Syndicate content


Ranking the world’s megacities is a wake-up call for women’s rights

Monique Villa's picture
Cities are becoming monsters. Look at the world’s biggest megacities. 38 million people live in Tokyo! Try to take a taxi and find the house of a friend in Japan’s capital. You need luck. Six billion people will live in cities by 2045.

Cities are the new states; today, many of the world’s 31 megacities have larger populations and economies than individual nations.

For many people, these big urban centers represent the land of opportunity, offering better chances of employment, increased access to education and health services, social mobility.  For many others it’s a daily struggle for survival. In all big cities, the inequality between rich and poor has become gigantic and the divide seems only to grow.

We conducted a poll to investigate one aspect: how do women perceive their life in the world’s megacities? We chose women because they are the real economic accelerators, re-investing 90% of their salary into their families. When a woman thrives, her immediate community thrives with her.

Throughout June and July, we asked 380 gender experts in the 19 countries hosting the world’s biggest megacities to identify in which they thought women fared best and worst. The findings were eye-opening. They returned a truly compelling snapshot of the wider issues faced by women: from sexual violence, to security, to access to reproductive rights, from the risks of harmful cultural practices, to the lack of access to economic opportunities.

London was voted the world’s most female-friendly metropolis, thanks to its provision of free healthcare and access to economic resources such as education and financial services.  Tokyo and Paris came second and third.

But when we look at what concerned women most, the poll offers proper food for thought. In London, for example, experts cited the gender pay gap (a recent study by the Chartered Management Institute and XpertHR found on average, women earned £12,000 less than their male counterparts, while just 26% of director-led roles are filled by women as opposed to 74% by men) as well as extortionate childcare costs, as two of the major issues facing women today.

Pipeline to Work: Including persons with disabilities in skills development and employment projects

Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo's picture
Photo: Dane Macri/The Advocacy Project via Flickr CC
Photo: Dane Macri/The Advocacy Project via Flickr CC.

The relationship between poverty and disability goes both ways: disability increases the risk of poverty, and the conditions of poverty increase the risk of disability.

Yet, little attention has been given to the employment readiness of persons with disabilities. This is of concern given that the employment rates of persons with disabilities are a third to half of the rates for persons without disabilities, with unemployment rates as high as 80%-90% in some countries.

[Learn more: Disability Inclusion]

Disability is a complex, evolving, and multidimensional concept. Currently, it is estimated that 15% of the world population experiences some form of disability, with prevalence rates higher in developing countries. As opportunities for sustainable income generation are directly tied to a person’s access to finance, markets, and networks, persons with disabilities usually face significant challenges in accessing these, due to:

  • non-inclusive regulations and policy,
  • lack of resource allocation,
  • stigma and societal prejudice,
  • low educational participation, and
  • inability to access their own communities and city spaces.
To continue building inclusive cities, research tells us that countries cannot achieve optimal growth by leaving behind a large group of their citizens – persons with disabilities – with economic losses from employment exclusion ranging from 3 to 7 % of the GDP. We also know that when you combine gender and disability, the challenges facing women with disabilities compound. Women with disabilities are more likely to earn less than men with disabilities and they are affected by inaccessible sanitation, smaller social and professional networks, and gender-based violence – see, for example, labor force data from the UK.

We need to do much more to ensure that women with disabilities are mainstreamed into projects that seek to empower women as entrepreneurs and change agents.

Expanding equitable opportunities for persons with disabilities is at the core of the World Bank’s work to build sustainable and inclusive communities. So, what might a disability-responsive moonshot look like for development projects addressing work for persons with disabilities? Here’s what we’re doing at the World Bank:

Campaign Art: What Does Freedom for Girls Mean to You?

Sari P.S Dallal's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

October 11 has been marked as the International Day of the Girl by the United Nations since 2012. The aims are to highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls' empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.

For this year’s Day of the Girl, the #FreedomForGirls campaign was launched in partnership between Project Everyone, UNICEF, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This campaign sheds further light on the United Nations’ Global Goals, which included a commitment to achieve gender equality and empowering all women and girls by 2030. The UN along with its agencies and programs, believe that none of the 17 goals can be realized without empowering the largest generation of adolescent girls the world has ever seen.

Freedom - International Day of the Girl

Sustainable mobility: Who's who and who does what?

Shokraneh Minovi's picture

Some might call it an existential question. Some may be surprised that the answer is not clear. When it comes to sustainable mobility initiatives and stakeholders, who is who, and who does what? Addressing these questions is a key pre-requisite to the transformation of the transport sector and the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The SDGs, the Global Decade of Action for Road Safety, the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries, over 100 different organizations and initiatives… It’s enough to make your head spin! As the world increasingly recognizes the importance of mobility to the overall sustainable development agenda, the number of stakeholders in this arena has been growing steadily. Although many established groups have been warning us for years about the role of transport in the fight against climate change—the sector accounts for some 23% of all energy-related greenhouse gas emissions—many newer players are now adding their voice to the global conversation.

From public transport agencies to car companies and ride-sharing platforms, clean fuel advocates, maritime transport groups, and electric vehicle proponents, a dizzying array of sector-specific initiatives have emerged over the last few years. Newer city-specific coalitions, such as the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and the Compact of Mayors, have played a critical role in relaying these concerns at the local level. However, global initiatives have been the ones that have seen the most impressive growth. Also in the mix are globally minded, from UN entities to smaller NGOS, as well as region-specific organizations such as regional development banks.

What’s the solution to untangling this web of stakeholders? Over the past six months, the World Bank, with support from the World Economic Forum, has mapped out major transport initiatives and organizations as comprehensively and systematically as possible.

Social inclusion: Let’s do things differently to end poverty!

Maninder Gill's picture

On October 17, 2017, End Poverty Day, 33 World Bank offices in Africa came together to talk about poverty and social inclusion. We were excited of course, but were totally unprepared for what we saw!  The 750 “in-person” participants in the field offices could not get enough of the discussion. Every country made brief but powerful, and highly inspiring, presentations on social inclusion. They highlighted the work of a host of actors—civil society organizations, local communities, faith-based organizations, youth groups, government agencies, and World Bank staff—to make a real difference in the lives of some of the most excluded people in Africa, such as people with albinism, orphans, street children, and women who experience gender-based violence (GBV).

A new generation of CEOs: Running a business in West Africa as a woman

Alexandre Laure's picture

Also available in: Français

What is it like to set up and run an incubator as a woman? The answer, much like anywhere else in the world for working women, is that it’s complicated.

In many countries, it’s still unusual to see women working in certain sectors. Regina Mbodj, CTIC Dakar CEO, knows very few women in Senegal who studied ICT. “When I came home and told people about my studies, a lot of people responded, 'I thought only men did that!'"

Mariem Kane, an engineer by training and now president of Mauritania’s incubator Hadina RIMTIC, said that career development can be difficult for women who have been trained in hard skills. “It’s tough for women to find opportunities in these sectors and, because we’re considered more suited to softer skills, we aren’t given the opportunity to prove ourselves.”

Securing the benefits of development for local communities: A series on social safeguards for social sustainability

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture

Development is challenging even under the best of conditions.  It can be even more difficult when the local context is complex, and when some groups face the risk of losing out as part of the development process.

The World Bank's environmental and social safeguard policies are a cornerstone of its support to sustainable poverty reduction. The objective of these policies is to prevent and mitigate undue harm to people and their environment in the development process.

On the people side, the World Bank has two specific policies that support this objective. These are often referred to as the social safeguard policies – on "Involuntary Resettlement" and "Indigenous Peoples." 

While the implementation of the policies can sometimes be challenging, they have – in the large majority of World Bank-financed projects – made a real difference in peoples’ lives and livelihoods. Together with communities, implementing agencies, and technical specialists, the application of these policies have brought restoration and improvement of livelihoods to families across the world.

We have best practices and many human stories emerging from different parts of the world on the application of these policies that we want to share.  Going forward, we'll share some of these experiences to help promote sustainable development through a “Social Safeguards in Action” blog series.

We want to invite you to follow this “Social Safeguards in Action” blog series – as part of our Sustainable Communities blogs – where we will be illustrating with a variety of examples,  results stories, and in some cases, even unexpected lessons learned that go beyond just doing no harm, in implementation of social safeguard policies in resettlement and Indigenous Peoples in the World Bank.  In the coming weeks, you’ll see examples from India, Kenya, Vietnam, and many other countries.

In 2018, the Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) will come into effect and will gradually replace the Safeguard policies. The two sets of policies will operate in parallel for about seven years. The ESF builds on the experience and the good practice the Bank has developed implementing the Safeguards.


Watch a conversation between World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG) and Director Maninder Gill to learn more about the World Bank’s social safeguard policies on involuntary resettlement and Indigenous Peoples. 

How far are we on the road to sustainable mobility?

Nancy Vandycke's picture
You can now download the full report and explore the main findings on
The answer, unfortunately, is not very. The world is off track to achieving sustainable mobility. The demand for moving people and goods across the globe is increasingly met at the expense of future generations.
That is the verdict of the Global Mobility Report (GMR)—the first ever assessment of the global transport sector and the progress made toward achieving sustainable mobility.
This is the first major output of the Sustainable Mobility for All initiative (SuM4All), a global, multi-stakeholder partnership proposed last year at the United Nations (UN) Climate Action Summit with the purpose of realizing a future where mobility is sustainable. The release of this study puts a sector often overlooked by the international community squarely on the map as essential to address inclusion, health, climate change and global integration.
The report defines sustainable mobility in terms of four goals: universal access, efficiency, safety, and green mobility. If sustainable mobility is to be achieved, these four goals need to be pursued simultaneously.

A new generation of CEOs: Businesswomen in Africa discuss gender inclusion in the private sector

Alexandre Laure's picture

Also available in: Français

As we saw in our second blog, entrepreneurship plays a critical role in promoting sustainable growth. Yet, in many West-African countries, long-standing stigmas against the private sector are still big obstacles for women and young people who aspire to become entrepreneurs.
Family support, in particular, remains critical for women’s career choices, and the private sector doesn’t always enjoy a good reputation among parents. “It’s very hard for them [parents] to understand why we want to do this instead of getting a steady government job,” says Binta NdiayeMakeSense Africa CEO. “My mother is an entrepreneur, but she did that on top of her regular job and raising a family in France, so it’s not seen as a career in-and-of-itself.”
“Entrepreneurship is inherently risky, so if you don’t have that support and encouragement, or even your family’s blessing to go for it, I can understand that it could be extremely challenging for some women,” says Mariem Kane, founder and president of Mauritania’s incubator Hadina RIMTIC.

Ndiaye for one, though, is not deterred: “It’s up to us to educate them on this potential and to have the resolve to follow-through. If you can convince skeptical parents, you can convince any investor.” 
Considering that these incubators are run by women, do they make special efforts to recruit women entrepreneurs?
Lisa Barutel founder and CEO of La Fabrique, acknowledges that even though La Fabrique received a huge response to a recent call for proposals targeting women, far fewer apply to general calls that do not have a specific focus on women entrepreneurship. “Normally we don’t go out looking for candidates, as we can be inundated with applications, but when we noticed this discrepancy, we did launch a program to identify women with potential,” she says.