Context | Strategy | Results | Partners
The World Bank’s Africa Region Gender Innovation Lab (GIL) sits squarely at the intersection of policy and operations. Our aim is to enable project teams and policymakers to advocate for better gender integration from a position of evidence. In close collaboration with project teams, the GIL designs, launches, and oversees impact evaluations of new interventions to generate knowledge on which policies work (or not) for closing gender gaps in the economic sectors. We also conduct impact evaluation workshops and other capacity building activities, so that others can contribute to and better interpret the knowledge base. Finally, we leverage the evidence to promote the uptake of effective gender policies throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.
The work of the GIL is motivated by gender equality as a fundamental development objective and because it provides significant instrumental benefits: equal opportunity for men and women enhances productivity and improves many other development outcomes (See more in the World Bank’s 2012 World Development Report: Gender Equality and Development ). While Africa is edging towards better outcomes on gender equality, notably in primary education enrollment, severe disparities remain.
In many Sub-Saharan Africa countries, girls are much less likely than boys to be enrolled in secondary education. Women in Africa do not have access to nearly as much credit, fertilizer or land as men do, stifling their productive power. In Nigeria, for instance, female farmers make 60 cents for every dollar earned by male farmers. Female entrepreneurs in Ethiopia make 34 cents for every dollar earned by male entrepreneurs. Social norms and economic pressures limit girls’ and women’s control over resources and their ability to determine their own paths. For examples, 81% of Ethiopian women ages 15-49 think that being beaten by their husbands is a justifiable punishment for disagreeing with him, burning the food or refusing to have sex. In 16 Sub-Saharan African countries, less than half of the widows surveyed (or their children) report having received any of their late husband’s assets. In Ghana, married women who bring home all household income are still responsible for 80% of the care work.
At the same time, thoughtful policies have been shown to rapidly reverse trends of gender inequality. The GIL specializes in generating knowledge about policy solutions for gender equality in the economic sectors - agriculture, private sector development, property rights, and youth employment – to complement gender and development efforts within and outside the World Bank. The GIL is committed to asking the tough questions about why gender gaps persist and developing solutions – in other words, finding policies that tackle the underlying causes of gender inequality, and not simply its symptoms.
Large gaps remain in knowing what works best for closing gender differences, what doesn’t work, and why. The Gender Innovation Lab (GIL) is spearheading efforts to identify scalable solutions for women’s economic empowerment in Africa, to help policymakers and development practitioners to better address gender constraints.
The GIL is currently working on more than 40 impact evaluations in 20 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa, in the following thematic areas:
Current status: We know that in Africa, women are less productive farmers than their male peers – on average, 26% less in Ethiopia, and 17% less in Ghana. This is because women are concentrated in low value crops, lack access to critical productive inputs such as fertilizer, secure land and credit; face time constraints because of care responsibilities; adopt agricultural innovations at lower rates; and face both explicit and implicit discrimination in the delivery of services.
Knowledge gaps: Productivity on farms in Sub-Saharan Africa could increase between 10 and 30 percent if women used inputs at the same rate as men, but we still do not know how best to provide women with consistent access to these inputs.
- PRIVATE SECTOR DEVELOPMENT
Current status: We know that women’s participation in entrepreneurial activities is higher in Sub-Saharan Africa than in any other region – they make up over 50% of the non-farm labor force. However, female owned businesses’ performance is lower than men’s, and throughout Africa, the gender gaps in labor productivity and profitability are very large. Women are more likely to be in smaller, informal firms, and in low value-added industries.
Knowledge gaps: While we know that under similar conditions women-owned businesses can perform as well as male-owned, we do not know which barrier (credit, skills, etc.) should be addressed first and how to screen entrepreneurs to ensure effective targeting.
- PROPERTY RIGHTS
Current status: The ability of African women to make decisions and control their own property is often constrained within the household, communities, and society at large. These restrictions affect productive investments and thus, women’s economic opportunities and those of their households. In Malawi, 34% of married women are not involved in their households’ spending decisions, while in Kenya, women account for as little as 5 percent of registered landholders. Of 48 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, 15 still have laws that allow husbands to retain most of the control over marital assets.
Knowledge gaps: While we have made some progress toward equality of men and women under the law, we don't know how to ensure that women know and make use of the tangible benefits of legal reforms, especially in areas where customary law still holds sway.
- YOUTH EMPLOYMENT
Current status: There has been significant progress over the past decade in girls’ enrollment in primary and secondary school, but the gender gap remains stark between young women and men who transition into productive work. Adolescent girls tend to have more household responsibilities than boys do, they may not be as qualified for jobs, and social norms about women’s roles in the workplace limit their opportunities.
Knowledge gaps: We know that reaching girls during adolescence is critical for their health and social and economic wellbeing. We don’t know what the most effective (and cost-effective) ways are to empower young women as they consider their opportunities for the future.
To meet the needs of a range of audiences, the Gender Innovation Lab packages impact evaluation findings into a variety of knowledge products:
- Policy briefs: Crisp and comprehensible summaries of impact evaluations and their findings, with a strong emphasis on the resulting policy advice. See all GIL policy briefs.
- Research Working papers: Detailed reports of impact evaluations methodology, analysis, results and policy implications. See all GIL working papers.
- Synthesis papers: Studies analyzing data from multiple reports in order to identify larger trends across a particular region and theme, with emphasis on drawing policy recommendations. In March 2014, the GIL partnered with the ONE Campaign to launch Leveling the Field: Improving Opportunities for Women Farmers , a synthesis paper analyzing productivity differences across six African countries and highlighting the relevant policy implications. Since gender is such a cross-cutting issue, the GIL also provides expertise across a variety of other sectors, such as contributing chapters to the regional report Women and Trade in Africa: Realizing the Potential.
- Datasets: Survey data from the GIL’s impact evaluations. Coming soon
In addition, the enGENDER Impact database provides concise summaries of World Bank gender impact evaluations, including those carried out by the GIL.
The GIL works in partnership with units across the World Bank, aid agencies and donors, governments, non-governmental organizations, private sector firms, and researchers.
The GIL is supported through the World Bank Group's Umbrella Facility for Gender Equality (UFGE) and in partnership with the United Kingdom and United States. Established in July 2012, the UFGE is an important catalyst for work that pushes the frontiers of gender equality and promotes smart project design by equipping policymakers and development experts with data, knowledge and evidence. Funding is made possible through generous contributions from the governments of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.