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.
Sinah Legong and her team meet at Raeketsetsa, a program that encourages young women in South Africa to get involved in information and communications technologies. © Mutoni Karasanyi/World Bank
Olou Koucoi founded Focus Energy, a company that brings light, news and entertainment to people living off-grid in his country, Benin. Its spinoff program ElleAllume hopes to train more than 1,000 women to bring power to 100,000 Beninois homes this year. “At the end of the day, [inclusive hiring] is not a gender decision, it’s a business decision,” he says.
Over the past few months, I interviewed a number of incubator and accelerator programs to compile best practices for the World Bank Group’s Climate Technology Program. The research spanned 150 programs in 39 countries, ranging from relatively new to seasoned veterans of the clean tech incubation space. The consensus regarding gender diversity and inclusion was almost unanimous; all but one program echoed Koucoi’s sentiments – in principle.
In practice, however, encouraging more women into the clean energy sector and related programs has proved challenging. Below are some of the most popular explanations for the low levels of female representation:
“We can’t find them.”
Many clean energy incubation programs said they had difficulty recruiting due to a lack of women in the industry and strong women’s networks to tap into. While there is no shortage of women in clean energy (with industry-specific examples such as clean cookstoves serving as a good example) there are few women-led businesses. This lack of visible leadership translates into lower rates of participation.
“We would love to focus on bringing more women into the program, but we have limited resources.”
Incubation programs are often lean, with little time and few resources to expand on offerings and create targeted programs for women. Instead, to create quick wins and draw in additional funds, programs often take a “low-hanging fruit” approach, seeking out the most visible companies to recruit and invest in, which tend to have male co-founders.
“Does it really matter at the end of the day?”
Many programs are pro-gender-diversity in principle, but gender-agnostic in practice. This stems from a disconnect between the “gendered-lens” approach discussed when fundraising for incubation programs and the results frameworks which judge their success. Such factors as the number of companies exited are still weighed much more heavily than gender balance.
Below are some of the best ways I have found to create more gender-diverse and inclusive programs:
The food system currently employs the majority of people in developing countries, both in self and wage employment. And, according to our recent paper on jobs, all signs indicate that this system — which includes agriculture, as well as beyond-farm jobs in food processing, transportation, restaurants and others — will continue to be a major engine for job creation in the foreseeable future. As economies all over the world are confronted with the challenge of creating around 1.6 billion jobs over the next 15 years, it is important to harness the potential for job generation through productive alliances.
Increasing evidence suggests that, to improve accountability and promote evidence-based decision making, open access to data and data literacy skills are essential. While in-person educational opportunities can be limited in parts of the developing world, .
In June 2016, Code for Africa, with support from the World Bank’s Open Government Global Solutions Group, held a Data Literacy Bootcamp in Freetown, Sierra Leone, for 55 participants, including journalists, civil society members, and private and public sector representatives. One of the Bootcamp’s primary objectives was to build data literacy skills to nurture the homegrown development of information and communication technologies (ICT) solutions to development problems.
On April 22 and April 29, 2016 representatives from Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Sierre Leone, South Africa, and Tanzania came together in a virtual South-South Knowledge exchange hosted by the World Bank in collaboration with the Open Government Partnership to discuss an issue of mounting concern: managing records and information to support open government. These countries – committed to the goal of open government, and a number with new right to information laws and open data initiatives - were motivated by increasing recognition that their commitments to make information open cannot be fully realized until they increase their capacity to manage records and information, especially the growing amount of information in digital form.
The West Africa Ebola crisis of 2014-15 killed more than 11,000 people, caused economic and social disruption in a massive scale, and left tens of thousands of children orphaned. In Sierra Leone, schools were closed for eight months, resulting in a lost year of learning. With the closure of schools and banning of public gatherings, Sierra Leoneans, having lived through years of civil war, knew the setbacks that lost educational opportunities would inflict on a young generation. The government, working with donor partners, initiated a number of interventions to mitigate these losses.
Just two weeks ago, the citizens of Sierra Leone celebrated the end of Ebola transmission in their country with cheering and dancing in the streets of Freetown. It’s a milestone worth celebrating in a country that has suffered nearly 4,000 deaths from the deadly virus.
In the photo, a beautiful woman named Radha holds her young child in a bleak landscape strewn with refuse. The photo caption reveals she is a rag-picker in Jaipur, India, one of millions making a living from collecting and selling the things other people throw away. We learn that shortly after the photo was taken, her husband died.
Radha’s image and story, captured by photographer and artist Tierney Farrell (@tierneyfarrell) in June 2014, was one of 10 photographs selected by National Geographic Your Shot as winners of the #endpoverty hashtag challenge this summer.
In a note to the photographer, National Geographic’s Erika Larsen explained why the photo was chosen: “This is a beautiful image but more importantly you have given us a story. You have followed her life for an amount of time and made us care about her situation.”