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PRESS RELEASEFebruary 26, 2024

Unlocking the Potential of Women and Adolescent Girls in Madagascar will Reduce Poverty

Antananarivo, February 26th, 2024 –Malagasy women and girls face multiple disadvantages that affect their ability to accumulate human capital in education and health, participate in economic opportunities, and make decisions, according to a new World Bank report “Unlocking the Potential of Women and Adolescent Girls - Challenges and Opportunities for Greater Empowerment of Women and Adolescent Girls in Madagascar”. Women and girls cannot access equal opportunities as men and boys in the country can and are disproportionally affected by the impacts of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, which increases their vulnerability to poverty, violence, and discrimination.

“Investing in the social and economic empowerment of women and adolescent girls can lead to sustainable economic growth and benefit the country. This is the reason why the World Bank is supporting Madagascar through the recent East Africa Girls' Empowerment and Resilience Regional Program (EAGER) and other programs in the portfolio to promote girls' education, increase women's productivity in the labor market, and strengthen the capacity of local administrators, community leaders, and service providers reforms to implement gender equality reforms effectively,” says Atou Seck, World Bank Country Manager for Madagascar.

The report is a mixed-method study that aims to generate knowledge and deepen understanding of gender inequalities in Madagascar, with a particular focus on adolescence. The study identifies factors and strategies that support young women in their decisions about education, work, and family formation. It builds on the most recent survey data, as well as qualitative data collected in Analamanga, Atsimo-Atsinanana, and Sofia. The study involved focus group discussions and in-depth individual interviews with young women, parents of adolescent girls, and key informants, providing a comprehensive understanding of gender inequalities and their drivers in Madagascar.

The report shows that while access to education is a challenge for all in Madagascar, girls face additional gender-specific barriers. There is a significant proportion of adult women (aged 15-49) who are illiterate, with the number reaching a staggering 55.8% in the Menabe region, compared to 26.9% among men. Malagasy women also face challenges in accessing maternal, sexual, and reproductive health services, as indicated by a low percentage of professionally assisted births (45.8%) and a high unmet need for contraception (14.6%). Additionally, 31.1% of girls aged 15-19 have already started having children, which can have long-term adverse effects on their education, health, and employment opportunities, and make them more vulnerable to poverty.

Lack of investment in human capital strongly affects women’s potential to participate actively and productively in economic opportunities. Malagasy women are less likely to participate in the labor market compared to men, with only 71.3% of women participating against 82.4% of men. A significant share of employed women is contributing family workers (14% of women vs. 5% of men) and a lower percentage of women work as wage employees, 24%, compared to men's 35%. Moreover, the gender wage gap persists and stands at 28.9 percentage points in favor of men. High rates of intimate partner violence, with 41% of women ever partnered experiencing at least one form of it, and child marriage, 38.8% of Malagasy women ages 20–24 were first married by the age of 18, further restrict their decision-making power and agency.

The survey data, and even more so the newly collected qualitative data for this report highlight the troubling and deep interconnection between poverty, lack of access to education, an absence of economic opportunities, a lack of agency and voice among girls and child marriage. The report also shows that beyond tackling identified gender gaps directly, underlying drivers of inequalities must also be taken into consideration when crafting relevant policies. Those drivers include patriarchal social norms, a lack of access to basic services, vulnerability to shocks and climate change as well as poverty and a lack of both economic and social capital among the most vulnerable,” says Miriam Muller, Senior Social Specialist and author of the report.

To narrow existing gender gaps, the report identifies four strategic directions that include assisting girls and young women in completing schooling, improving women’s and girls’ access to professional health care, enhancing women’s economic opportunities, and improving women’s and girls’ voice and agency, and eliminating all forms of gender-based violence.



In Madagascar
Dia Styvanley
+261 32 05 001 27
In Washington
Daniella van Leggelo-Padilla


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