Despite progress, women and girls in Western and Central Africa have a 58% chance of not being enrolled in secondary school, a 20% chance of starting childbearing as a teenager, and can expect to earn less than their male counterparts.
The World Bank Group is investing in transformative solutions to promote gender equality across the region. Some interventions and reforms demonstrate why investing in women and girls is not only the right thing to do but is smart economics.
Fostering gender equality means working to address the norms, attitudes, and beliefs that hold back women and girls – and that often means changing the minds and behaviors of men.
Despite progress, women and girls in Western and Central Africa have a 58% chance of not being enrolled in secondary school, a 20% chance of starting childbearing as a teenager, and can expect to earn less than their male counterparts, regardless of the sector in which they work.
This is why the World Bank Group is investing in transformative solutions to promote gender equality across the region. As the world marks International Women’s Day, learn more about some interventions and reforms that demonstrate why investing in women and girls is not only the right thing to do, but is smart economics.
In Burkina Faso, a new type of school is transforming the habits and mentalities of married men and future husbands.
Husband schools transforming married men in Burkina Faso
Meet 38-year-old Waimbabie Gnoumou, a farmer and father of eight children who attended the Husbands’ School in his village and realized that he could do a lot to improve his relationship with his two wives and his children.
“I have to admit that I was a bit unkind at home” says Waimbabie Gnoumou, a beneficiary of the project. “I was interested [in the program] because it was a chance to make a change in my life.”
In Nigeria, the benefits of improving education for women is clear. Each additional year of education can increase future income by at least 10% and decrease the chances of maternal death by 20% and fertility rates by 0.26 births.
To help the country achieve more inclusive development, the Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment (AGILE) program is improving access and quality of education to address constraints that girls face and ensure their ability to complete secondary education and fulfill their human potential.
I have to prove myself 200% before being considered for a job as a contractor or a builder. Our society is still in denial about women becoming whatever they wish, irrespective of their skills and potential
Civil engineer and builder, a graduate from one of the African Higher Education Centers of Excellence (ACE) programs
Young women in science breaking the glass walls
“I have to prove myself 200% before being considered for a job as a contractor or a builder. Our society is still in denial about women becoming whatever they wish, irrespective of their skills and potential,” says Sally, a civil engineer and builder who is a graduate from one of the African Higher Education Centers of Excellence (ACE) programs.
Promoting women in science is a key focus of the ACE program. Launched in 2014, the program supports higher skills development in areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. These fields tend to be male dominated, especially in Africa. But across the continent, the ACE program is attracting more and more female students for whom “science has no gender.”
Learn more about the ACE program and read Sally’s impressive story that proves women can succeed in STEM.
Gabon and Cote d’Ivoire championing pro-gender reforms
Gabon, Cote D’Ivoire and other countries in the region were already engaged in gender reforms, but the data from the Women, Business and the Law report provided an opportunity to broaden the scope and accelerate the process to ensure greater equality for women.
As a result, NGOs such as Malachie in Gabon have seen more women come forward to join empowerment programs and take on the work on the ground. For Pepecy Ogouliguende who heads Malachie, « Access to decent jobs and financial resources are major priorities for achieving the goal of gender equality. This law will make women more interested and confident in the reforms underway. They will realize that no plan is being left behind for real inclusion.».
The latest World Bank report highlights thatGabon and Côte d'Ivoire feature amongst the top reformers in Sub Saharan Africa, with four reforms adopted during the past year, increasing their index score from 82.5 to 95 and from 83.1 to 95 respectively. Gabon reached 100 on Pay by mandating equal remuneration for work of equal value and eliminated all restrictions on women’s employment. Gabonese women can now work in industrial jobs and in jobs deemed dangerous in the same way as men. Côte d'Ivoire reached 100 on Entrepreneurship by prohibiting discrimination in access to credit.
The Future of Development is Gender Inclusive
These interventions – and the men and women they support – are helping to foster more inclusive development by addressing the legal reforms, institutional barriers, and social norms that prevent women and girls’ full participation in society. Together, they are helping to close gaps in earnings and economic opportunity, reduce gender-based violence, and empower women and girls’ voice and agency.
But they are just the start of building a more sustainable and inclusive future for Western and Central Africa. Going forward, the World Bank plans to intensify its support to countries to accelerate progress on gender equality. This is the goal of the recently launched Regional Gender Action Plan for Western and Central Africa. As part of this strategy, the World Bank will work with countries across the region to identify the priority areas and issues that will drive transformational change at the scale that women and girls deserve to ensure all people are able to achieve their full potential.