Equality between men and women matters for development, which is why the 2012 World Development Report (WDR) will focus on this vital topic. Since the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day is March 8, we thought it an auspicious day to launch the WDR 2012 website. 
Gender was chosen as the focus for next year’s WDR in part because gender equality can lead to better development outcomes and because, as Amartya Sen asserted, development is a process of expanding freedoms equally for all individuals. This view assumes that gender equality is a core goal in and of itself and that people’s welfare shouldn’t be determined by their birthplace or whether or not they were born male or female.
The 2012 WDR will analyze the wide swath of literature on gender and development and it will highlight the impressive progress in gender indicators on many fronts. However, it will also reveal that in many domains—whether in the realms of power and decision making or maternal health – outcomes for women have improved very slowly or not at all.
To successfully reduce poverty, we must have an accurate sense of the differences in the status of women and men in key areas, including population and families, health, education, work, power and decision-making, violence against women, environment and poverty. In addition to updating our knowledge in these key areas, the team working on the report will also look at the interplay of households, markets, and institutions and how they determine the prospects of men and women. Using this analysis, they will provide guidance as to how governments might go about choosing and designing policies that will promote better gender outcomes.
The WDR 2012 will break new ground by drawing from a rich array of new research, including a multi-country qualitative study of gender and economic choices, which provides a first-hand sense of how men and women “do gender” in their everyday lives and how their roles are changing. The effort encompasses field research in 19 countries in six developing regions, with 500 focus groups in 98 communities. More than 100 local researchers talked with 4,000 individuals of all ages, locations, income levels, ethnicities and religions.
Check out the new WDR 2012 website  – the cause of gender equality is a worthy one.
After all, as Mao said, women hold up half the sky.