WASHINGTON, March 5, 2015—This is "the year for action" on gender equality, World Bank Group Senior Director for Gender Caren Grown says, with the launch of new global anti-poverty goals and the 20th anniversary of a landmark platform for action on empowering women.
"We have made great progress in some domains—for instance, in closing gaps between young boys and girls in primary school education," she says. "We’ve started to make progress in secondary school enrolment and completion" as well as maternal mortality in some countries.
"But there are important domains where progress has not happened even with economic growth and even with policy reforms. This is particularly the case with economic opportunity—in labor markets and women’s ownership and control over productive assets such as land and housing."
It's time to turn the targets and promises of the expiring anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action "into real results that empower women and close gaps between men and women" around the world.
"For those of us who have been working in this field, this is the year for action," she says. "I think I’d like to see us move from the 'why it is important' mode into the 'how we do it to get the job done' mode."
Governments will convene this year to adopt new Sustainable Development Goals that will succeed the MDGs, whose most lagging indicators include targets related to women’s health and leadership. They will also mark the 20th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women and its Platform for Action.
Speaking Feb. 27 in Chile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called the Beijing Platform "the international blueprint for gender equality and women’s empowerment," noting that two decades later, "important progress has been made, but it has been slow and uneven."
Significant gains in school enrollment among girls have yet to translate into equal pay, equal opportunities, and an equal chance to make decisions about their own lives, health, and work. Globally, girls and women face multiple constraints resulting from discriminatory laws and customs—curbing their productivity and imposing opportunity and other costs on them, their families, and their economies.
Grown joined the World Bank Group (WBG) in September as its first senior director for gender, after serving as Economist in Residence and Co-Director of the Program on Gender Analysis in Economics at American University. The author/editor of six books, she also served as Senior Gender Adviser and Acting Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment at the US Agency for International Development (USAID).