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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:

4 smartphone tools Syrian refugees use to arrive in Europe safely

Bassam Sebti's picture
Also available in: Español | العربية | Français
Syrian refugee Yusuf holds his smartphone, which he describes as “the most important thing.” With this, he said, he is able to call his father in Syria. © B. Sokol/UNHCR


If you look inside the bag of any refugee on a life-threatening boat trip to Europe, you see a few possessions that vary from one refugee to another. However, there is one thing they all carry with them: a smartphone.

Those refugees have been criticized for owning smartphones, but what critics do not understand is that refugees consider these expensive devices as their main lifeline to the wider world, helping them flee wars and persecution. They are also the tools through which they tell the world their stories and narrate what is described as the biggest refugee crisis since World War II.

The refugees’ escape to Europe is the first of its kind in a fully digital age. It has changed how the exodus is unfolding. Technology used by the refugees is not just making the voyage safer, but also challenging stereotypes held against them. Many Syrian, Iraqi, Afghan, and other refugees fleeing to Europe have shown through their use of smartphones that not all refugees are poor. They flee because they fear for their lives.

Here are a few of many stories on how refugees are using smartphones to survive and tell their stories to the world:

The future is in her hands

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


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.

Missed our #16Days campaign against gender-based violence? Here’s your chance to catch up

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture

The global #16Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence campaign started on November 25 with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and ended on International Human Rights Day, which was celebrated on December 10.
 
Throughout those #16Days, the World Bank’s message was clear:  Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) is a global pandemic that has or will affect 1 in 3 women in their lifetime. Violence is not only a personal struggle for the victims, but also has severe consequences on social and economic outcomes.
 

Finding employment for young people of all abilities

Matt Hobson's picture
Young women from family with members with disabilities being taught to use a sewing machine.
India. Photo: © John Isaac / World Bank

Today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
 
In every society globally, unemployment rates for persons with disabilities are higher than for people without disabilities. The International Labor Organization reports that, in some Asia-Pacific countries, the unemployment rate of people living with disabilities is over 80%. 

Including persons with disabilities into development: the way forward

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
An estimated 15% of the global population, or about 1 billion people, experience some form of disability. Persons with disabilities face many barriers in access to employment, education, services, and are disproportionately affected by poverty. Making sure that everyone can reap the benefits of development, including persons with disabilities, is at the core of the World Bank's mission. On this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo, the World Bank's Global Advisor on Disability, shares insights about current challenges and opportunities for disability-inclusive development, and explains how the institution has been integrating disability into its operations.

If you cannot say it, then draw it: comic books against gender-based violence in India

Ram Devineni's picture
(The author is a co-creator of the comic book “Priya’s Shakti”, a multimedia project that helps illuminate attitudes toward gender-based violence (GBV) through the Hindu mythological canon.)
 
Tushar Kamble with the comic book panel he drew about one of his teachers.

Before creating the comic book “Priya’s Shakti”  we spoke with several rape survivors and their accounts were critical in developing our story. What they told us had a profound impact on everyone involved. We knew we had to create a compelling and inspiring character – Priya, who is a survivor of rape and the hero of our comic book.
 
While finishing the comic book, we realized that the process of drawing Priya made us more sensitive and aware of the struggles of the real-life women we interviewed and who influenced our character. We wanted to share the power of storytelling and drawing with teenagers in India and elsewhere.
 
We observed that the internet and watching TV is a very passive endeavor and once it is over, the viewer is disconnected from what they experienced. But, drawing and especially telling the stories of survivors of gender-based violence was a very active process and had a lasting effect on the people who were involved. The more the person was engaged with the subject – the deeper their empathy was with them.

Guide to 2015 Annual Meetings webcast events

Donna Barne's picture
Also available in: Español | العربية | Français


The global economy, climate change, infrastructure, the food system – these are just a few of the hot topics that will be addressed in Lima, Peru, in the lead-up to the Annual Meetings of the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund the week of Oct. 5. 

The annual gathering of ministers from 188 countries takes place just two weeks after a historic vote at the United Nations to adopt Sustainable Development Goals. Government ministers will again discuss the SDGs at the Oct. 11 meeting of the Development Committee of the World Bank Group and IMF.

How to finance development: Six ideas from young leaders

Martin Sterlicchi's picture
Young women look at their mobile phones during a community meeting in India. © Simone D. McCourtie/World Bank


Juancito is from a small town in rural Peru. He wakes up every day at 5 a.m. to walk two hours to get to school. One day, he fell and twisted his ankle, but because the nearest health clinic is three hours away, his teacher had to fill in as a health care provider.
 
Juancito’s story provided the inspiration for the third-place winning team of the first Ideas for Action Competition, sponsored by the World Bank Group and the Wharton Business School. The team noted that the local government — which receives royalties from a mining company — didn’t lack the funds needed for development, but community needs were being overlooked. 

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