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What I learned from the BEES about women’s empowerment and nutrition

Melissa Williams's picture

About four years ago, I started coordinating a knowledge and learning network, which we ultimately named Business, Enterprise and Employment Support (BEES) for women in South Asia. This network was a first for the Bank in South Asia because it comprised leading civil society organizations in eight South Asian countries* —not our typical clients—and it focused on sharing knowledge across borders about what works for women’s economic empowerment. I remember being told at the time to focus only on economic empowerment of women—don’t give in to “mission creep.” That was impossible. 

This International Women’s Day, three women who inspire me

Zubedah Nanfuka's picture
Also available in: 中文 | العربية | Español | Français
March 8 is International Women’s Day. This year’s theme is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality." The United Nations is encouraging the world to envision a world where women and girls can have the choice to participate in politics, get an education, have an income, and — an area I hold dear to my heart — live in a society free from violence and discrimination.

World Bank supporting both displaced and host communities to alleviate the burden of forced displacement

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Every year, conflict and natural disasters force millions to flee their homes and seek refuge elsewhere, either within or beyond the borders of their country.
 
While forced displacement is nothing new, the number of displaced people has increased significantly over the last few years: according to The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), conflict and war alone had forced a staggering 60 million people away from their home at the end of 2014-the highest level ever recorded.
 
Displacement is often a traumatic experience for the displaced, who may lose their homes, livelihoods, and experience precarious living conditions. In many cases, it also puts tremendous pressure on host communities that do not always have the capacity or infrastructure to absorb a sudden influx of people.
 
The World Bank has been working alongside displaced people and host communities alike in areas such as housing, municipal services, livelihoods, land, disaster risk management, and social cohesion. Priority is given to community-driven programs that put beneficiaries in the driver's seat and empower them to develop projects tailored to their own specific needs.
 
For more information on how the World Bank is addressing fragility, conflict, and violence, please make sure to visit our new Development for Peace blog.

The future of wildlife is in our hands

Claudia Sobrevila's picture
Also available in: Français
Botswana. The Global Wildlife Program

On March 3rd we will celebrate World Wildlife Day. Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2013, this day raises awareness of the world’s wild fauna and flora. This year’s theme, "The future of wildlife is in our hands" resonates with those who understand the impact of species loss on the health of ecosystems and human survival.

We are currently in the midst of the sixth, man-made mass extinction of plants and animals. Experts estimate the current loss of species to be between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate. The global Living Planet Index (LPI) shows an overall species decline of 52% between 1970 and 2010. Our increasing demands on nature are driving the two biggest catastrophic threats to species decline- habitat loss and wildlife trade. Habitat loss is a threat to 85% of all species.  Exploitation (including poaching and wildlife trade) is the most immediate threat to wildlife populations worldwide.

Illicit trafficking in wildlife is a multifaceted global threat. The problem is particularly acute in Africa, where poaching is leading some charismatic species to the brink of extinction. For example, in 2011 the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) declared the Western black rhino extinct, largely due to poaching. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) program estimated that in the last 5 years, between 22,000 to 25,000 elephants were poached per year across Africa.

“We love our daughters. But we need a son.”

Giorgia DeMarchi's picture

“We love our daughters. But we need a son.”

This refrain captures the common sentiment in Armenia, and is at the heart of the growing issue of sex imbalances in the country. Armenia today has one of the most imbalanced sex ratios at birth in the world, 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.

Um círculo virtuoso: a integração de catadores na gestão de resíduos sólidos

Martha Chen's picture
Also available in: English | Español | 中文
A questão dos resíduos sólidos - sua geração, coleta e disposição - é um grande desafio mundial do século 21. A reciclagem impulsiona a sustentabilidade ambiental, reduzindo as emissões de gases de efeito estufa e estimula a economia, por meio do fornecimento de matérias-primas e materiais de embalagem.
 
Os catadores de materiais recicláveis são os principais atores na recuperação de resíduos para a indústria de reciclagem. Em todo o mundo, um grande número de pessoas de baixa renda e comunidades desfavorecidas ganham a vida coletando e separando esses resíduos, e depois vendendo-os por meio de intermediários para a indústria de reciclagem. Onde outros veem restos, os catadores veem papel, papelão, vidro e metal. Eles são hábeis em separação e no empacotamento de diferentes tipos de resíduos por cor, peso e uso final para vender à indústria de reciclagem. No entanto, os catadores são raramente reconhecidos pelo importante papel que desempenham na criação de valor a partir dos resíduos gerados por outros e na contribuição para a redução das emissões de carbono.
 
Felizmente, ao redor do mundo, os catadores têm se organizado e as cidades começaram a promover o círculo virtuoso que vem com a integração de catadores, os recicladores do mundo, na gestão de resíduos sólidos.
 
O Brasil foi o primeiro país a integrar catadores, por meio de suas cooperativas, a sistemas de gestão de resíduos sólidos municipais e o primeiro a adotar uma Política Nacional de Resíduos, reconhecendo as contribuições de catadores e proporcionando um enquadramento jurídico para permitir que cooperativas de catadores sejam contratadas como provedores de serviço. Um contrato para limpar os estádios durante a Copa do Mundo foi concedido ao movimento nacional de catadores no Brasil.
 

A virtuous circle: Integrating waste pickers into solid waste management

Martha Chen's picture
Also available in: Português | Español | 中文
Waste – its generation, collection, and disposal – is a major global challenge of the 21st century. Recycling waste drives environmental sustainability by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and stimulates the economy by supplying raw materials and packaging materials.
 
Waste pickers are the principal actors in reclaiming waste for the recycling industry. Across the world, large numbers of people from low-income and disadvantaged communities make a living collecting and sorting waste, and then selling reclaimed waste through intermediaries to the recycling industry. Where others see trash or garbage, the waste pickers see paper, cardboard, glass, and metal. They are skilled at sorting and bundling different types of waste by color, weight, and end use to sell to the recycling industry. Yet waste pickers are rarely recognized for the important role they play in creating value from the waste generated by others and in contributing to the reduction of carbon emissions.
 
Fortunately, around the world, waste pickers have been organizing and cities have begun to promote the virtuous circle that comes with integrating waste pickers, the world’s recyclers, into solid waste management.
 
Brazil was the first country to integrate waste pickers, through their cooperatives, into municipal solid waste management systems and the first to adopt a National Waste Policy, recognizing the contributions of waste pickers and providing a legal framework to enable cooperatives of waste pickers to contract as service providers. The national movement of waste pickers in Brazil was awarded a contract to clean the stadiums during the World Cup.
 

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:

Making skills training female-friendly: What pilots from the Adolescent Girls Initiative can teach us

Sarah Haddock's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية
The global jobs crisis has fueled interest globally in how to improve the quality of skills training programs to prepare people for productive employment. The Adolescent Girls Initiative (AGI) has some of the best results to-date among skills training projects that have been rigorously evaluated, so it makes sense to ask what made these pilots successful.

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.

Two models

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.

Lessons learned

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: Another key female-friendly feature of AGI projects was their explicit aim to steer women towards more profitable trades. By default, many skills training programs channel young women into traditionally female fields that are often less lucrative and less secure. Breaking down job segregation isn’t easy, but it is possible—and should, arguably, be an objective of projects aimed at improving economic outcomes for women.

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.
 

Focus on the “day before” to better plan for the “day after”

Raja Rehan Arshad's picture
Recovery efforts from the conflict in the Ukraine can learn much from reconstruction after natural disasters. Photo Credit: Alexey Filippov for UNICEF


Lessons learned over time from post-conflict recovery and reconstruction efforts reflect the need to reinforce stabilization immediately following the end of a conflict.

Being ready in advance with a recovery and reconstruction plan is one way to ensure that critical interventions can be implemented quickly following the cessation of hostilities.This can be achieved to a large extent by coordinating with humanitarian efforts in the recovery continuum during active conflict.
 
Such a plan helps to identify actionable opportunities that can help to support local-level recovery. This includes immediate improvements in services and enhancing livelihood opportunities essential to establishing popular confidence in state institutions and to fostering social cohesion.

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