Given the challenges and risks that girls and women face and must overcome, the global theme of International Women’s Day 2017, #BeBoldForChange, is fitting and a clear call to action. Support to girls and women is key to the World Bank Group (WBG’s) twin goals of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity.
In April 2016, WBG President Jim Kim made the commitment to invest $2.5 billion over five years through education projects that directly benefit adolescent girls. In less than a year, WBG has already committed $600 million in projects that foster positive change through the education and empowerment of adolescent girls. Two of the latest examples include projects in Uruguay and Haiti.
In Uruguay, girls and women face higher incidences of school-related gender-based violence. Their performance in school is negatively impacted by gender stereotyping in curricula, underpinned by a lack of awareness and inclusion in the classroom. This relates directly to gender stereotypes in Uruguayan society which has long-term effects on opportunities for women’s development, such as employment opportunities. Addressing the bias faced by women and girls is a high priority for the government.
The $40 million Improving the Quality of Initial and Primary Education in Uruguay Project will incorporate a series of activities to give teachers new tools to address gender inequality. The project will support training that focuses on fostering awareness of the gender dimensions of learning, especially ingrained social norms about masculinity and femininity. It will also conduct a national study on gender equality that will be used as the baseline for the Gender Equality Action Plan from 2017 to 2020 to address challenges faced by girls at school.
“We hope that this will become a catalyst of long-term solutions such as enhancing access for women to the labor market and prevention of domestic violence against women and girls,” says Reema Nayar, WBG Education Practice Manager for Latin America and the Caribbean.
In Haiti, many girls drop out of school at a young age. This is linked to social factors such as early marriage, where the latest research shows that 17 percent of girls are married by age 18.
The recently-approved $30 million Providing an Education of Quality in Haiti Project includes interventions that will incorporate gender into sanitation infrastructure design, teacher training, and community engagement activities to support children’s access to and successful completion of a quality primary education.
The Haiti Education for All Program helps make it possible for children to attend and complete primary school through a Tuition Waiver Program. One such recipient is 11-year-old Jessica Prudent, Grade 6, who lives in one of the poorest neighborhoods of the capital, Port-au-Prince. With her access to education secured, Jessica is on the way to achieving her dreams.
“I would like to be a nurse so if someone in my family is ill, I can care for them. To succeed, I have to finish school. I must study a lot to move to the next class,” she said. In Haiti, only 50 percent of students successfully reach the end of primary on time, as Jessica has done.
Supporting girls and women through education and activities that promote empowerment
Bold actions to empower girls and women is a global imperative and the World Bank Group’s institutional priorities, analytical work, and investments reflect this: from implementing the Gender Strategy, to delivering situation analysis on keeping girls in school in Zambia and Malawi to supporting Syrian refugee girls to attend school in Lebanon and providing school tuition vouchers for vulnerable adolescent girls in Punjab, Pakistan.