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Equal opportunity to women benefits all

Annette Dixon's picture


Celebrating the women of South Asia

As we today mark UN Women’s Day, it is worth considering what the inequality between men and women costs South Asian countries and what can be done about it. 

One big cost of inequality is that South Asian economies do not reach their full potential. In Bangladesh, for example, women account for most unpaid work, and are overrepresented in the low productivity informal sector and among the poor. Raising the female employment rate could contribute significantly to Bangladesh achieving its goal in 2021 of becoming a middle-income country. Yet even middle-income countries in South Asia could prosper from more women in the workforce. Women represent only 34 percent of the employed population in Sri Lanka, a figure that has remained static for decades.

Economic opportunities for women matter not just because they can bring money home. They also matter because opportunities empower women more broadly in society and this can have a positive impact on others.  If women have a bigger say in how household money is spent this can ensure more of it is spent on children.

Improvements in the education and health of women have been linked to better outcomes for their children in countries as varied as Nepal and Pakistan. In India, giving power to women at the local government level led to increases in public services, such as water and sanitation.

Just as the costs of inequality are huge, so is the challenge in overcoming it. The gaps in opportunity between men and women are the product of pervasive and stubborn social norms that privilege men’s and boys’ access to opportunities and resources over women’s and girls’.

 

The tyranny of the kitchen spoon for Sri Lanka’s women

Dileni Gunewardena's picture
Sri Lankan woman washing lentils ahead of preparing a meal
Sri Lankan woman washing lentils ahead of preparing a meal. Credit: Simone D. McCourtie/World Bank

A common Sri Lankan proverb states that a woman’s wisdom only extends to the length of the kitchen spoon’s handle. With near universal female lower secondary school completion, and more girls than boys receiving tertiary education, the knowledge of Sri Lankan females has clearly moved beyond the length of the kitchen spoon’s handle. However, the evidence suggests that ties to the kitchen spoon may still be keeping Sri Lankan women out of the workforce.

Sri Lanka’s population has more women than men; there are 106 women for every 100 men. But when it comes to the labour force, there are only 54 women per 100 men, and 52 women employed for every 100 employed men. In the last 10 years, the female labour force participation rate has declined slightly from 39.5 percent to 34.7 percent, and the female unemployment rate has been consistently twice that of males during this period or longer[1] So why aren’t Sri Lankan women – who are on average more educated than Sri Lankan men – engaged in the labor force in similar proportions? This question has been raised and discussed in policy circles, gaining momentum in recent times.
 
 

Financial inclusion of women in five charts

Nina Vucenik's picture

Languages: EspañolFrançais,  عربي


One billion women – more than 40% of the women around the world – don’t have access to formal financial services, according to Global Findex.

The gender finance gap remains at 9% in developing countries, although in some parts of the world it is much higher, according to the 2014 Global Findex data.

Women are 20% less likely than men to have a bank account and 17% less likely to have borrowed money formally.

How financially included are women in the world?


Focusing on Universal Financial Access by 2020 in 25 Countries

To reach financial inclusion, the World Bank Group and partners are focusing on 25 countries where 73% of all financially excluded people live, under the Universal Financial Access by 2020 initiative.

The UFA2020 goal is to enable access for all adults, women and men alike, to a transaction account through which they can access other financial services -- such as savings, credit or insurance -- that can help improve the quality of their lives.



The following 4 charts explain how financially included women are in those 25 countries, according to Findex data.

The growing role of women in disaster risk management

Malini Nambiar's picture
Women Community Leaders
Women community leaders. Photo Credit: World Bank


Women are seen in their traditional role of home-makers, but might their ability to take on managerial roles in disaster risk management be underestimated?
 
As part of the India Disaster Risk Management team, I travelled on the “Road2Resilience” bus journey along the entire coast of India. Along with the team’s mission to provide implementation support to the six coastal disaster management projects, I also focused on women’s participation in the mitigation activities of these projects.
 
Women’s participation in Disaster Risk Management in India has been sporadic. However, my interactions with the community - especially women - highlighted how women in coastal India are seriously taking disaster risk management into their own hands.

“We love our daughters. But we need a son.”

Giorgia DeMarchi's picture

“We love our daughters. But we need a son.”

This refrain captures the common sentiment in Armenia, and is at the heart of the growing issue of sex imbalances in the country. Armenia today has one of the most imbalanced sex ratios at birth in the world, with 114 baby boys born for every 100 baby girls, above the natural rate of 105. We recently met with groups across Armenia to dig deeper into the root causes of sex preferences, with the hope of helping find an effective policy solution.
 
This issue has long affected countries like China, India and others in Asia, but it has emerged only recently in the South Caucasus. In Armenia, the ratio of boy births to girl births started increasing in the 1990s, when economic disruption and the desire to have smaller families, combined with the availability of sex detection technology, led many families to choose sex selection in the quest to have a son. The result? A generation of “missing girls,” as Amartya Sen first called this phenomenon.

5 Arab women who are breaking down stereotypes and building their countries

Bassam Sebti's picture

There is a horrible old saying in some Arab countries: Women belong to their homes and husbands only. They shouldn’t be educated, work, or have an opinion. This belief, unfortunately, still dominates some areas in the Arab world. But modern, educated, and strong-willed Arab women and men find this saying backward and unfitting.

Women are 49.7% of about 345.5 million people in the Middle East and North Africa region. Some in the West think of these women as zipped up in a tent in the desert, probably beaten up by their husbands, a stereotype many of today’s Arab women fight and prove wrong.

Yes, there are still many barriers remaining in the way of closing the gender gap in the Arab world, but many advances have been made in education, politics, entrepreneurship, labor, and health. Arab women today are entrepreneurs, leaders, activists, educators, Nobel Prize winners, and much more. They are reshaping their societies and building a better road to gender equality and girl empowerment for generations to come.

Here are some of many stories on how women from different Arab countries are reshaping their societies and fighting gender inequality: