In many ways, girls’ education is a success story in global development. Relatively simple changes in national policies – like making primary schooling free and compulsory – have led to dramatic increases in school enrollment around the world. In Uganda, for example, enrollment increased by over 60 percent following the elimination of primary school fees.
As more young people have enrolled in school, gaps in educational attainment between boys and girls have closed. According to UNESCO, by 2014, “gender parity (meaning an equal amount of men and women) was achieved globally, on average, in primary, lower secondary, and upper secondary education.”
Yet, more than 250 million children are not in school. Many more drop out before completing primary school. And many young people who attend school do not gain basic literacy skills. These challenges remain particularly acute for poor girls.
In a new paper, published in Population and Development Review, we explore recent progress in girls’ education in 43 low- and middle-income countries. To do so, we use Demographic and Health Survey data collected at two time points, the first between 1997 and 2007 (time 1), and the second between 2008 and 2016 (time 2).
Young women, some still girls, await long-haul truck drivers that stop by a gas station in the State of Tocantins, located in the North region of Brazil. Here, impoverished women and girls look to get extra cash in exchange for sex, a phenomenon seen on a daily basis in small towns along the federal highway BR-153. The high dropout rate of girls and gender-based violence are commonplace there. While better road infrastructure brings more economic opportunities to the region, higher road traffic and activity can also increase social risks like gender-based violence.
A World Bank’s multisectoral project in Tocantins seeks to improve efficiency of road transport, in particular, state and rural road network, and to support institutional strengthening in the following five sectors: public administration, agriculture, tourism, environment, and education. While the project does not include any roadwork specifically on the highway BR-153, it aims at reducing existing risk of gender-based violence along the highway as part of the education component of the project.
Schools play an important role in building respectful relations between girls and boys, challenging gender-based stereotypes and combatting discrimination that contributes to violence against women and girls. Accordingly, based on the level of the dropout rate and violence statistics, six high schools along BR-153 were selected to host a pilot initiative to improve awareness of gender-based violence and in the area.
Women maintaining roads? As their job? Until recently, the idea was pretty much unfathomable in many countries. But in Peru, it isn’t. Since 2001, the Peruvian government and the World Bank have been working hand in hand to ensure female workers can play an active role in the routine maintenance of rural roads. This is part of a broader effort to reduce the gender gap in rural areas, and to improve women’s access to social and economic opportunities.
Over the last two decades, a series of ambitious projects have allowed the rehabilitation 30,000 km of rural roads, and supported maintenance activities along 50,000 km. This type of large-scale road projects has created significant economic and employment opportunities for local communities, and this is why we wanted to make sure women could get their share. To make this happen, we organized trainings, developed specific programs that would improve women’s access to resources, and worked to eliminate the barriers that disadvantaged women (e.g. requirements related to literacy or previous construction experience). The result? In 2013, female participation in rural road maintenance microenterprises reached 27% during the Peru Decentralized Rural Transport Project.
Fish farmers in Jatobá, Northeastern Brazil
As we mark International Women’s Day this week, and its call for bold pragmatic action to accelerate gender parity, the role of law in fighting for the human rights and gender equality of women is paramount.
When governments use the law to discriminate against women in some way that disadvantages them in relation to men, they clearly violate the letter and spirit of Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which reinforces equal protection under the law.
I was in India a few weeks ago and had the chance to visit some rural schools in Uttar Pradesh. When I was there, I met a group of adolescent girls who could potentially help close the country’s gender gap.
These girls board at school, where they get nutritious meals and are able to focus on their studies. The program purposefully targets 11 to 13-year-old girls from poor households who cannot afford to send their daughters to school. Some girls are also at risk of being married off early.
By keeping the girls in school at this critical juncture, they have a chance at a better life.
Parents told me that many of the girls at this boarding school were underweight and malnourished when they arrived. As they studied and ate and slept well, they slowly gained weight and got taller. As their knowledge grew, so did they.
But how many of these girls will go on to fulfil their true potential and add to their family’s income by joining the job market?
Why is gender important for development in environments affected by fragility, conflict and violence (FCV), in the context of your work?
Even though we know that or sexual violence at the hand of a non-partner, we have yet to fully understand the complexity and different manifestations of gender-based violence (GBV) experienced by women and girls in conflict.
We do know that women and girls experience increased violence, because of the breakdown in social fabric that regulates the use of violence, the lack of security and services, and the reality of being forcibly displaced and living in areas where there is no protection. UNHCR estimates that globally, women and girls comprise about half of internally displaced or stateless populations.
We are learning that the Syrian crisis has led to increases in early marriage, and has severely limited women’s mobility. Girls are not given access to education because they are not allowed to leave their homes. Women in Iraq who are widowed enter into temporary marriages to collect dowry and provide food and shelter for their families. While in these temporary marriages, they are often sexually and physically assaulted.
The increased vulnerability of women and girls in FCV and the entrenchment of norms and attitudes that contribute to violence and eat away at women’s autonomy are reasons why it is especially important to always bear in mind how FCV affects women and men, girls and boys differently.
Tell us about your experience working in this area.
I led the creation of the Violence Against Women and Girls Resource Guide which was developed and launched in partnership with the Global Women’s Institute (GWI) at George Washington University, and the Inter-American Development Bank in 2014. The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) joined the partnership in June 2015.
The guide was created to provide basic information on the characteristics and consequences of violence against women and girls, including operational implications. It offers guidance on how to integrate prevention and the provision of quality services to violence survivors within a range of sectoral projects. The guide highlights potential entry points and partners to engage with, while recommending strategies for integrating violence against women and girls into policies and legislation, sector programs and projects. The guide gathers existing global evidence and emerging promising practices, including those implemented by several teams across the World Bank.
In addition, we are partnering with the Sexual Violence Research Initiative out of the Medical Research Council of South Africa to address the dearth of evidence. The Development Marketplace for Innovations to Prevent Gender-Based Violence is funding innovation in GBV prevention and response around the world -- including in FCV countries. Two of the nine projects we funded last year are working with Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Turkey. The funding in Lebanon, for example, will help us better understand the drivers of early marriage and how men, women, boys and girls understand this phenomenon. This information will give us the data we need to design an intervention to address the root causes of early marriage.
How can we take this agenda forward?
The new World Bank Group Gender Strategy and commitments under the International Development Association (IDA) give us the opportunity to continue our research and improve our understanding of the different ways in which FCV affects women and men. We can also integrate into our operations measures to address GBV and increase economic opportunities as well as access to labor markets for women, while also increasing access to assets and services.
I hope to use my experiences of working for almost a decade in humanitarian settings and GBV to provide technical support and share examples of evidence-based interventions that we can use across the World Bank’s programs in FCV to help women and girls in these environments.
- gender equality
- Fragility Conflict and Violence
- International Development Association (IDA)
- Syrian Crisis
- refugee crisis
- VAWG Resource Guide
- violence against women and girls
- Gender-Based Violence
- Sustainable Communities
- #16Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence
- Increases in food expenditures
- Children less likely to be severely underweight
- Improvements in child educational achievements
- Increases in share of expenditures devoted to healthcare
A video went viral yesterday. You may have seen it. It is a remake of the famous 90’s girl-power song “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls. In the video, girls and women from different places of the world sing to the famous tune while showing signs and posters of what they “really really want” for girls.
This campaign has been put together by The Global Goals, an initiative that is working to raise awareness, popular support and global action for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 17 SDGs were adopted by the United Nations in 2015, and each of the goals contain specific global targets to be achieved by 2030. Goal #5 is for gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls.