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Results BriefsFebruary 10, 2023

The World Bank stands by Brazilian women, unlocking opportunities and helping them to thrive

Brazilian small farmer Edejane Araujo

Edejane Araújo is the president of the Residents' Association of Olhos D'Água dos Coelhos (Ampoc), which was benefited by Bahia Produtiva Project

André Frutuoso/CAR/SDR Bahia

The World Bank supports Brazil, its states, and municipalities in their effort to help women access jobs, earn opportunities and social services. Women have been benefiting from climate-smart agriculture techniques, access to markets, land titles issued in their names, expanded access to social and healthcare, and safer and reliable public transportation.


Brazil has strong policies protecting women. Actions at the federal, subnational and community levels bring policies into reality. Girls tend to study longer than boys; nearly two-thirds of university graduates in Brazil are female. However, equal access to economic opportunities is still a distant goal. Women earn about 77 percent of men’s wages and are concentrated in low-productivity, low-paying jobs. During the COVID-19 pandemic female labor force participation fell from 66 to 62 percent, and women in service sectors suffered from the virus and economic disruptions. By the end of 2021, women experienced higher unemployment - 13.9 percent (16.6 percent for Afro-Brazilian women) compared to the 11.1 percent country average. Maternal mortality and gender-based violence increased. Afro-Brazilian women face the worst obstacles to accessing health care, services, and jobs. 


The World Bank has made strides in promoting gender equality and contributed to this essential priority using analytics and investments. Its support helped shape policies and programs across Brazil. The financing is used for projects that help increase women’s access to productive opportunities (such as productive farming technologies and land titles), address the risks of violence, and give women better access to social protection and public services. World Bank-supported projects also contributed to fostering women’s participation in decision making. Analytical and advisory work on women’s empowerment and gender-based violence prevention helped guide the directions of investments and inform dialogue with the government ministries, including through project-level Gender Action Plans. Partnerships with donors and regional banks help pilot and scale innovations, including through joint work in the Amazonas.


Between 2011 and 2021, the following results were achieved:

Enhancing women’s access to productive opportunities:

Women family farmer in rural Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

  • State of Rio de Janeiro (photo): 5,280 female family farmers transitioned towards more productive and sustainable farming technologies.
  • Bahia: women were enabled to lead 844 productive associations and obtained more than 30 percent of productive subprojects such as manioc mill investments and agricultural mechanization. Several of these associations were awarded prizes under the World Bank-sponsored “Voz Mulher” (women’s voice) competition. 
  • Piaui: over 1,300 land titles were given to small farmers in the name of both spouses to overcome women’s disadvantage in land access and ensure asset security for women. For female farmers without a spouse, land titles were issued in the women’s names.
  • Cerrado biome: rural territories of traditional peoples and communities were included in the Rural Environmental Cadastre resulting in 94,897 hectares georeferenced and 2,506 families receiving their Cadastre registries, a majority of which were granted to women.

Poverty reduction and human capital formation through women’s access to essential services:

  • The World Bank helped develop and finance the world-famous Bolsa Familia program and build its registry Cadastro Único as the instrument for targeting the program resources to the poor.
  • After 7 years of implementation, the program benefitted nearly 47 million people, of which nearly 24 million were women.
  • The World Bank helped link Bolsa Familia beneficiaries to vaccinations, breastfeeding, access to food, and essential care for mothers and children.
  • The Bolsa Familia was expanded to reach 14 million families when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, as an early response to the economic shock. The World Bank supported the expansion with a US$1 billion Income Support to the Poor project.

Tackling gender-based violence and supporting women in their pursuit of justice:

  • Pernambuco: The World Bank supported the establishment of a Chamber on Violence against Women and the first state level system SeiMulheres to register cases of gender-based violence and act against it.
  • Piauí: state Coordination Agency for Policies on Women (CEPM) was legislated with the World Bank support, to integrate gender equality into state policies in all sectors. CEPM operates through 35 municipalities, providing support and assistance to over 5,500 women.
  • A joint multi-year engagement between the World Bank and Women Secretariat of the National Congress promoted awareness and prevention of gender-based violence among Brazil’s youth. 

Beneficiaries Story/Quote

“Earning our own income makes us feel like we succeeded as women and farmers. Today, we work for ourselves. It is amazing for all women here to sell their products to supermarkets,” says 47-year-old Edejane Araújo. Edejane is the president of the Residents' Association of Olhos D'Água dos Coelhos (Ampoc), in the state of Bahia. With World Bank support through Bahia Sustainable Rural Development Project (Bahia Produtiva), Ampoc leads sales of free-range eggs in supermarkets of Paulo Afonso and Feira de Santana, two of the state’s largest cities. Production is between 120 and 130 dozen per week, while women’s monthly income is at around R$ 800 (US$ 150).

Bank Group Contribution

World Bank financing that included women’s issues as a cross-cutting priority in various sectors reached $3.5B during 2018-2022, across over 20 projects financed by IBRD and/or Trust Funds. Examples include the Pernambuco Equity and Inclusive Growth DPL ($550m), Piaui Green Growth and Inclusion DPL ($350m), First and Second Bolsa Familia loans ($561.7m and $200m) and the $1B Income Support to the Poor project. 


The World Bank’s work on women’s issues is reinforced by assistance from development partners, through joint programs such as the Umbrella Facility for Gender Engagement (UFGE), the Forest Investment Program (FIP), the Brazil Cerrado Climate Change Mitigation Trust Fund and the UK co-financed Smart Mobility Program. They finance studies and technical solutions that benefit women in land management, agriculture, transport, etc. For instance, in Recife, the Smart Mobility Program works to address the specific transport needs of women so that they can use public transportation safely and access better jobs. The World Bank coordinated with Agence Française de Developpement (AFD), Corporacion Andina de Fomento (CAF); Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the German Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW) and the New Development Bank (NDB) to support the expansion of the Bolsa Familia program in response to the COVID-19 shock. Key partners are states and municipalities implementing World Bank-financed projects and civil society and community leaders who bring women’s voices into design and implementation. The World Bank also partnered with the Congress of Brazil in organizing a youth contest promoting awareness and prevention of gender-based violence.

Looking Ahead

Brazil has been one of the leaders among Latin American countries in addressing gender issues and advancing gender equality systematically, through every operation supported by the World Bank. A forthcoming project in the municipality of Belo Horizonte is designed to give priority to women-headed households in accessing professional development and jobs. Going forward, the World Bank plans to focus even more on strengthening opportunities for women by supporting inclusive creation of urban jobs, increasing the efficiency of services in rural areas, and promoting skills acquisition. Knowing that women (as well as youth and Afro- Brazilians) were most deeply affected by past shocks, the World Bank will support measures to reverse the damage and empower Brazilian women, e.g., bringing children to school and ensure high quality of education, facilitating transition from school to jobs and building strong linkages between income support programs and labor market.

Key Words

Women’s economic opportunities, empowerment of women, gender-based violence, access to services, reducing gender gaps

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