At the time, the country was still opening up to the outside world, and the Bank had just set up a small office there. I recently returned to Vietnam after 15 years, this time as the Bank’s Global Lead for Land. I saw a completely different country: while the old city charm is still there, Hanoi has transformed to the point that it is really difficult to recognize… as if I had landed in Japan, China, or any other Southeast Asian country.
The airport used to be one gate; now, it is a modern airport not much different from any airport in Western Europe or the United States. I remember that, when I worked in Vietnam in the mid-90s, GDP per capita was averaging US$200, and around 50% of people lived in extreme poverty. Today, GDP per capita has soared to about US$2000, while extreme poverty has dropped to around 3% according to the US$1.9/day extreme poverty line... An impressive achievement in less than 20 years.
My trip to Vietnam had the goal of helping the government modernize and automate the land administration system. In the early 90s, the country launched an ambitious reform program to transform the land use model from communal farming to individual household ownership by breaking up the communal land structure and distributing land to individual households. This reform was then credited with changing Vietnam from a net importer of rice to one of the largest rice exporters in the world in only a few years.
In accordance with the Land Law of 1993, the first Land Use Certificates (LUCs) issued under the program were in the name of the “head of household”, i.e. in the name of men only. Later on, the Vietnamese government, with support from the World Bank, strove to change things around by issuing LUCs bearing both the wife’s and the husband’s names.
This is a short piece written for UNDP, which is organizing my Kapuscinski lecture in Malta on Wednesday (4pm GMT, webcast live)
Power is intangible, but crucial; a subtle and pervasive force field connecting individuals, communities and nations in a constant process of negotiation, contestation and change. Development is, at its heart, about the redistribution and accumulation of power by citizens.
Much of the standard work on empowerment focuses on institutions and the world of formal power – can people vote, express dissent, organise, find decent jobs, get access to information and justice?
These are all crucial questions, but there is an earlier stage; power ‘within’. The very first step of empowerment takes place in the hearts and minds of the individuals who ask: ‘Do I have rights? Am I a fit person to express a view? Why should anyone listen to me? Am I willing and able to speak up, and what will happen if I do?’
Asking, (and answering) such questions is the first step in exercising citizenship, the process by which men and women engage with each other, and with decision-makers; coming together to seek improvements in their lives. Such engagement can be peaceful (the daily exercise of the social contract between citizen and state), but it may also involve disagreement and conflict, particularly when power must be surrendered by the powerful, to empower those ‘beneath’ them.
Next up in this series of case studies in Active Citizenship is some inspiring work on women’s empowerment in Nepal. I would welcome comments on the full study: Raising Her Voice Nepal final draft 4 July
‘I was just a baby making machine’; ‘Before the project, I only ever spoke to animals and children’
‘This is the first time I have been called by my own name.’ [Quotes from women interviewed by study tour, March 2011]
While gender inequality remains extreme in Nepal, Oxfam’s Raising Her Voice (RHV) programme on women’s empowerment is contributing to and reinforcing an ongoing long-term shift in gender norms, driven by a combination of urbanization, migration, rising literacy and access to media, all of which have combined to erode women’s traditional isolation.
During the past 20 years, Nepal has also undergone major political changes. It has moved from being an absolute monarchy to a republic, from having an authoritarian regime to a more participatory governance system, from a religious state to a secular one, and from a centralized system to a more decentralized one.
Pick any country in the developing world.
Where are the women entrepreneurs in Pakistan?
They start and manage digital-content creation firms serving international clients. They are sole proprietors of construction businesses bidding for government projects. They supervise tailors and embroiderers in windowless storage rooms that double as stitching units. They export high-end gems and jewelry around the world.
Women entrepreneurs in Pakistan lead cutting-edge, innovative businesses – but there are far too few of them. The recent Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report finds that only 1 percent of Pakistani women are engaged in entrepreneurship – the lowest proportion in the world.
Pakistan is not alone in its dismal ratio of growth-oriented (or indeed any kind of) women entrepreneurs. Even in the developed Asian economies of Korea and Japan, only about 2 percent of women are entrepreneurs. Sub-Saharan Africa does much better in this regard, with 27 percent of women, on average, engaged in entrepreneurship -- but they are mostly involved in low-productivity sectors of the economy.
Women entrepreneurs, in Pakistan and globally, have narrow networks of friends and family who provide them with some initial capital to start their small businesses, with little expectation of further financial support. Their export customers are located wherever they have extended family. And they rarely feature in local chambers of commerce activities.
Banks are often reluctant to extend lines of credit to, provide working capital to or lend to women-led enterprises. This makes it difficult for these enterprises to pursue growth. Perhaps this is why the average growth projections for women-led enterprises are seven to nine percentage points below those for their male counterparts.
International Women’s Day 2013 comes at a time of heightened concerns globally about women’s safety in society—hence the day’s theme: “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women.” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim addresses the issue in a Huffington Post blog, and invites feedback from the public on ways to accelerate progress for women and girls. You can ask questions and weigh in on the factors driving women’s empowerment in a live chat March 6 in English, French, and Spanish with Sustainable Development Vice President Rachel Kyte, and World Bank gender experts. Find a complete list of World Bank International Women’s Day 2013 resources.
Post questions ahead of the chat for Sustainable Development Vice President Rachel Kyte, Gender and Development Director Jeni Klugman and other experts. Follow on Twitter with hashtag #WBLive.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
“Men are from Mars, women are from Venus – we’ve all heard that before. It’s no secret that the men and women are treated differently, but when it comes down to the heart of the matter, women are just as capable of success, if not more so, than their galactic counterparts.
With International Women’s Day fast approaching, CIPE is highlighting ways to help the movement for women’s empowerment. CIPE’s programs approach women’s empowerment through institutional reform, economic and political empowerment, and working with partner organizations to look beyond financial assistance – by helping women build leadership and business skills, CIPE focuses on preparing women for participation, whether they’re running a business, advocating legislative reforms, or simply making the world a better place for taking care of their families.” READ MORE
- CIPE Global
- International Women's Day
- women's empowerment
- New York Times
- I Paid A Bribe
- women in politics
- Transparency International
- Corruption Perceptions Index iPhone app
- Helen Clark
- Guidebook to Promote Women's Political Participation
The idea of starting a grassroots women-to-women communication campaign dawned on me when I realized the power of aesthetic expressions in capturing the intangible impact of development interventions. The beneficiaries of the Women’s Empowerment Project in rural Nepal used oral lore to articulate their impressions and experiences of their participation in the program through songs, dance and poetry. And because the program interventions were rooted in basic literacy training, I helped translate the oral lore into written documents through the medium of a newsletter, where the program beneficiaries themselves became the suppliers and readers of the contents. The newsletter proceeded to serve as a powerful grassroots network that brought together two- hundred and forty local organizations partners of the program and their hundred and twenty thousand clients across the country for horizontal learning. The newsletter also proved to be an effective vertical medium for the program management to assess the impact of the program interventions beyond its set targets and indicators.
The program was massive. It catered to a hundred and twenty thousand clients, scattered across the mountain and plain terrains of the country, along 21 districts, from the east-end to the west-end borders. It required working with two hundred and forty local organizations and four thousand community groups. And it entailed a multi-sectoral approach, combining basic literacy with business training and legal rights and advocacy campaigns. And the client themselves took charge in running these programs. The USAID-funded Women Empowerment Program in Nepal was the largest social development program during 1997-2001.