As a region, East Asia and the Pacific has experienced faster growth and poverty reduction than any other region. This has contributed to narrowing of gender gaps in several areas, most notably in education and health. However, important challenges remain to achieve gender equality in the region, and growth and development alone are not sufficient to reach equality in all dimensions and for all women. Gender gaps in economic opportunity and influence in society have proven particularly persistent. Gaps in access to basic education remain in a few countries where overall enrollment rates are also relatively low; in several countries, gaps persist among specific sub-groups–like ethnic minority groups. Maternal mortality remains high in several countries and over a million girls are never born due to strong son preference.
Women still earn less than men for similar work–around 70% to 80%, on average–and female workers are more likely than men to work as unpaid family labor or in the informal sector. Overall, women still own less land and have weaker access to productive inputs. Women continue to have weaker voice and influence than men in the home, in politics, and in civil society. And violence against women remains high. If societies in East Asia and Pacific were to allocate resources on the basis of people’s skills and abilities, rather than by their gender, per worker productivity could increase by as much as 7% to 18%, with important implications for shared growth and poverty reduction.
The EAP region of the World Bank Group recognizes the important role for public action to ensure continued progress towards gender equality and it continues to increase and deepen attention to gender in its portfolio. In fiscal year 2013 alone, 98% of all new lending and grants in the region were allocated to gender-informed operations across the various sectors (up from 65% in FY10).
Gender issues in the EAP Region reflect the diversity of country contexts with significant disparities between middle and low income countries. The Region therefore takes a highly country-specific approach to addressing disparities and catalyzing change. In fiscal year 2013, a total of 12 countries prepared Country Gender Action Plans (C-GAPs) including country level gender monitoring frameworks to track progress.
The regional program is informed by various gender diagnostics, not least the companion to the World Development Report 2012: Toward Gender Equality in East Asia and the Pacific.
IBRD and IDA projects are contributing to achievements in each of these priority areas:
- In Cambodia, the share of births delivery by trained health personnel increased from 65% in 2009 to 85% in 2013 during the implementation of the Cambodia Second Health Support Program.
- In Lao PDR, the share of women going through labor in the past 12 months that delivered in a health facility increased from 20 % in 2010 to 34% in 2014, in areas served by the Community Nutrition Project.
Access to economic opportunities
- The Community Driven Development Project KALAHI-CIDSS led to a 5.8% increase in women’s labor force participation compared to what would have happened without the project.
- In the Solomon Islands 287,000 work-days were created during 2010-12, and more than 4,500 people–57% women and 50% young people–were trained and employed through the Rapid Employment Project.
- Hundreds of thousands women are being reached through World Bank Group-supported microfinance activities in the region, including in Vietnam, Mongolia, Indonesia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea and in Timor Leste.
- In 2013, 18,389 women gained an income from actively participating in the maintenance of 2,659 km of rural roads across 24 districts under the “Women self-managed road program”, which is coordinated by the Provincial Women’s Union under the Vietnam Third Rural Transport Project.
Voice and participation
- The Poverty Reduction Fund in Lao PDR builds in a mechanism which favors proposals for public services and small scale infrastructure identified by women in poor rural communities. 650,000 poor people in remote areas gained access to basic services between 2003 and 2011 and 91% of the projects reflected women’s priorities.
- Investments in analysis of how to integrate gender in disaster risk management supported policy dialogue and operations across the region. As a result example, when in July 2013, Kwaibaita River Flash Floods struck the Malaita province in the Solomon Islands, thanks to prior training provided to government staff on “Gender and Protection in Emergencies”, women were for the first time included on the assessment team.
Highlights of results from IDA countries:
- Cambodia: Share of births delivered by trained health personnel increased from 65% to 85% between 2009 and 2013.
- Lao PDR: Share of women giving birth in a health facility increased from 20% to 34% between 2010 and 2013 in areas under the Community Nutrition Project.
- Solomon Islands: 2,565 women trained and employed.
- Lao PDR: 650,000 people gained access to basic services through a project that developed priorities chosen by women.
- Vietnam: 18,389 women gained an income from maintenance work of 2,659 km of rural roads.