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Gender

Should we focus more on women’s political empowerment when democracy goes off the rails? Tom Carothers thinks so.

Duncan Green's picture

My inbox has been buzzing with praise for a new paper on this issue by the Carnegie Endowment’s democracy guru, Thomas Carothers. Since he’s one of my favourite guest posters (no editing ever required), I asked him to summarize its findings.

Last year the gender, women, and democracy team at the National Democratic Institute approached me with a question. NDI, like many groups engaged in supporting democracy internationally, was responding to the increasingly fraught landscape of global democracy by attempting to think more strategically and move fully away from any lingering tendency to pursue a standard democracy “menu” across extremely diverse political contexts. NDI’s gender team wanted to insert women’s political empowerment programming into the new strategic discussion. Would I help them think it through? The team deflected my protests that I lack  expertise on women’s empowerment, telling me they would help me get up to speed.  They also politely pointed out that as someone who presents himself as a general expert on democratic change, perhaps it was time for me to correct my lack of knowledge about the gender domain. I signed on.

After some months of delving into the literature on women’s political empowerment and interviewing numerous aid practitioners and women’s activists working on the front lines, some interesting findings came into focus.  I present them in my new paper, “Democracy Support Strategies: Leading with Women’s Political Empowerment.”

At first glance, programs seeking to foster greater women’s political empowerment did seem to follow a standard menu –everywhere I looked I saw training for women candidates in local and national elections, efforts to strengthen the role of women within political parties, advocacy in favor of gender quotas in legislatures, and support for women’s parliamentary caucuses. Yet when I probed how such programming unfolds across different transitional contexts, important variations emerged. 

Persistent gender gaps and short-term solutions

Anna Steinhage's picture

In 2014, Australian startup founder Evan Thornley gave a talk at a technology startup conference about why he likes to hire women. So far, so good. However, things quickly deteriorated when he explained that part of the reason was that women were “still often relatively cheap compared to what we would’ve had to pay someone less good of a different gender”, illustrated by a slide that read “Women. Like men, only cheaper”.
 
While the ensuing media outcry quickly forced Thornley to backtrack on his comments, the reality his slide so eloquently put into words is not so easily revised. Even in Silicon Valley, considered one of the most forward-thinking industries in the world, women continue to be paid less than their male counterparts.

Where do the world’s talents immigrate to?

Bassam Sebti's picture


"We’re the nation that just had six of our scientists and researchers win Nobel Prizes—and every one of them was an immigrant," U.S. President Barack Obama recently said after the Nobel Prize winners were announced.
 
The Internet was abuzz about it, and how could it not be?
 
The announcement couldn’t come at a better time. Not only are US Nobel laureates immigrants, but also the country has been identified as one of four where the world’s high-skilled immigrants are increasingly living, according to a new World Bank research article. The other three countries are the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.

Asking young people to rethink education

Oni Lusk-Stover's picture
Young people need to weigh in on actionable solutions for education.
(Gulbakyt Dyussenova/ World Bank)

"In some parts of the world, students are going to school every day. It's their normal life. But in other parts of the world, we are starving for education... it's like a precious gift. It's like a diamond…"
Malala Yousafzai

 
The voices of children in Time for School: 2003 – 2016, a documentary following five youth over 12 years in India, Brazil, Kenya, Afghanistan, and Benin as they strive to attain a basic education, is clear. The stories of these young people remind us that achieving learning for all is not only a global commitment but also a deeply personal struggle faced by millions of children around the world.

Why cities matter for the global food system

Francisco Obreque's picture
La Paz, Bolivia. Photo by Andy Shuai Liu / World Bank

I was with the World Bank delegation at the Habitat III Conference in Quito last week, reflecting on the future of cities and speaking at a panel on food security. While there, I could not help but remember the story of Wara, an indigenous Aymara woman, one of eight children from a poor rural family living in the Bolivian Altiplano. Poverty forced her to migrate to the city when she was young.

Now living in La Paz, Wara has been working as a nanny in households for decades. She has three teenagers. Her oldest son is overweight and has already had several health problems. He occasionally works with his father building houses. The other kids are still in school and Wara hopes that armed with an education, they will be able to find a good job.

According to statistics, Wara is no longer poor. Indeed, Wara and her family are better off when compared to her modest origins. The truth is, however, that she is vulnerable and can easily fall back into poverty and hunger.

As in most Aymara families, Wara’s husband administers the money, including her own earnings, but she is the food-provider for the family. Each Saturday he gives Wara some money to get food for the week. She wakes up early to go to one of the four big markets in La Paz to buy basic staples such as potatoes, fresh vegetables, rice, sugar and oil, among others.

At the market, Wara doesn’t always find everything she needs. Climatic or logistic factors often hamper food deliveries to the city. When this occurs, perishable food arrives in bad condition or with lesser quality, and many products are just thrown away.

The story of Wara illustrates some of the current and future challenges for the food system. 

Cycologic: The power of women for the power of bicycles in Uganda

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture
Amanda Ngabirano riding a bicycle in Kampala

“She who succeeds in gaining the mastery of the bicycle will gain the mastery of life.” - Susan B. Anthony
 
In America during the 1890s, the bicycle provided women with unprecedented autonomy of mobility and abolished many old fashions, including corsets, bustles, and long voluminous skirts. Bicycles came to epitomize the quintessential “new woman” of the late 19th Century. She was believed to be college educated, active in sports, interested in pursuing a career, and looking for a marriage based on equality. The image of the “new women” was also almost always portrayed on a bicycle! An 1895 article found in the American Wheelman, mentions suffragist leader, Elizabeth Cady Stanton who predicted: “The bicycle will inspire women with more courage, self-respect, self-reliance….”
 
At a conference I attended on cycling, the coffee break chatter included this intriguing question: “What can be more picturesque than a woman on the bicycle?” After a few moments of loud deliberations none of the cycling scholars were able to come up with a clever enough answer, but the expected answer was very obvious: “TWO women riding bicycles!” What a perfect match for the testimony of women’s rights activist, Susan B. Anthony, who stated: “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. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel… the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”
 
It’s amazing to witness people from different walks of life; different countries or differing religions work together for the social good. Such is the compelling story about five women who indirectly and directly empower each other to advocate for the usage of the bicycle as a means of transport in Uganda’s Capital, Kampala. When the London based staff writer, Maeve Shearlaw of The Guardian, wrote an article in August 2015 titled, "Potholes, sewage and traffic hostility: can Kampala ever be a bike-friendly city?", she was most likely not anticipating that a year later her story would inspire three female students from Sweden’s Red Cross College University in Stockholm. The three were taking a course called: Documentary in the World, as a part of a one-year program focused on global social issues.

Quito: Turning sustainable transport ideas into reality

Mahmoud Mohieldin's picture
During Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador, World Bank Senior Vice President Mahmoud Mohieldin and Arturo Ardila-Gomez, Global Lead for Urban Mobility & Lead Transport Economist, look at an example of how World Bank-supported operations and technical assistance contribute to the objectives of the Sustainable Development Goal No.11 to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.
 


The World Bank views Planning, Connecting, and Financing as three essential policy tools to nurture inclusive economic growth in cities. The Connecting tool is aimed at connecting people with jobs and schools, and businesses with markets, in order to help promote inclusion. Within the framework of its transport initiative, Sustainable Mobility for All, the World Bank is assisting client countries and cities in developing urban transport projects and policies that support both public transport and non-motorized transport. 

Habitat III will shape the future of cities. What will it mean for urban mobility?

Nancy Vandycke's picture
Photo credit: Rajarshi Mitra/Flickr

Next week, the international community will gather at Habitat III - the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development - to discuss important urban challenges as the world’s cities grow at an unprecedented rate.

Today, 54% of people live in cities and towns. Cities can be magnets for population growth and offer opportunities for jobs and social empowerment; but they can also be a source of congestion, exclusion and impoverishment. Which path of urban growth will prevail depends, in large part, on the quality and availability of mobility solutions. Transport is a structuring element of cities.

The reality of mobility in today’s cities is alarming— especially when measured against the four criteria that define sustainable mobility.

Advancing women’s land and resource rights

Renée Giovarelli's picture
Photo by Neil Palmer (CIAT)
Photo: Neil Palmer (CIAT)
Development practitioners know secure land rights for women are important for the well-being of rural families, whether a woman is head of her household or lives in a household headed by a man. We know the research shows that women’s land rights are associated with family improvements, such as:
  • Increases in food expenditures
  • Children less likely to be severely underweight
  • Improvements in child educational achievements
  • Increases in share of expenditures devoted to healthcare
 

What is the impact of rural transformations on women farmers?

Vanya Slavchevska's picture

Rural areas are changing rapidly, but the shift does not affect women and men in the same way.

In the process of rural development and transformation, as employment for both women and men expands in other sectors, employment in the agricultural sector is expected to shrink. Yet delving through available data and the literature, we find that the reality isn’t quite that simple. In a great number of developing countries, as men move out of family farming, women tend to stay--or move out of the sector a lot more slowly. Many women even take on new jobs and responsibilities in agriculture. We call this phenomenon the ‘feminization’ of agriculture.


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