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FEATURE STORY

Improving Women's Lives through Evidence

July 25, 2013

“Without hard data and rigorous evidence, we risk our operations not making the changes that women actually need." - Markus Goldstein, Gender Practice Leader and head of the Gender Innovation Lab

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Impact evaluations, a growing class of World Bank research, are linking the far-reaching effects of development programs to the design of projects and policies that address immediate development challenges
  • Through its Gender Innovation Lab, the World Bank is using the research to improve the lives of African women
  • The World Bank has launched a quarterly publication to help policymakers better understand how impact evaluations can improve development outcomes

WASHINGTON, July 25, 2013—In Kenya, vouchers and information provided to high-school and college students help nudge more women into lucrative jobs like motor-vehicle mechanics and driving, jobs traditionally dominated by men.

In Rwanda, improved land tenure security has empowered women land owners to boost their investments in soil conservation by 18 percent – twice the level of men.

And in Uganda, a skills and health training program for teenage girls is dramatically reducing the number who engage in risky sexual conduct.

These positive changes in the lives of women and their communities not only benefit their day-to-day lives, but also highlight the far-reaching impacts of innovative development programs that can be scaled up.

A rapidly growing class of World Bank research, called impact evaluations, links these specific results to the better, more promising design of original projects and policies that address development challenges.

“Impact evaluation provides hard data and rigorous evidence for development practitioners to measure the impact of development policies and interventions,” says David Evans, Senior Economist and head of Impact Evaluation for the World Bank’s Africa Region. “By measuring cause-effect relationships, impact evaluations help guide if a program should be scaled up and how it can be improved.”

The World Bank, through its Gender Innovation Lab, is currently using impact evaluations to improve the lives of African women. The Lab’s work will increasingly incorporate gender research into all areas of the Bank’s development work.

“Without hard data and rigorous evidence, we risk our operations not making the changes that women actually need,” said Markus Goldstein, Gender Practice Leader and head of the Lab.

Results of this work are already being observed in the areas of agricultural productivity, entrepreneurship and employment, and assets, according to Goldstein.

  • Job and life skills training for girls in Liberia and girls’ clubs in Uganda have delivered major increases in work and life prospects.
  • In Malawi, women farmers out-perform male farmers in teaching their peers about improved farming practices when incentives are in place, despite the common perception that women are less capable in this role.
  • A study from Kano, Nigeria, shows that conditional cash transfers can be effective in overcoming common cultural practices that prevent young women from going to school.
  • In Uganda, the difference in earnings between men and women is largely explained by the jobs they choose: Women entrepreneurs in male-dominated sectors do well. But eliminating differences in how men and women choose jobs requires mentorship and exposure early in life.
  • Across Africa, business regulations aren’t what limit women’s businesses the most: Family law, inheritance law, land law, and labor law drive women’s legal opportunities.

“This evidence shows how important gender practice is in all facets of development work, from agriculture to finance to health to social safety nets,” says Goldstein. “Impact evaluations help to document not only what works and what doesn’t to address gender inequality, but also the tangible economic benefits of doing so.”

To help policy makers better understand how impact evaluation can improve development outcomes, the World Bank has launched a quarterly publication called the Africa Impact Evaluation Update. The first update focuses on skills training and cash transfers.

“The purpose of this publication,” according to David Evans, “is for development experts and policymakers to get the evidence they need – easily, rapidly and in plain, non-technical language – to design smart projects that have the biggest impact on people’s lives.”