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
From 2008-2015, we implemented pilots in eight countries, with the aim of supporting young women’s transition to productive employment. The AGI marked the Bank’s first experience working with this population—adolescent girls and young women—on this topic—skills and employment. We learned a great deal lot along the way, which we have collated in an online Resource Guide to share with other teams.
We tested two main program models—a classroom-based Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) model that delivered job and business skills plus life skills, and a Girls’ Club model that delivered life skills and short livelihood trainings in community-based safe space clubs. Both significantly impacted economic outcomes for young women, though the Girls’ Club model was far less expensive.
In Liberia, for example, the Economic Empowerment of Adolescent Girls and Young Women (EPAG) project—a TVET, classroom-based program—increased participants' employment by 47 percent and earnings by 80 percent. In Uganda, meanwhile, the Girl's Club program raised the likelihood of girls’ engagement in income-generating activities by 35 percent and had large impacts on risky sexual behaviors and the girls’ experience of violence.
A recent meta-analysis of Active Labor Market Policies (ALMPs) suggests that average program effects tend to be larger for females, and that training and other human capital interventions are particularly effective among women. This suggests that both AGI models—classroom-based vocational training and community-based Girls' Club training—should continue to be implemented and tested across a variety of settings.
So what made the AGI projects effective for young women?
First, AGI worked hard to get girls into the projects and to keep them there—which is challenging in itself, especially for younger girls. We know that attrition from training programs is high, but we don’t really know the magnitude of the problem because so many projects don’t monitor or report individual attendance. When projects do report attrition and disaggregate by sex, they often find young women drop out more than young men and for different reasons. AGI pilots were able to successfully recruit young women and maintained completion rates above 90 percent.
Here are some of the steps AGIs took to recruit young women and retain them:
- Consulted directly with girls in a vulnerability assessment to identify their constraints and needs;
- Budgeted time and resources for specialized communications and recruitment campaigns targeted to reach girls;
- Held morning and evening sessions in safe, accessible locations and took steps to prevent and respond to cases of gender-based violence;
- Provided free on-site childcare so young mothers could participate;
- Provided access to mentors inside and outside the classroom who helped follow up when girls missed training;
- Incentivized good attendance with stipends tied to participation, small completion bonuses, and trainee commitment forms, and facilitated access to savings so that participants could safely retain their stipends and earnings; and
- Incentivized training providers to help girls transition to jobs through results-based financing schemes.
Providing girls with accurate information about the returns to various male- and female-dominated trades is a first step. An experiment in Kenya provided such information and was able to get young women to sign up for training in male-dominated trades, but later on they were no more likely to complete training or pursue work in those trades than young women who had not received the information.
Qualitative work in Uganda among women who successfully "crossed over" into male-dominated fields found the presence of male role models early in a young woman’s career was an important factor, suggesting further that information alone isn’t enough.
Here are some things AGIs did to break occupational segregation:
- Conducted local labor market assessments that intentionally explored market demand in non-traditional trades for women;
- Included an orientation period to educate participants about their training options;
- Encouraged women to enter non-traditional trades in groups;
- Supported participants with mentors, other role models from the community, and careful monitoring for potential unintended consequences.
So what’s the bottom line?
Being intentional about designing and implementing projects that work well for young women requires more planning and resources up front, but the results are impressive—making the investment worthwhile. A single program doesn’t have to do it all—strategies for making training female-friendly need to make sense in the local context.
Forthcoming blogs will explore broader "good practice" lessons from the AGI—not specific to young women—and highlight recommendations for future research and learning.
She is one of many Indigenous women in Latin America who have dedicated their lives to creating more inclusive societies. While it is important to acknowledge that not all Indigenous groups and not all women have the same experiences, the concept of intersecting identities helps explain the concept of "additive" or "multiplied disadvantage" (or advantage). Individuals are part of multiple social structures and roles simultaneously, and these structures interact and influence experiences, relations, and outcomes.
The intersection of gender and ethnicity, for example, can deepen the gaps in some development outcomes. Indigenous Latin America in the Twenty-first Century explains that, while Indigenous Peoples' access to services has improved significantly, services are generally not culturally adapted—so the groups they are meant to benefit do not take full advantage of them. In Bolivia, where more than 40 percent of people identify themselves as Indigenous or Afro-descendants, according to the 2012 Population and Housing Census, indigenous women face a higher risk of being excluded. Further, according to a 2014 Perception Survey on Women’s Exclusion and Discrimination, all women feel discriminated against in different aspects of their lives, with Indigenous women particularly affected.
How does intersectionality and discrimination play out in education and health?
Access to education in Bolivia has improved considerably in recent years. Today, overall primary schooling completion rates and secondary school enrollment rates are similar for boys and girls. Yet major gender gaps persist among Indigenous and rural students.
In urban Bolivia, females are less likely to finish secondary school than males. In urban areas, an Indigenous female student is about half as likely to finish secondary school compared to a non-Indigenous male student. But an Indigenous rural woman is five times less likely than a non-Indigenous urban man to complete secondary school (see graph, based on Census 2012):
Many factors prevent girls from attaining higher levels of schooling in Bolivia, including domestic care work, early pregnancy, and the need for income. But girls who persist in secondary and higher education face other barriers: one in five female students aged 15 to 24 report having experienced discrimination in academic environments: 25 percent of Indigenous women versus 18 percent of non-Indigenous women.
The situation is similar in terms of access to key health services. According to household survey data (2013), while almost all non-Indigenous women in urban Bolivia give birth with either a nurse or a doctor present, that is the case for only 6 out of 10 Indigenous women in rural Bolivia. While this may be explained in part by Indigenous women’s preferences to use traditional parteras, the difference in access rates may also in part be driven by perceived discrimination. According to the Perception Survey, 20 percent of Indigenous women report having experienced discrimination when seeking care, compared to 14 percent among non-Indigenous.
Investments in education and health shape the ability of men and women to reach their full potential, allowing them to take advantage of economic opportunities and lead productive lives. Limited access to these kinds of investments not only adversely affects an individual’s opportunities, but may have significant costs for entire communities and economies.
Inclusion must be front and center on the development agenda. More and better information—both qualitative and quantitative—is needed to highlight the persistent issue of overlapping disadvantages. This will allow us, ultimately, to do much more to expand every person’s capacity to participate fully and equally and achieve his or her potential. As Florina Lopez said earlier this month, "Without the effective participation of Indigenous women in society, it will be difficult to eradicate the poverty and extreme poverty that we live in."
At the time, the country was still opening up to the outside world, and the Bank had just set up a small office there. I recently returned to Vietnam after 15 years, this time as the Bank’s Global Lead for Land. I saw a completely different country: while the old city charm is still there, Hanoi has transformed to the point that it is really difficult to recognize… as if I had landed in Japan, China, or any other Southeast Asian country.
The airport used to be one gate; now, it is a modern airport not much different from any airport in Western Europe or the United States. I remember that, when I worked in Vietnam in the mid-90s, GDP per capita was averaging US$200, and around 50% of people lived in extreme poverty. Today, GDP per capita has soared to about US$2000, while extreme poverty has dropped to around 3% according to the US$1.9/day extreme poverty line... An impressive achievement in less than 20 years.
My trip to Vietnam had the goal of helping the government modernize and automate the land administration system. In the early 90s, the country launched an ambitious reform program to transform the land use model from communal farming to individual household ownership by breaking up the communal land structure and distributing land to individual households. This reform was then credited with changing Vietnam from a net importer of rice to one of the largest rice exporters in the world in only a few years.
In accordance with the Land Law of 1993, the first Land Use Certificates (LUCs) issued under the program were in the name of the “head of household”, i.e. in the name of men only. Later on, the Vietnamese government, with support from the World Bank, strove to change things around by issuing LUCs bearing both the wife’s and the husband’s names.
She is described as having strong ideas. A spirited and energetic girl who dreams of a big future, Shams helps children and encourages them to learn and play.
But Shams is not a real child. She is a Muppet and one of the most popular fictional characters in the children’s show Iftah Ya Simisim, the Arabic version of the popular, long-running US children’s show Sesame Street, which was introduced in the Arab world in the 1980s.
- Gender Equality and Socia Inclusion
- gender equality
- Gender and Equality
- women empowerment
- Girl's Education
- Children's rights
- Children's Education
- Middle East and North Africa
- West Bank and Gaza
- Yemen, Republic of
- United Arab Emirates
- Syrian Arab Republic
- Saudi Arabia
- Egypt, Arab Republic of
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%
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.