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ABCs of IDA - Gender

In the poorest countries, many women lack a voice in their households, communities, and governments, as well as access to resources. Empowering women and girls is not only the right and fair thing to do; it also makes economic sense, since progress in gender equality benefits everyone, not just women and girls. Economies thrive. Women, men, girls, and boys have access to equal opportunities. And communities prosper when women and men are equally empowered.

Gender equality is a key priority for the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the poorest. IDA works to reverse millennia of gender discrimination by getting girls to school, helping women access land titles and financing to start small businesses, and ultimately helping to improve the economic prospects of families and communities.

IDA is uniquely suited to support gender equality outcomes, which requires integrating work across multiple sectors and sustaining efforts over long periods. Progress on key gender indicators—such as girls’ school enrollment and
completion rates, maternal mortality, labor force participation, and asset ownership—also depends on investments
in water, sanitation, transport, productive assets, and access to financial services.

While many agencies cover gender issues in education and health, few can match IDA’s potential to provide complementary support in infrastructure, private sector development, agriculture, and financial service delivery. All are essential to expanding women’s economic opportunities.

There are many challenges to female empowerment, but IDA’s efforts are yielding results. From 2002 to 2012, for example, more than 188 million pregnant women in IDA countries received prenatal care from a health provider. And gender parity in primary schools in IDA countries rose from 91 girls for every 100 boys enrolled to 96 girls for every 100 boys enrolled, from 2000 to 2010.

As the following examples illustrate, IDA is making a difference on gender issues in many countries around the world. Be sure to see our other “ABCs” of IDA, including an overarching ABCs fact sheet, as well as highlights of our work in Africa and on institutional strengthening, and conflict and fragility at at


  • 16,300 women joined savings groups with access to loans between 2010 and 2013; nearly 60 percent of the new enterprise groups are made up of women with access to technical support for rural development projects.
  • 2.7 million girls were enrolled in schools in 2012, up from 191,000 in 2002.
  • 74 percent of health care facilities had at least one female staff member in 2012, up from 54 percent in 2004; the number of health care facilities increased from 496 to 2,047; some 20,000 community health workers— half of them women—have been trained and deployed throughout Afghanistan, increasing access to family planning and boosting childhood vaccinations.
  • 43 percent of births were facility-based in 2012, up from 7 percent in 2004; prenatal coverage was 39 percent, up from 6 percent in 2003.


  • 60 percent of pregnant women slept under bed nets in 2010, up from 20 percent in 2006.

IDA Results on the Ground


  • 25 percent more births were facility-based in 2011 than 2010; prenatal consultations increased by 20 percent, curative care consultations for pregnant women increased by 35 percent, and family planning services obtained through health facilities increased by 27 percent in 2011.


  • 61 percent higher daily incomes were earned between 2008 and 2011 by women trained to use, produce, and sell environmentally friendly clay cook stoves, which cost $1.50 each.


  • 91 percent ratio of girls to boys in grades 1–4 was reached in 2010 from 89 percent in 2006; grades 5-8 increased from 76 percent to 91 percent over the same period.


  • 95 percent gender parity rate was reached in deprived school districts in 2011, up from 92 percent in 2005 and nearing the national average of 97 percent.


  • An IDA-financed project is equipping women with the right skills—both technical and financial—to increase crop yields, access markets, and their incomes.

IDA Results on the Ground

Kyrgyz Republic

  • Close to 1 million women and girls benefited directly from community-based micro enterprises and improved local government between 2007 and 2010.

Lao People’s Democratic Republic

  • 650,000 poor people in remote rural areas gained access to basic services between 2003 and 2011 through a community-driven development project—91 percent of the projects reflected women’s priorities.


  • 900,000 women benefited from a program to boost rural livelihoods, including receipt of microloans, during 2008–12.


  • 600,000 women benefited directly from a program to increase food security and build new livelihoods during 2008–09.
  • Over the last decade, the number of women dying in childbirth has been cut in half; and 44 percent of women have access to skilled prenatal care.


  • 7 percent more births were attended by skilled health staff in a medical institution in 2012 than in 2010; 65 percent of pregnant women received prenatal care, and more than 80 casas maternas were upgraded; 14 percent more women received post-partum care.
  • 42,500 agricultural producers received improved technical assistance, 37 percent of whom are women, between 2007 and 2013.

IDA Results on the Ground


  • 20 million poor people were supported during 2008–12 by a targeted cash transfer program disbursing only to female representatives of eligible families; this program contributed to a 40 percent increase in female registration for national identity cards, which can potentially open avenues for their socio-economic and political empowerment.


  • Some 5,000 rural poor patients, mainly women, received antiretroviral therapy from 2003 to 2008.
  • 68 percent of households that received cash transfers between 2008 and 2012 were headed by women; the safety net program reached half a million people during that period.

Sri Lanka

  • 93 percent of girls completed basic education in 2010, up from 83 percent in 2005.
  • 781 women’s rural development societies were established between 2004 and 2011; 36,000 women were linked through 620 telecenters in 2012.


  • Close to 100 percent gender parity was achieved in primary school in 2012.


  • 32 percent of households in Khanh Hoa and 47 percent in Tien Giang used newly secured land titles as collateral for bank loans between 2007 and 2011; 55 percent of those working in handicrafts and businesses, primarily women, used their land titles to access loans.
  • In 2008, an IDA-supported pilot project in north central Vietnam began instituting an approach to land titling that gives both women and men rights to use land. This still-active land-titling project has increased opportunities for women to use their most productive asset—their land—to generate income.

Yemen, Republic of

  • 53 percent of girls completed primary school in 2010–11, compared with 33 percent in 1999–2000.
  • 39,000 girls attended school in the 2010-11 school year as a result of conditional cash transfers introduced in 2008 and 2009.

IDA Results on the Ground

The International Development Association

The International Development Association (IDA) is a game-changer in the field of development, paving the way for others in the most difficult and complex situations to help hundreds of millions of people escape the cycle of abject poverty.

IDA provides leadership on global challenges. From its support for climate resilience to the creation of jobs to get combatants back into society, IDA rallies others on tough issues for the common good and helps make the world more secure.
  • IDA is transformational. IDA helps countries develop solutions that have literally reshaped the development landscape— from its history-changing agriculture solutions for millions of South Asians who faced starvation in the 1970s to its pioneering work in the areas of debt relief and the phase-out of leaded gasoline.
  • IDA is there for the long haul. IDA stays in a country after the cameras leave, emphasizing long-term growth and capability to make sure results are sustained.
  • When the poorest are ignored because they’re not profitable, IDA delivers. IDA provides dignity and quality of life, bringing clean water, electricity, and toilets to hundreds of millions of poor people.
  • IDA makes the world a better place for girls and women. IDA works to reverse millennia of gender discrimination by getting girls to school, helping women access financing to start small businesses, and ultimately helping to improve the economic prospects of families and communities.
  • Working with the World Bank Group, IDA brings an integrated approach to development. IDA helps create environments where change can flourish and where the private sector can jump-start investment.