Country Director for the World Bank in Sri Lanka and the Maldives
The Launch of the Joint Knowledge Sharing Partnership between the Marga Institute and the World Bank.
March 8, 2010
Ms. Myrtle Perera, Vice Chairperson, Marga Institute
Prof. Chandra Gunawardena, Course Design Specialist, Distance Education Modernization Projets
Marga Institute and World Bank Colleagues
It is my pleasure to join you here today to celebrate two significant events. One is the signing of Memorandum of Understanding between the Marga Institute and the World Bank. This is to establish a partnership to share, manage and disseminate knowledge and information. The second is to celebrate the International Women’s Day by reflecting together the significance of education in women’s lives.
Let me start with the signing of knowledge partnership. Marga Institute has been the World Bank Depository Library since the 1970s. We would like to further extend our partnership by providing Marga Institute with further access to the World Bank’s large repository of knowledge and information products. We hope this partnership will strengthen Marga’s role as a pivotal centre for the dissemination of information and research on development.
At this critical time of transition to a country in lasting peace, Sri Lanka should best utilize the power of knowledge sharing for development and reconciliation. In line with this thinking, we will launch Development Resource Facility partnerships with the Department of Economics of University of Colombo and with the Public Library in Batticaloa in the near future. We trust these three centres will play a key role in establishing a national network of development information dissemination.
Now, let’s reflect on the women’s role in development when celebrating International Women’s day.
Sri Lanka is the best performer in South Asia, when we look at indicators measuring the capacity of women, measured by how long they live, how educated they are and if they have a decent standard of living. Sri Lanka ranks 99th out of 155 countries on the Human Development Index (HDI).
However, when we measure if women in Sri Lanka have exercised those capacities in economic and political life, the picture looks very different. The Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) tracks the share of seats in parliament held by women; the share of female legislators, senior officials and managers; and that of female professional and technical workers, and the gender disparity in earned income, reflecting economic independence. Sri Lanka ranks 98th out of 109 countries in the GEM.
Interestingly my home country, Japan, has very low GEM value, which reveals both Japan and Sri Lanka have serious gender imbalance not in acquiring capacities but in exercising them.
Another similarity between Sri Lankan and Japanese society is rapid aging. Our recent study of aging highlights the growing economic strains on the family with old aged dependents, and the brunt of the burden born by the women at those families. Multi-dimensional policy response is very much needed.
The World Bank is a firm believer that empowering women bring about sustainable development. Let me bring to your attention a few examples of how the World Bank mainstreams gender in our projects, and by doing so, achieve better results in development.
One such example is the Women Development Federation (WDF), popularly known as Janashakthi Bank in Hambantota. The World Bank provided assistance under the Japanese Social Development Fund mainly for capacity building and access to credit. The WDF is managed by the women themselves who belong to the lower income groups in one of the less developed areas of the country.
During the period 2003-07, WDF expanded their activities to two other DS divisions; Walasmulla and Ambalanthota. They managed to increase their membership by 5,400 and establish 160 village societies in those areas. They also set up 737 small enterprises while handing out a large number of cultivation loans. The business activities are wide ranging from food and beverage, manufacturing, trading, and handicrafts.
Another example is the World Bank-supported Gemidiriya project, which has empowered women to participate in economic activities at decision making levels. Women together with youth now comprise 66 percent of decision-making positions at the village level.
The most recent example is the Cash for Work program under the Emergency Northern Recovery Project. I was in Mulaittivu and Kilinochchi 10 days ago to see how Cash for Work program is helping newly resettled villagers. Currently about 70 percent of program participants are women. I was very happy to see women are actively participating in village discussion on prioritization of community infrastructure work and problem solving.
I would like to leave the more structured presentation on gender in Afghanistan to my colleague, and to Prof. Gunawardena to present on the Sri Lankan case. I hope today’s session will feed into an ongoing debate and discussion that can be captured and used in evidence-based policy making.