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Gender Overview

Many more girls are going to school and living longer, healthier lives than 30 or even 10 years ago. But this has not translated into broader gains. Too many women still lack basic freedoms and opportunities and face huge inequalities in the world of work. Girls and women have far fewer assets and opportunities. They typically farm smaller plots, work in less profitable sectors, and face discriminatory laws and norms that constrain their time and choices, as well as their ability to own or inherit property, or open a bank account. Many lack any say in their own homes, in their communities, in their countries, while hundreds of millions of girls and women have experienced gender-based violence.

Progress toward gender equality is a prerequisite to achieving the World Bank Group’s twin corporate goals: ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity. Public and private policies and actions can promote equality, starting early and extending over a lifetime. Leadership, innovation, and scaled-up efforts are needed. This agenda is urgent, and failure to fully take up the challenge would represent a huge missed opportunity.

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim has made strong commitments on gender, highlighting a need for better data that measures equality for women and girls. The World Bank is committed to improving data collection in 10 countries this year, in key areas such as women's earnings, property ownership, and political voice. Next year, the Bank will target 10 additional countries, and add more each year.

Last Updated: Mar 20, 2014

The World Bank Group has made a number of specific corporate commitments on gender, most importantly during the 16th replenishment of IDA, the World Bank's fund for the poorest countries, and through the Corporate Scorecard. Implications of WDR 2012: Gender Equality and Development outlines five strategic directions that help operationalize WDR 2012 findings.

Operational Guidance Notes

Operational Policies with Gender Relevance describes the policy framework for mainstreaming gender issues in the World Bank's work and how this policy framework is implemented in the current context of the country driven results-based agenda.

A Guidance Note for Task Team Leaders describes the new flag to facilitate tracking of gender in operations.

Good practice notes for integrating gender into:

Sample exercises for integrating gender into:

Last Updated: Mar 20, 2014

Key Corporate Targets and Indicators

The World Bank Group’s key corporate targets have been met. Further deepening and greater attention to impacts and results on the ground are needed in the period ahead.

Performance on Gender Mainstreaming

All country assistance strategies discussed in the last year were gender-informed—meaning gender has been integrated into the analysis. Some 86 percent were rated highly satisfactory, integrating gender in analysis, program content, and monitoring and evaluation.

Progress in Gender-Informed Lending

The total share of lending that was gender-informed rose from 54 percent to 98 percent between FY10 and FY13, or nearly US$31 billion in FY13. Ninety-three percent of operations in fragile and conflict-affected states were gender-informed in FY13, up from 62 percent in FY10. Twenty out of 21 operations in conflict-affected states in Africa were gender-informed in FY13.

Gender integration in lending has deepened, with around 54 percent of FY13 operations including gender-informed analysis, actions, and monitoring and evaluation, more than double the FY10 share of 20 percent. In sum, more lending operations have included follow-up actions to address identified gender disparities. This is true across all groups of clients and sectors.

Gender-Based Violence

Gender-based violence (GBV) is a relatively new area of strategic focus for the World Bank Group. Prior to 2012, Bank projects that addressed GBV were typically subcomponents within larger projects, or primarily financed by trust funds. Since 2012, the number of investments is rising and an increasing numbers of projects and DPLs have a GBV focus. Over the last year, 10 new projects focusing on sexual or gender-based violence and totaling almost US$19 million were approved. Going forward, the World Bank will scale up commitments on this front as part of a broader effort toward gender equality.

Economic and Legal Empowerment

Gender equality in the world of work is at the forefront of World Bank Group efforts to address inequality as a whole. A new companion to the 2013 World Development Report on Jobs, Gender at Work, highlights priority areas for action. In 2013, the Bank launched two new open databases: enGENDER IMPACT, a repository of impact evaluations with key findings gathered from Bank and partner projects; and ADePT Gender, which houses a growing volume of gender data and produces quick, standardized analytical reports including cross-country labor force statistics.

According to the IFC’s Women, Business and the Law 2014 report, 128 of 143 economies for which data were available had at least one legal difference on the books in how men and women were treated in 2013. Women are disadvantaged by five or more legal differentiations in 54 economies, half of which had 10 or more legal differences on the books. Over the last year, the World Bank Group has scaled up projects and research aimed at leveling the legal playing field.

In 2008, the World Bank launched the Adolescent Girls Initiative in eight low-income countries to promote the transition of young women from school to productive employment, reaching some 17,000 girls. The first pilot, the Economic Empowerment of Adolescent Girls and Young Women (EPAG) project in Liberia, aims to increase young women’s wage- or self-employment by training them in business development skills, job skills, and life skills. The program has led to a 47 percent increase in employment among trainees, increased average weekly income by 80 percent, and significantly increased savings among girls.

Women’s Voice, Agency and Participation

The World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development recognized that expanding women's agency—their ability to make choices about their own lives and then act on them—is vital to improving the lives of women, their households, and their communities. In recognition of the need for focused attention, the World Bank Group is developing a major new report on Women's Voice, Agency and Participation, to be released in spring 2014.

The report will focus on five of the many "expressions" of agency where major challenges persist globally: freedom from violence, so that women do not experience this most basic violation of their rights; women's access to and control over land, which provides security, increases bargaining power at home and in the community and facilitates access to markets; having voice in society and influencing policies, which can advance more transformative policies and programs; freedom of movement, another precursor to women's full participation in their communities and societies; and decision making over family formation, which can impact women's and children's health, bargaining power at home and their ability to go out to work.

Umbrella Facility for Gender Equality

Established in July 2012, the Umbrella Facility for Gender Equality (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. The UFGE has received generous contributions of US$45 million from 12 country donors. It now has over 50 active grants in more than 40 countries. At the country and regional level, recent highlights include:

  • A new report that shines a spotlight on deep-rooted gender gaps in African agriculture, identifies factors holding back women farmers, and sets out concrete steps for policymakers to reduce inequality: “Levelling the Field: Improving Opportunities for Women Farmers in Africa
  • Piloting electronic public information points on the national Anti-domestic Violence Law in select train stations in Brazil through the Enhancing Public Management for Service Delivery in Rio de Janeiro Program.
  • Road-testing skill straining interventions in Haiti and Liberia, targeting young women by applying lessons from past pilots. Seven impact evaluations are also under way to help expand the evidence base on what works for youth employment programs.


Last Updated: Mar 26, 2014
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Around The Bank Group

Find out what the Bank Group's branches are doing on Gender.