The 2011 World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings get under way next week with a full slate of discussions, webcasts and seminars planned around two issues critical to sustaining economic growth – gender and jobs.
In a world where women make up the majority of unpaid workers, and only 15% of landowners and one in five lawmakers are women, there’s a lot to talk about.
(Parallel Session 16 at the ABCDE, Paris)
Gender equality has not been achieved yet, and progress comes at a different pace across countries and across different dimensions of gender equality. In some domains, as childcare, access to some occupations and sectors, and dimensions of agency, change has been limited or negligible. Even in the domains where improvements have been widespread, as in education, the change has not reached all groups within a population or occurred at the same pace across countries.
Why improvements have come so quickly in some domains while there has been little change in others? One possible explanation that has been recently receiving much attention among the academic community is gender roles, which are in turn the result of differences in biological responsibilities and in preferences between men and women, but also of social norms.
As the Bank reported earlier this week, global food prices are rising to dangerous levels and threaten tens of millions of poor people around the world. Rising prices have pushed an estimated 44 million people into poverty since last June.
As we head into Spring Meetings in Washington, Sierra Leone is very much in my thoughts, because it is a country that faces many serious challenges—especially those relating to the survival of women and children—and because I’ve just returned from there, and have seen firsthand some of the efforts that are being made to turn this situation around.
This was an opportunity to look at human development in Sierra Leone through the lens of our
Speaking today ahead of the World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings, Bank President Robert Zoellick said the crisis engulfing the Middle East and North Africa shows that greater citizen participation and better governance are crucial for economic development. The World Bank will do more to emphasize both, he said.
Helping girls and young women in developing countries transition from school to work isn’t always an easy path. In many places, early marriage and childbirth prevent girls from pursuing an education, putting their earnings potential—and future prosperity—at significant risk.
So the big news out of the MDG Summit today is the launch of Every Woman, Every Child, the new joint action plan to help reach MDGs 4 and 5 on child and maternal health.
The World Bank, numerous UN agencies, governments and civil society groups have all pledged their support. But another document with pledges is not going to make much difference to poor mothers and children in developing countries unless we act on three things.
Almost two thirds of developing countries reached gender parity at the primary school level by 2005. Maternal mortality rates have dropped by a third. As many as 76 developing nations are on track to reach the goal of access to safe drinking water.
The statistics tell us there is a clear path to achieving the goals. So in New York, the focus should be on action and the next concrete steps to turning the goals from paper targets to reality. Given a decade has passed, the time for just more talk has also passed.
The Millennium Development Goals Awards ceremony last night in New York was a brief moment of celebration for the wonderful progress that some countries have made towards the goals. Even as we dwell this week on sobering statistics and the tough road ahead, these awards are an inspiring reminder that success is possible in the face of tremendous odds in poor countries.