Many countries struggle with creating more and better jobs, especially when they try to increase the number of women in the labor market. Integrating women from more traditional, rural communities is especially difficult. And, if we are talking about a country with the second lowest female labor participation in the world, it might seem like an impossible task. This is exactly the situation that Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan faced a few years ago, and today they provide an interesting example of how innovative policies can address this challenge.
Goma is a girl, born in rural Kalikot. Her parents are illiterate, belong to the Dalit community and are in the bottom 20 percent of Nepal’s wealth distribution. Champa is also a girl born to a household very similar to Goma’s, but her parents are from a village in Siraha. Avidit is a boy born to an upper caste household in urban Kathmandu. Both his parents have a university education and come from affluent backgrounds.
In a society where opportunities are equally available for children of all socio-economic backgrounds, Goma, Avidit and Champa would all have equal odds of becoming doctors, or engineers or successful entrepreneurs. But in Nepal, the life trajectory of these children begins to diverge very early in life.
When I was teaching at the University of Indonesia, my country was the poster child for economic development. Indonesia was growing robustly – as high as 9% in the 1990s. Poverty was falling. But Indonesia was rife with corruption, cronyism, nepotism and fear under President Suharto’s authoritarian rule. Parliament had no checks and balances. There was no accountability or transparency. A few powerful families controlled the economy. The financial crisis in 1998 triggered the nationwide student protests — known as the "reformasi" movement. I joined the students demanding change. We protested until Suharto resigned.