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How digital financial services boost women’s economic opportunities

Leora Klapper's picture

Imagine having to skip work every month to travel to the city center just to pay your electricity bill or your child’s school fee? Would you not worry if your income relied on remittances and you were unable to pay rent because they were tied up in a network of agents? And wouldn't it frustrate you if you didn’t have a say in how your salary was spent or invested?

Having a bank account could help in all of these situations. Most of us probably have auto-pay set up so we don't need to worry about our monthly bill payments or money transfers. But the conveniences we take for granted are out of reach for the world's 1.1 billion women who lack an account. According to World Bank’s Global Findex database, men in developing countries are 9 percentage points more likely than women to own an account. The gap is largest in South Asia, where only 37 percent of women have an account compared with 55 percent of men.

Change agents: women and climate

Mafalda Duarte's picture
Women of Tajikistan
CIF is bringing attention to gender in climate investing in Tajikistan. Photo: CIF

In the arid farming lands of the Pyanj River Basin of Tajikistan, women and children spend much of their days searching for water, food and fuel. But higher temperatures, lower rainfall and less snow up in the mountain glaciers have made their job difficult, if not impossible. 

How much does the gender gap really cost?

Rachel Coleman's picture

A new report entitled, “The Cost of the Gender Gap in Agricultural Productivity in Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda” launched last week at a side-event of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) 42nd session calling for policymakers to prioritize closing the gender gap in agricultural productivity in Africa.  This report was jointly produced by the World Bank Africa Gender Innovation Lab, UN women and UNDP-UNEP Poverty-Environment Initiative to quantify the cost and specify the gain in closing the gender gap in agriculture.

This launch was positioned on the UN’s International Day of Rural Women – a day dedicated to recognizing that empowering rural women is key to achieving sustainable development. In Sub-Saharan Africa the reality is women form a large proportion of the agricultural labor force, yet gender-based inequalities in access to and control of productive and financial resources inhibit them from achieving the same level of agricultural productivity as men.  

The Africa Gender Innovation Lab (GIL) has been working to generate evidence on how to close the gender gap in agricultural productivity through conducting rigorous impact evaluations. A 2014 GIL report entitled Levelling the Field identified areas to focus our attention in working to close the gap and offered promising policy solutions and emerging new ideas to test.   

The new report expands on  Levelling the Field, to illustrate why this gap matters, showing that closing the gap could result in gross gains to GDP of $100 million in Malawi, $105 million in Tanzania and $67 million in Uganda—along with other positive development outcomes such as reduced poverty, and greater food security.

Women and bicycles - the solution for those left behind in the wake of the Mediterranean human tsunami

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

Also available in: العربية

The entire world is hypnotized by the struggle of the European continent with the rapidly escalating numbers of refugees and migrants from Africa and the Middle East. Yet, only a handful reflect about the plight of those who stay behind, entangled in violence and persecution, or those who remain in refugee camps. Some believe those 'left behind' are the solution and saviors to the future of the Middle East and Africa, and one great way to help them is to give them bicycles.

//“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.” – Susan B. Anthony

In 2015 alone, the UN Refugee Agency reported that of the 520,957 people attempting to cross the Mediterranean, 2,980 died or went missing. Eighteen percent of the migrants are children and 13% are women. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, an estimated 200,000 additional refugees are still planning to make the sea journey by the end of 2015. So, the seismic human waves are far from subsiding in the region.

Today, there are a series of internal and regional armed conflicts around the world, most of which are concentrated in two regions: the Middle East and Africa. The desperate attempts by so many Syrians to flee Assad regime’s and the Islamic state’s terror by escaping to security in Europe has caught the world’s attention. However, Syrians are not alone in deserving compassion. Although international interest in Afghanistan has waned and most foreign troops are gone, the war there is only getting worse. In addition, there is an influx of desperate refugees from Eritrea, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Gambia, and Bangladesh who are just as entitled to refugee status as the others.

While humanity is being washed ashore in the Mediterranean Sea, the treacherous passage does not resemble a migration, but a human tsunami. The departing refugees and migrants leave a vacuum, as the most skilled, able-bodied, and educated keep leaving the continent, most of them are males.  This leaves females, elderly and disabled behind and entangled in the local violence. The families left behind often count on reuniting with their loved ones in the near future or hope to receive remittances to support their livelihoods as they try to rebuild their communities. 
What should the world do with these gutted societies? The global community should invest in women power, leadership opportunities for women, and in modifying the social order with regards to female emancipation on the continent. We must pay immediate attention and react with empathy and solidarity.

Is climate-smart gender-smart?

Sanna Liisa Taivalmaa's picture
Women farmers in Rwanda.
Women create terraces on a farm in Rwanda. Photo: A'Melody Lee / World Bank

Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) can help make the food system more sustainable in a changing climate. But does it come at a cost to women, in terms of a heavier workload?

Climate-smart agriculture’s three pillars: improved agricultural productivity, increased adaptation to climate change and reduction of greenhouse gases are goals well worthy of targeting. On the one hand, CSA practices such as water harvesting or planting trees that provide more accessible fuel, fodder and food can save women’s time. On the other hand, some practices such as increased weeding or mulch spreading can require women to spend more time in the field.

Four ways governments are making girls’ lives better

Alua Kennedy's picture

Also available in: العربية

As the International Day of the Girl Child is coming up on October 11, it reminds us of an important role governments can play to help girls lead their own lives. Investing in girls’ empowerment is a smart way to invest in a country.
Check out these four videos about how governments of Liberia, Senegal, India and Burundi are working to empower girls in their countries. 

How Countries Can Improve Access to Water for Women

Bhuvan Bhatnagar's picture
Because of water’s multidimensional role in economic development and poverty reduction, addressing the constraints that women and girls face in accessing and managing water is essential for achieving impact. 

Challenges of gender inequality in water include:
  • Women are disproportionately underrepresented in water sector decision making at many levels.
  • Women and girls are often charged with domestic water collection, disadvantaging other spheres of life, such as education.
  • Men benefit disproportionally from economic opportunities generated by the capital-intensive nature of water development and management.
  • Women and girls have specific sanitation needs, both for managing menstruation and for protection against gender-based violence. 

From the Aspen Ideas Festival: Rachel Kyte on Climate Resilience & Opportunity

Rachel Kyte's picture

At the Aspen Ideas Festival, World Bank Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change Rachel Kyte talks about climate resilience and how it can create opportunities for all people while protecting all people. Women and children make up a large number of the extreme poor, who are among those most at risk from the impacts of climate change.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Drones for Development
Project Syndicate
Unmanned aerial vehicles have populated both the imagination and nightmares of people around the world in recent years. In April, the United States Navy announced an experimental program called LOCUST (Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology), which officials promise will “autonomously overwhelm an adversary” and thus “provide Sailors and Marines a decisive tactical advantage.” With a name and a mission like that – and given the spotty ethical track record of drone warfare – it is little wonder that many are queasy about the continued proliferation of flying robots. But the industrial use of the lower sky is here to stay. More than three million humans are in the air daily. Every large human settlement on our planet is connected to another by air transport.

Confronting the Crisis of Global Governance
Commission on Global Security, Justice & Governance
Today’s global challenges, from mass violence in fragile states and runaway climate change to fears of devastating cross-border economic shocks and cyber attacks, require new kinds of tools, networks, and institutions if they are to be effectively managed. Climate change, economic shocks, and cyber attacks are likely to have lasting and far-reaching consequences, and the marked and visible increase in mass atrocities in one country after another has reversed the trend of declining political violence that began with the end of the Cold War.  Dealing with each of these issues calls for policies and actions beyond the writ or capabilities of any state and threatens to escape the grasp of present international institutions.