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International Women's Day

Feeling Ambivalent on International Women’s Day

Haishan Fu's picture
Photo: Lakshman Nadaraja/World Bank

On the eve of International Women’s Day, I was at a UN WOMEN side event in NYC when my phone started buzzing with well wishes for a happy women’s day from my friends in Asia, filling me with — ambivalence. To be honest, the day always leaves me with mixed feelings: despite the great strides that the world has made in women’s rights in various ways, for me, it’s also a reminder of how so many women still don’t enjoy our basic human rights.

As we’ve returned from women’s day to what in many ways is still a man’s world, I wanted to share three thoughts about the intersection of women’s rights with our data world today.

Five facts about gender equality in the public sector

Rong Shi's picture



Editor's note: This blog post is part of a series for the 'Bureaucracy Lab', a World Bank initiative to better understand the world's public officials.

It is a well-known, if unacceptable, fact that women globally earn significantly less than men for doing the same work. In the United States, women famously earn “79 cents to the dollar a man earns”, and similar disparities hold across developed and developing countries for wage labor (WDR, 2012). 

Gender equality: Unleashing the real wealth of nations

Annette Dixon's picture
© World Bank
© World Bank

Last week, we launched the Women, Business, and the Law report, which found that despite the considerable progress that many countries have made in improving women’s legal rights over the last decade, women are still only accorded 75 percent of the legal rights that men, on average, are given. As a result, they are less able to get jobs, start businesses and make economic decisions, with economic consequences that reverberate beyond their families and communities.

This is a particularly timely piece of research because as we mark International Women's Day, it’s another reminder of the work we have ahead of us: women without legal protections to go to school or work outside the home are stripped of their voice and agency—and unable to invest in human capital for themselves or their families. With the Human Capital Project in full swing and work underway with more than 50 countries on improving people-based investments, putting gender equality at the top of the agenda will be critical to crafting better policy.

Women in nature conservation: a win-WiNN

Claudia Sobrevila's picture
Purnima Devi Barman and the "Hargila Army" receiving an award for their work to protect the Greater Adjutant stork. Photo: © Courtesy of Purnima Devi Barman. 
Purnima Devi Barman received the Nari Shakti Puraskar 2017 award, the highest civilian award for women in India, for her work along with the “Hargila Army” to protect the greater adjutant stork. © Jantin Das.

A common theme of our work on conservation projects has been the lack of networks for women to share their ideas and learn from others doing the same work.

Which is why we created an all-women’s network to support and empower women in nature conservation. It is called WiNN: the Women in Nature Network, and was founded in 2013 by the two of us and 12 other women.

WiNN is a volunteer-run network of women interested in nature conservation. It serves as a platform for women to interact and learn by sharing experiences and stories relevant to other women in order to enhance conservation impacts and also inspire the next generation of conservation leaders.

Holding up half the sky—and some blogs

Cara Santos Pianesi's picture


Pexels | rawpixels.com

Bloggers write to share unique insights. They may want to simply share knowledge, push an issue forward, establish thought leadership, and in some cases drive business.

Bloggers also create community. For example, this blog platform reaches a subscribed community (25K in number!) interested in infrastructure finance, PPPs, and the use of guarantees to spur private-sector investments—especially in developing countries. With niche topics like this, a blogspace becomes a virtual gathering place where we can exchange war stories, spectacular examples, best practices, trends, and opinions. We can know that others care about the same topics. We can also blog to shape the demographics of discourse and raise specific voices.

Women at work in East Asia Pacific: Solid progress but a long road ahead

Victoria Kwakwa's picture



East Asia Pacific’s (EAP) strong economic performance over the past few decades has significantly benefited and empowered women in the region, bringing better health and education and greater access to economic opportunities. To celebrate International Women’s Day, we are featuring 12 women in the region who embody the advancements women have made in EAP, despite the many barriers that remain for them at work.

Surpassing all other developing regions, EAP’s female-to-male enrollment ratio for tertiary education is currently 1.2, with the ratio of secondary education access nearly equal for girls and boys. But in the workplace, the share of women working in EAP is at 62% versus 78.9% for men, a gap that has not narrowed over the past four years.

How can we ensure women receive adequate health care as they age?

Seemeen Saadat's picture
An elderly woman sits outside a health clinic in rural Nepal.
Photo © World Bank
We often hear that heart disease is the leading cause of deaths among men aged 45 years and older, but how often do we hear that it is also the leading cause of women’s deaths? Heart disease is responsible for just over 40% of all deaths among women aged 45 years and older.  Moreover, older women in low- and high-income countries suffer more deaths due to heart disease compared to men in the same age groups.

To build a brighter future, invest in women and girls

Jim Yong Kim's picture


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.

This International Women’s Day: let’s design infrastructure better

Caren Grown's picture


Photo: Carol Mitchell | Flickr Creative Commons

As the backbone of development, infrastructure provides vital support for the twin goals of poverty reduction and shared prosperity. Considering the different needs, roles, and responsibilities of men and women in infrastructure design makes the achievement of these goals more sustainable.

Women and men face constraints both as beneficiaries and producers of infrastructure services. For example, there can be inequitable access to roads, financing for electricity connections, or clean water. There are also inequities in the infrastructure business value chain: Do utilities have a balance of women and men on technical and leadership teams? Is there diversity on boards, with regulators or policy makers? Are women-owned firms in supply chains?

Nepal hotline helps women suffering violence

Annette Dixon's picture
Women in Nepal
Violence against women remains a pervasive issue in Nepal. There's now a
24/7 helpline to support victims. 

On my visit to Kathmandu in January, I visited the Khabar Garaun 1145 (Inform Us) helpline set up to support survivors of Gender Based Violence (GBV).

In a small room, two operators respond tirelessly to callers as part of a 24 hour, seven days a week service. They assess callers’ needs, and refer them to receive legal aid, psycho-social support, child support and shelter. Each entry, whether it comes in by phone, email or text message, is carefully recorded through an online system, that eases the task of tracking and referring cases. The referrals connect them to response service providers including the Nepal Police, One-Stop Crisis Management Centers run by the Ministry of Health, and Non-Governmental Organizations.   

Since its launch by the National Women Commission (NWC) in December 2017, the helpline has received 1,938 calls from women seeking assistance to deal with GBV, with 180 cases being registered. Cases are registered only after a preliminary assessment is conducted, and immediate necessary support provided. It is heartening that so many survivors are coming forward to report cases. But the numbers are clearly alarming.  

Launching the NWC helpline
Launching the NWC helpline. Photo Credit: Richa Bhattarai/World Bank

There are various social restrictions that prevent women from speaking out and reporting incidents of gross injustice. With the introduction of the Khabar Garaun 1145 helpline, we hope that GBV survivors can find shelter, legal, psycho-social and remedial measures quickly and effectively. In fact, this is pioneering work by a government agency that can be a model for other countries, an innovation to note as we mark International Women’s Day. But it also illustrates the disturbing extent of GBV in Nepal, which is a leading cause of death for adult women. We need to eliminate GBV because it has devastating consequences on individuals, families and communities, along with large economic and social costs.   

Recently, an incident of a gang rape of a 21-year old woman was reported to the helpline. As follow up, the NWC counselor personally visited the survivor and traumatized family members and provided psychosocial and legal counseling, before referring the case. The survivor's husband was grateful for the support NWC provided – from counseling to collecting evidence and strengthening the case that resulted in a verdict to arrest perpetrators. “When our entire world seemed to collapse, this support helped restore a little of our faith in humanity,” he said. This is the kind of concrete support that is needed for women across the world. 


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