and conflict, climate change, gender equality, job creation, and good governance.
 
Suu Kyi was speaking at the opening session of a meeting of the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the poorest, where donors, borrower representatives and World Bank Group leadership are brainstorming ways to achieve these goals. She said that Myanmar’s real riches are its people, and they need to be nurtured in the right way.

Violence against older women is widespread but untallied

Cailin Crockett's picture
Along with partners across the globe, today we mark World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. This UN observance has since 2011 called attention to the often invisible abuse, violence, and neglect experienced by older people—mostly women—around the world.

Caring about employer-supported childcare: Good for business, good for development

Carmen Niethammer's picture

It is not often that I get to reflect on my own early childhood experience: Some 40 years ago, I attended a public kindergarten in a small town in Germany. My mother would take me there on her blue bike at 7 a.m., I would spend the morning with eight other children my age, and at around 1 p.m., she would pick me up. Many of my friends and colleagues had similar early childhood experiences.
 
Considering that the potential benefits from supporting early childhood development range from healthy development to greater capacity to learn while in school and increased productivity in adulthood, I consider myself very lucky. Across the world, nearly half of all three- to six-year-olds (159 million children) are deprived of access to pre-primary education (UIS, 2012). Evidence from both developed and developing countries suggests that an additional dollar invested in high-quality preschool programs will yield a return of anywhere between US$6 and US$17.
 
More broadly speaking, a new study by ITUC shows that investment in the care economy of 2 percent of GDP in just seven developed countries would create more than 21 million jobs and help countries overcome the twin challenges of aging populations and economic stagnation.  So the development case for investing in childcare is clear. What about the business case?

Ending poverty means closing the gaps between women and men

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture

A woman in a Niger village cooks for her family. Photo © Stephan Gladieu/World Bank

For the first time in history, the number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen below 10%. The world has never been as ambitious about development as it is today. After adopting the Sustainable Development Goals and signing the Paris climate deal at the end of 2015, the global community is now looking into the best and most effective ways of reaching these milestones. In this five-part series I will discuss what the World Bank Group is doing and what we are planning to do in key areas that are critical for ending poverty by 2030: good governance, gender equality, conflict and fragility, creating jobs, and, finally, preventing and adapting to climate change.

The world is a better place for women and girls in 2016 than even a decade ago. But not for everyone, and definitely not everywhere: This is especially true in the world’s poorest, most fragile countries.
 
It’s also particularly true regarding women’s economic opportunities. Gender gaps in employment, business, and access to finance hold back not just individuals but whole economies—at a time when we sorely need to boost growth and create new jobs globally.

How can the World Bank support LGBTI inclusion?

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Despite recent advances, people who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or Intersex (LGBTI) continue to face widespread exclusion.
 
Stigmatization and discrimination often have a direct impact on the lives of LGBTI people, but also affect economies and societies at large: when entire groups are left behind - including due to sexual orientation or gender identity - everyone loses out on their skills and productivity.
 
On this International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT), Ede Ijjasz and Maninder Gill detail some of the actions taken by the World Bank to make sure LGBTI people can be fully integrated into global development.

Remnants of the Soviet past: Restrictions on women's employment in the Commonwealth of Independent States

Alena Sakhonchik's picture
Also available in: Русский


My father is a long-distance trucker based in Belarus. As a young girl, I spent long hours on the road with him. I loved traveling to neighboring and faraway cities and—even though I could barely reach the pedals at the time—dreamed of becoming a truck driver myself one day. Life ended up taking me on another path, but it wasn’t until I was older that I learned that the option of being a truck driver was never open to me to begin with.

Why?

Because my native country prohibits women from being truck drivers, one of the 182 professions out of bounds for women.

Researching violence against Syrian refugee women

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

He often used a stick or an iron wire to beat her. Her body was covered in bruises, sometimes in all kinds of colors. Hamada's husband, frustrated with losing his son and his job in warring Syria, directed his anger and depression towards the mother of his children.

It is a fact: War is one of many forms of violence to which women are subjected, and for some Syrian refugee women it is a prolongation of what has been happening already in their war-torn country.

They have been beaten, forced into having sex and asked to never talk about it or else get killed — by their own husbands.

For the helpless women, most of whom are mothers, the abuse has been taking physical, emotional and sexual forms.

So how do you address and understand the reasons behind this major, often undermined, issue that adds to the misery of the already miserable women refugees?
 

 Shutterstock

A team of researchers working with the Women and Health Alliance International non-profit organization is working on formative research to prevent intimate partner violence among Syrian refugees in Izmir, Turkey.

"Often, from a worldwide perspective, when we think about conflict, we think about the forms of violence that are highlighted in the media," said team member Jennifer Scott, a physician and researcher at Harvard Medical School.

"But what we are not talking about is what is happening in the household, and the types of violence that are related to stress, cultural norms, or social and gender norms," she added. 

To address this issue, Scott and her team talk with men, women, community leaders, policymakers and religious leaders. They ask questions about what is happening in the household, what sorts of violence women and girls experience, and how has this changed as a result of conflict and displacement.

The goal, she said, is to understand that this kind of violence does not have one dimension.

"It's really multiple layers that we need to understand," Scott said. "In our experience as researchers, when we offer women and men the opportunity to speak, they want to talk about it because it's a very important issue."  

The research project, set to start in June 2016, will take place at a community center in Izmir that offers services not only to Syrian refugees but also other refugees currently living in Izmir. The project will conduct focus group discussions and interviews among community and religious leaders to examine some of the factors that lead to intimate partner violence, and explore possible solutions.

The research data will inform the development of a future program to prevent intimate partner violence among displaced populations.

The World Bank Group and the Sexual Violence Research Initiative recently awarded this project and eight other teams from around the world a total of $1.2 million in recognition of their innovations to prevent gender-based violence.
 

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.
 

Progress and persistence in gender equality: Reflections on the WDR 2012

Daniel Nikolits's picture

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.  

Taking On gender norms to empower women

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
All societies are guided by a certain number of rules - formal or not, written or unwritten, that define how members of the community are expected to behave, how they should interact with each other, what is acceptable or not. These so-called “social norms” permeate many aspects of our lives. They are often so deeply-entrenched that individuals may have a hard time distinguishing norms imposed upon them by society from their own individual preferences.
 
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.

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