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To build a brighter future, invest in women and girls

Jim Yong Kim's picture
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Arne Hoel

As we mark International Women’s Day 2018, there has never been a more critical time to invest in people, especially in women and girls. 

Skills, knowledge, and know-how – collectively called human capital – have become an enormous share of global wealth, bigger than produced capital such as factories or industry, or natural resources.

But human capital wealth is not evenly distributed around the world, and it’s a larger slice of wealth as countries develop. How, then, can developing countries build their human capital and prepare for a more technologically demanding future?

The answer is they must invest much more in the building blocks of human capital – in nutrition, health, education, social protection, and jobs. And the biggest returns will come from educating and nurturing girls, empowering women, and ensuring that social safety nets increase their resilience.

According to UNESCO estimates, 130 million girls between the age of 6 and 17 are out of school, and 15 million girls of primary-school age – half of them in sub-Saharan Africa – will never enter a classroom. Women’s participation in the global labor market is nearly 27 percentage points lower than for men, and women’s labor force participation fell from 52 percent in 1990 to 49 percent in 2016.

What if we could fix this? Fostering women’s labor force participation, business ownership, and improvements in productivity could add billions to the global economy.

Edutainment changes the way we do development

Arianna Legovini's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español | Français

Improving people’s lives is more than offering services. It requires people to be active participants in development, demanding services and products that add value to their lives and engaging in behaviors that are conducive to increasing their own welfare. Health prevention is a case in point.

At our HIV Impact Evaluation Workshop in Cape Town, South Africa in 2009, I listened to Nancy Padian, a medical researcher at the Women’s Global Health Imperative, presenting a systematic review of random control trials testing the effectiveness of HIV prevention campaigns.

The study she presented explained how three dozen HIV prevention campaigns had failed to change sexual behavior and reduce HIV incidence.

The presentation gave us pause. The review dismissed the communication campaigns as an ineffective means to change behavior and slow down the HIV epidemic.

A closer look revealed that the campaigns lacked inspiring narratives, and were communicated through outdated and uninteresting outlets such as billboards and leaflets.

The question we asked ourselves was: Can we do this differently?

Be the generation that ends FGM

Sandie Okoro's picture
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Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is an everyday reality for millions of girls and women around the world. I am no longer shocked when a woman confides in me that she has been “cut,” or tells me the consequences she lives with. Recently, I have had the privilege to meet with FGM survivors who are also activists, and they are fighting to stop the practice in a generation, reminding me that one person can make a difference in ending FGM. 

As we mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, on Feb. 6, we are supporting #EndFGM, a survivor-led movement gaining momentum and power around the world.

FGM/C, known as cutting, is a form of violence affecting at least 200 million girls and women worldwide. Every day, about 6000 women and girls suffer the practice, enduring prolonged and irreversible consequences during their entire lives

FGM/C is inextricably linked with ending extreme poverty; girls who experience it are more likely to be forced into child marriage, more likely to be poor and stay poor, and less likely to be educated. Beyond the data and the statistics, researchers have shown that FGM deprives women of sexual health and psychophysical well-being. 

What keeps the President of the World Bank up at night?

Jim Yong Kim's picture
Also available in: 中文 | العربية | Français | Español
Residents of Kashadaha village visit the Kashadaha Anando school in Kashadaha village, Bangladesh. © Dominic Chavez/World Bank
Residents of Kashadaha village visit the Kashadaha Anando school in Kashadaha village, Bangladesh. © Dominic Chavez/World Bank

This year’s World Economic Forum Annual Meeting comes at a time of good news for the world economy. As we said in this month’s Global Economic Prospects report, for the first time since the financial crisis, the World Bank is forecasting that the global economy will be operating at or near full capacity. We anticipate growth in advanced economies to moderate slightly, but growth in emerging markets and developing countries should strengthen to 4.5% this year.

2017 in Review: Look at the posts you engaged with the most on social media

Zubedah Robinson's picture

2018 is here, and we hope your new year is off to a positive start! Thank you for being a part of the global movement to help end poverty. For every like, share, “heart”, retweet, you name it, thanks for engaging with our content!

Every year brings new highlights, challenges, and priorities, and 2017 was no different. Here is a look at some of the content you engaged with the most on social media in the past year:


No one should be driven into bankruptcy simply because they have to pay for healthcare for themselves or their loved ones. So unsurprisingly, you showed strong  support for #HealthforAll during the Universal Health Coverage Forum in December.

We were also very impressed to see how strongly you feel about preserving our planet. During last month’s One Planet Summit, several of you replied to the news of the World Bank’s announcement on phasing out financing of oil and gas exploration, with positivity. For example @RalienBekkers said: “Great, everyone should follow”:
Do you believe that no country can attain its full potential without the equal participation of both women and men in the country’s economy? Many of you agreed that women shouldn’t be restricted from doing some jobs, just because they are women:

Voices of non-violence

Chloe Fevre's picture

Today, October 2nd, is the International Day of Non-Violence, a day that reminds us of the serious development challenge of interpersonal violence.
Violence is a multi-causal phenomenon. Therefore, preventing violence requires a multi-sectoral approach. What does this concretely mean? It means that to prevent violence in a sustainable way, we need to address its multiple causes at the same time. It also means to move away from a punitive perspective solely focused on the criminal justice system and acknowledge the shared responsibility for violence prevention and the need for different sectors and government agencies to contribute to solving the issue.

Canada and the World Bank: Empowering women and girls is the best way to build a better world for all

Marie-Claude Bibeau's picture
Also available in: Français
A woman tends to plants in a nursery in Sri Lanka. © Lakshman Nadaraja/World Bank
A woman tends to plants in a nursery in Sri Lanka. © Lakshman Nadaraja/World Bank

We face global challenges on an unprecedented scale: climate change, natural disasters, poverty, water scarcity, food insecurity, global displacement, conflict and violence. These are not the kinds of challenges that will go away on their own—they feed off one another and flourish. The world is responding with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which lay out a road map to building a more inclusive, peaceful and prosperous world—a better world.

Putting women’s health and empowerment at the center of development

Kristalina Georgieva's picture
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Registered nurses look after newborns at a maternity hospital in Freetown Sierra Leone. © Dominic Chavez/World Bank
Registered nurses look after newborns at a maternity hospital in Freetown Sierra Leone. © Dominic Chavez/World Bank

Last week on World Population Day, I was thinking of the joy of children and the right of women to decide when to have them. It matters to women, but it matters to society as a whole. There can be no sustainable development without women’s empowerment, and there can be no women’s empowerment without access to comprehensive maternal and reproductive health services. Family planning is part of them.

The Middle East, version 2.0.

Bassam Sebti's picture
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Let’s be honest. The Middle East and North Africa is burning, and in some areas it is literally burning. Conflict and fragility have long warped what once was the cradle of civilization and the inspiration for the many inventions we can’t live without today. However, in the midst of that fire hope rises, a driver of change that is transforming the ugly reality into a bright future.
After I fled the war in Iraq in 2006, I was pessimistic about what the future was holding for that region. Year after another, the domino-effect of collapse became a reality that shaped the region and its people. Yet, fast-forward to 2017, I have witnessed what I never thought I would see in my lifetime: the new renaissance in the Middle East and North Africa.
I have just recently come back from attending the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa at the Dead Sea in Jordan. This year, the Forum and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, partnered to bring together 100 Arab start-ups that are shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
There, the positive vibe was all around; no negativity, no pessimism. Instead there was a new sense of optimism and enthusiasm, hunger for change, and the will to take the region to a whole new future, away from conflict and the current norm of pessimism.

Three things we need to know about “SOGI”

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
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May 17 is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, or IDAHOT.
Why should we care about IDAHOT? Because sexual orientation and gender identity, or SOGI, matters.
Here are three things we need to know about SOGI:
First, SOGI inclusion is about zero discrimination
Despite some legal and social progress in the past two decades, LGBTI people continue to face widespread discrimination and violence in many countries. Sometimes, being LGBTI is even a matter of life and death. They may be your friends, your family, your classmates, or your coworkers.