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​Putting ourselves in women’s shoes: Experiences from rural Bolivia

Francisco Obreque's picture
Also available in: Español

I recall a visit to a Bank-funded project in a rural Bolivian community. An enthusiastic Quechua woman was proudly telling me that she was about to undertake the 3-hour journey to Sucre with her “wawa” (baby) to get the three price quotes she needed to purchase wire for the community fences. She was participating in one of over 600 investments designed to help vulnerable rural communities in Bolivia lift themselves out of poverty, within the scope of the Community Investment in Rural Areas Project (PICAR) executed by the Ministry of Rural Development of Lands.    
“You just have one wawa, right?,” I asked. She replied: “Well, this is the youngest of six children; the others will stay home. My ten-year-old daughter will look after the younger ones. Right now my husband is working in the Chapare, harvesting coca leaves. He only comes home occasionally.”
After talking with her I had mixed feelings. One the one hand, I was worried that our gender-targeted project was asking too much of her and might be harming her kids in some way. On the other hand, I realized that it was giving her a unique chance to engage in tasks historically performed by the men.

To End Poverty, We Need to Know What We Don't Know About Women and Girls

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture
A schoolgirl in Guatemala. © Maria Fleischmann/World Bank

Women make up almost half the world's labor force and perform most of its unpaid care work, for children, the elderly, and the disabled. They also earn less and own less than men — especially land and housing. And they face enormous constraints in the world of work — from laws that prevent them from opening bank accounts to social norms that push them into lower-paying, less secure jobs.

As a result women are more vulnerable to poverty than men.

After Watching This, You Will Say “Thanks Mom”

Michelle Pabalan's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français | Español

Katya with her granddaughter (From the documentary "The Face of Poverty in Europe and Central Asia"I am lucky. Growing up, I had so many meaningful conversations with my parents -- especially with Mama. One time, I came home from school and she told me firmly to stay away from the computer. Puzzled, I asked her why. She goes, “Your Papa says it has a virus. I don’t want you to get sick.”

After explaining what a computer virus is, we had a good laugh. At the end of it, she just smiled and said “dinner is ready.”

It might have been a hilarious moment (a trump card I would always have in our family reunions) but she was being herself, a great mom. She always puts her children first. And in every circumstance in my life, with the highs and lows, I come to realize that a mother’s love really conquers anything.

As many countries celebrate Mother’s Day this week, we present seven stories featuring mothers doing their best for their families, and individuals who have been inspired by their own moms to achieve their dreams.

The Business Case for Gender: Better Companies, Stronger Economies

Elizabeth Gibbens's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español | 中文 | Français

Companies that include women among their executives and employees and do business with female entrepreneurs gain in terms of profitability, creativity, and sustainability, speakers said at the World Bank Group’s Gender and the Economy event this week in Washington, D.C.

A convincing business case for gender inclusion was made by H.E. Sheikh Abdullah al Thani, chairman of Ooredoo Group; Cherie Blair, founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women; and Beth Comstock, senior vice president and chief Marketing Officer at General Electric.

“Women are bringing new insights and experiences to workplaces and markets that were previously male-dominated,” said Comstock “Diversity breeds innovation."

Sri Mulyani Indrawati, the Bank Group's managing director and chief operating officer, said closing the economic gender gap and increasing opportunities for both women and men in the private sector are key to ending extreme poverty and boosting prosperity in developing countries.

How to Employ 865 Million Women

Nasim Novin's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español | Français

I got together with my friend Asma'a one evening at a popular Cairo café overlooking the Nile. Like many of the young Egyptians I had met that summer, Asma'a was smart, motivated — and unemployed. Since graduating with a law degree, she had applied for countless jobs to no avail, and had all but given up on finding a job in her field of study. She was particularly upset that evening because her parents had forbidden her from accepting a waitressing job, deeming the work to be morally inappropriate. Feeling ever more desperate, Asma'a said she would be willing to take any job just to be able to work.

Asma'a is one of 865 million women worldwide who have the potential to contribute more fully to the global economy. These women represent a powerful resource for driving economic growth and development. Yet the underuse of women's talents and skills is holding many countries back. An International Monetary Fund study estimates that if women like Asma'a were to participate in the labor force at the same rate as men, they could raise GDP in Egypt by 34 percent. Employed women also invest more of their income in their children's health and education, helping families to escape the cycle of poverty.

Women Deliver: Investing in Reproductive Health

Jeni Klugman's picture
Also available in: Español | Français | العربية

Mother and newborn baby in a clinicThis week I had the pleasure of attending Women Deliver 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia — the largest global gathering of the decade to focus on the health and well-being of girls and women. The conference convened several thousand people from 140 countries — including many ministers and parliamentarians — to generate momentum and political commitment for girls’ and women’s rights and reproductive health.

We heard the voices of the wealthy and powerful — like Melinda Gates and Chelsea Clinton — as well as the voices that too often go unheard — including young people, sexual minorities, widows, women with disabilities, and women living with HIV and AIDS. I was really inspired by the passion of all the participants — of whom, by the way, 40% were male, quite a high proportion for gender events — and was reminded that the safe and healthy experience I had having my own kids is so far from the reality of many millions of women around the world. 

Women’s Day in Turkey – a Working Day

Martin Raiser's picture

Having lived in many countries throughout the former Soviet Union over the last nine years, I am familiar with International Women’s Day as a holiday. In Turkey, however, Women’s Day remains a work day.

And quite appropriately so, it seems to me.

Women in the Workforce – a Growing Need in Emerging Europe and Central Asia

Sarosh Sattar's picture

Emerging Europe and Central Asia (ECA) is an interesting region because what you expect is not always what exists. Since this is written in honor of International Women's Day, discussing women’s labor market participation seems appropriate. The standard indicator used for this is the “female labor force participation” (LFP) rate, which is the proportion of all women between 15-64 years who either work or are looking for work. 

Since much of the region has a common socialist legacy, you would expect to see similar labor market behavior among women. However, the proportion of women who work ranges from a low of 42 percent in Bosnia and Herzegovina to 74 percent of adult women in Kazakhstan. And it wasn’t 20 years of social and economic transition that led to this divergence. Even in 1990, the range was about the same. The exception was Moldova which saw a 26 percentage point decline.

Longreads: Can Graphene Drive the Green Economy?, Women and Mobile Financial Services, With River Blindness ‘You Never Sleep’

Donna Barne's picture

Find a good longread on development? Tweet it to @worldbank with the hashtag #longreads.


LongreadsA video about a “scientific accident that may change the world (or at least your battery life)” went “viral” in February.  Researchers at University of California, Los Angeles, found a way to make a “non-toxic, highly efficient energy storage medium out of pure carbon using absurdly simple technology,” says ReWire. The “graphene” battery is being touted as capable of “super-fast charging of everything from smartphones to electric cars,” according to ReWire. Responding to Climate Change (RTCC) asks whether the technology holds promise as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “Replacing heavier materials in vehicle manufacture with graphene, particularly in aircraft can lead to substantial fuel savings,” says RTCC.  Gizmodo anticipates how graphene could transform the gadgets of the future.