Accelerating gender equality generates large economic gains. No society can develop sustainably without supporting opportunities, resources, and choices for men and women so that they have equal power to shape their own lives and contribute to their families, communities, and countries.
Women’s employment can be a central driver of inclusive growth. On average across countries, long-run GDP per capita would be almost 20% higher if gender employment gaps were closed. Studies estimate economic gains in the order of $5-6 trillion if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate men do.
Gender equality and empowerment are central to addressing crises, from food insecurity and climate change, to conflict, fragility and violence. In addition, leveraging women’s economic empowerment in the productive sectors, including agriculture and goods and services produced in the formal and informal sectors by entrepreneurs are contributing to improved food security, job creation, productivity growth and private sector development. Women’s leadership can enhance long-term economic, environmental, and social outcomes, as well as governance gains: it is correlated with higher net profit margins for firms and lower CO2 emissions.
Investments, reforms, and interventions are needed to: a) strengthen and protect human capital, including by addressing gender-based violence; b) boost assets, earnings and the productivity of women farmers, entrepreneurs, and businesses; c) expand female labor force participation and employment; and d) promote women’s leadership, engagement and participation in decision making in communities, businesses, and the public sector.
The World Bank Group (WBG) is increasing its focus on gender equality in fragility, conflict, and violence (FCV), ensuring services and interventions based on gender-differentiated impacts and needs, better evidence on the gender dimensions of FCV, and promotion of women's leadership and empowerment as essential to security and prosperity. For example, the WBG has generated groundbreaking research on the gender dimensions of forced displacement that will help inform operations.
The WBG recognizes the underlying social norms that often constrain or enable gender equality. Operations increasingly apply behavioral insights and engage men and boys to improve gender outcomes.
The WBG’s work on gender is an ambitious and shared commitment across the institution. In 2022, the Bank launched the year-long #AccelerateEquality initiative, which explores the progress made and lessons learned over the last 10 years in closing gender gaps and promoting girls’ and women's empowerment. The WBG is leveraging the lessons learned from this year-long initiative to inform the update to the WBG Gender Strategy, which will be launched in 2024.
Persistent Challenges | Human Development
Globally, progress has been made in improving access to quality health services for women and girls, yet much remains to be done.
Almost all maternal deaths can be prevented. According to data collected before the pandemic, maternal mortality was on the decline globally, decreasing to 211 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2017, from 342 in 2000. Over the past decade, South Asia and Europe and Central Asia have seen the most improvement, decreasing their maternal mortality rates by 31% and 23% respectively. And although sub-Saharan Africa has the highest maternal mortality and adolescent fertility rates of any region in the world, these rates have continued to decrease over the last decade by 15% and 13%, respectively.
Across the globe, births attended by a skilled health professional increased from 63% in 2000 to 81% in 2018. The numbers are still lower but improving in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Furthermore, women comprise 70% of the global health and social care workforce, however, they only hold around 25% of decision-making posts.
There have been concrete improvements in some aspects of adolescent sexual and reproductive health, rights and wellbeing. Although fertility among young people has slowly and steadily declined, girls living in Sub-Saharan Africa have the highest fertility in the world, with one quarter giving birth before the age of 18. High unmet need for contraceptives remains particularly acute among adolescents. It is estimated that, of at least 10 million unintended pregnancies among adolescents each year, 5.6 million end in abortion, with the vast majority being unsafe abortions.
Enabling women and girls to make decisions over their own bodies and health is key to improve health outcomes. Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among adolescent girls in developing countries. Children born to adolescents are also more likely to have a low birth weight, increased child morbidity and poor nutritional outcomes, including stunting. Adolescence is a period in which health behaviors are established and it is estimated that nearly 35% of the global burden of disease has roots in adolescence.
In Burkina Faso, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger, the Sahel Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Dividend (SWEDD) project is aimed at enhancing women and adolescent girls’ empowerment; increasing access to quality reproductive, child, and maternal health services; and improving regional knowledge sharing globally. More than 200,000 girls across project countries have benefited from schooling-related interventions; 400 health and midwifery training institutions have been evaluated and equipped across the region; and 3 centers of excellence in Niger, Cote d’Ivoire, and Mali have been launched, offering for the first time in the Sahel a Master’s program on Nursing and Obstetrics. Simultaneously, thousands of young boys and men have contributed to discussions about reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health, and about gender, power, and healthy couple dynamics as brothers, husbands, and fathers.
=> Read the Gender Innovation Lab Federation Causal Evidence, "Policy Lessons on Empowering Adolescent Girls"
The World Bank’s Meghalaya Health Systems Strengthening Project in India is helping to review HR policy to promote women’s entry, transition, and career advancement, including through preferential clauses in the PPP contracts for women professionals. This is also expected to encourage women patients to utilize health services, particularly pregnant women and at the village level.
In Niger, the Improving Women's and Girls’ Access to Improved Health and Nutrition Services program will use innovative and comprehensive nutrition and health interventions to improve health system efficiency, equity, and sustainability, as well as boost girls’ and women’s empowerment.
While there has been steady and significant improvement in education outcomes, including increasing access and improving learning for girls and young women globally, progress is still lagging on some key indicators for girls’ education, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia and in contexts of fragility, conflict and violence.
Globally, girls continue to lag substantially behind boys in secondary completion rates, and gender bias in the education system reinforces occupational segregation. When gender stereotypes are transmitted through the design of classroom learning environments or through the behavior of faculty, staff, and peers, it has sustained impacts on academic performance and field of study, especially in STEM fields. A recent World Bank study estimates that the “limited educational opportunities for girls and barriers to completing 12 years of education cost countries between $15 trillion and $30 trillion dollars in lost lifetime productivity and earnings.”
Poverty remains the most important factor for determining whether a girl will access an education. Recent research looking at data from 24 low-income countries shows that, on average, only 34% of girls in the poorest-quintile households in these countries complete primary school, compared with 72% of girls in the richest-quintile households. Girls who face multiple sources of disadvantage such as income level, location, disability, and/or ethno-linguistic background are farthest behind.
Girls’ education goes beyond getting girls into school. It is also about ensuring that girls learn and feel safe while in school; have the opportunity to complete all levels of education; acquire the knowledge and skills to compete in the labor market; learn the socio-emotional and life skills necessary to navigate and adapt to a changing world; make decisions about their own lives; and contribute to their communities and the world.
A new generation of World Bank Education operations – for example, in Angola, Nigeria, and Tanzania – have integrated evidence-based interventions to provide safe spaces for girls in schools, improve girls' sexual and reproductive health, and target teachers to change norms. The WBG is continuing to test innovative programming and embed lessons learned on what works to promote women and girls’ educational outcomes in operations to ensure a “virtuous cycle” of enhanced knowledge and impact.
Challenges in Girls’ Education: The Numbers Tell the Story
- There are over 129 million girls out of school worldwide: approximately 32 million of primary-school age, and 97 million of secondary-school age. In South Asia, approximately 46 million primary and secondary school age girls are out of school. In Sub-Saharan Africa, that number is 52 million.
- While there are similar rates for primary completion globally (90% male, 89% female), in low-income countries, female school completion is lower – 36% compared with males at 44% at the secondary school level.
- In contexts of fragility, conflict, and violence (FCV), girls are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys, and at the secondary level, are 90% more likely to be out of secondary school than those in non-FCV contexts.
- It has been estimated that two-thirds of the world’s illiterate population are women. The literacy rate (above 15 years old) for females is only 83% compared to 90% for males.
- Both boys and girls are facing a learning crisis. Learning Poverty (LP) measures the share of children who are not able to read proficiently at age 10. While girls are on average 4 percentage points less learning-poor than boys, the rates remain very high for both groups. The average of LP in LMICs is 59% for boys compared to 55% for girls. The gap is narrower in low-income countries, where LP averages about 93% for both boys and girls.
=> Read the Gender Innovation Lab Federation Causal Evidence brief, "Policy Lessons on Improving Education Outcomes”
Economic opportunities / jobs
Gender gaps in economic opportunities persist across all regions and have remained largely stagnant over the last three decades, as demonstrated by a large gap in labor force participation as well as wage gaps, gaps in entrepreneurial profits, under-representation in leadership positions and gender-based occupational segregation, confining women in productivity jobs. The global average gap in workforce participation is close to 30% and, in some regions, such as the Middle East and North Africa and South Asia, the gap is as high as 56%.
Research shows a strong link between women’s economic empowerment (WEE)—the ability and power to generate income and accumulate assets, and to control their disposition—and other development objectives, including foundational health outcomes, child nutrition, educational investment, and reduction in gender-based violence.
=> Read the Thematic Policy Note, “Increasing Female Labor Force Participation"
=> Read the Gender Innovation Lab Federation Causal Evidence brief, “Policy Lessons on Facilitating Labor Markets"
The COVID-19 pandemic accentuated long-standing gender gaps in the labor market and at home, constraining women’s workforce participation through increased care work for children, elderly adults and sick family members. The pandemic brought greater employment losses for women than men for all age groups and education levels. In urban and rural areas, and business closures were higher for women- than men-owned enterprises.
Moreover, women were less likely to have received some form of public support. Despite the challenges, women-led businesses responded to the crisis with resilience and innovation. A survey of 40,000 firms in low and middle-income countries found that women-led small and microbusinesses were much more likely to increase the use of digital platforms compared to those led by men, even though they were less likely to invest in software, equipment, or digital solutions.
Women who work as farmers or entrepreneurs are often less productive than their male counterparts due to less access to productive resources such as fertilizer and seeds, among other gender-based constraints. In Ethiopia, for example, women produce 23% less per hectare than men. Research using data from 126 countries and covering more than 46,000 firms reveals a sizable gender gap in labor productivity, with women-run businesses being about 11% less productive than men-run businesses.
In Nigeria, $2.3 billion in agricultural produce could be added by closing this gap; in Tanzania, it would lead to 80,000 more people adequately nourished each year. Gender-sensitive extension services; equal land rights; addressing labor, input, and capital constraints for women farmers; and fostering inclusion along the value chain can boost food production. Women’s empowerment can also improve nutrition through agricultural and household practices.
=> Read the Gender Innovation Lab Federation Causal Evidence Brief, “Policy Lessons on Agriculture”
Innovative women entrepreneurs can be agents of change and provide new solutions to global challenges, yet they face multiple barriers to growing their businesses. Evidence suggests an urgent need to develop tools to target different types of interventions to those women-led firms that would derive the largest returns on them, and design multifaceted interventions that address the multiple constraints of women-led firms, and that consider their differential needs during implementation.
=> Read the Thematic Policy Note, “What Works in Supporting Women-led Businesses?”
Approved in 2018, the SME Growth and Development Project provides capacity development and grants to women entrepreneurs, young entrepreneurs, and growing SMEs in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It has partnered with the Africa Gender Innovation Lab to test the effect of combining personal initiative training for women entrepreneurs with $2,000 in-kind grants. Women are invited to the training with their husbands, with the goal of understanding the effects of addressing socio-cultural constraints that might restrict investments in women’s businesses. Empowering Women Entrepreneurs and Upgrading MSMEs for Economic Transformation and Jobs approved in May 2022, aims to expand the reach and impact of this project on women-led enterprises, creating a market for business development services to generate sustainable sources of finance and training for women entrepreneurs and MSMEs and supporting the implementation of existing gender-inclusive legislation.
In Serbia, the Accelerating Innovation and Growth Entrepreneurship Project is contributing to growth and competitiveness by improving scientific research, innovative entrepreneurship and access to finance. Of the grants awarded so far, totaling $1.3 million, 56% has been allocated to women.
=> Read the Gender Innovation Lab Federation Causal Evidence brief, “Policy Lessons on Supporting Women Entrepreneurs”
The green transition is strengthening demand for STEM-– science, technology, engineering, and math– skills, and creating opportunities in traditionally male-dominated sectors. Women in low-income countries are 7 percentage points less likely than men to enroll in tertiary programs in engineering, manufacturing, and construction. In upper-middle and high-income countries, this is 15 and 17 percentage points, respectively. Policies are needed now to ensure women have opportunities to access in-demand and higher paying STEM-oriented careers. The WBG is making concerted efforts to boost women’s participation in STEM and other high-value sectors.
The total share of women in power utilities in South Asia ranges from 3% to 25%, and the share of women engineering/technical employees is even lower – less than 1% to 21%. WePOWER is a vibrant voluntary women’s professional network in Energy and Power Sector in South Asia that supports women's participation in energy projects and institutions and promotes normative change regarding women in STEM education. WePOWER’s 28 partners implement gender activities under five strategic pillars to address gaps in women's employment in energy sector and enrollment in STEM education. From 2019-2022, WePOWER’s 28 partners completed more than 2700 gender activities benefitting more than 68,000 women. Around 560 female professionals were hired and 1,325 female interns recruited in technical roles.
Women spend three times longer on unpaid care work than men, devoting 1 to 5 hours more a day to unpaid domestic work, childcare, and other family care work. Caregiving responsibilities have increased during COVID-19, brought about by the closure of schools; the confinement of the elderly, children, and adults; and the growing number of ill family members. Data from The Future of Business Survey conducted in late October 2020 show that 18% of female business leaders reported spending six or more hours on domestic tasks, compared to 10% of male business leaders. Additionally, a recent World Bank paper suggests that female-led firms were, on average, 4 percentage points more likely to close their businesses, mainly due to school closures, and experienced larger revenue declines than male-led firms during this crisis.
This increase in care burden did not affect women’s employment only, but also adolescent girls’ education. In 46 countries worldwide, 63% of girls, compared to 43% of boys, reported an increase in household chores related to COVID-19. One in five girls reported having too many chores to be able to learn, double the proportion of boys.
Investments in care services can yield multi-generational impacts by improving women’s economic empowerment, child outcomes, family welfare, business productivity, and overall economic growth. Expanding access to quality, affordable childcare is among the most important investments that countries can make to build human capital and accelerate equality. For women, access to childcare can enable mothers to participate in the labor market, increase hours, productivity and earnings and improve the quality of work. For children, quality childcare can provide the critical inputs needed during the early years to build the foundational skills that will help them succeed in school and throughout life.
A recent World Bank report suggests that more than 40% of all children below the age of primary school worldwide- 350 million childcare- need access to childcare but do not have it. Expanding the childcare economy and building the childcare workforce itself could create up to 43 million new jobs while facilitating more people – particularly women – to be able to seek or return to employment. Improving employment opportunities for women will require robust public policies; programs, including investments in the care economy; as well as a strong engagement of the private sector.
With our partners, in 2022, the World Bank launched the Invest in Childcare Initiative to increase and improve investments in childcare, taking a whole-of-WBG and whole-of-government approach. Invest in Childcare will catalyze $180-$225 million in new funding to expand access to quality, affordable childcare in low- and middle-income countries worldwide. This new initiative builds on existing strong foundations, including We-FI, the work of the IFC, WBG’s Women, Business and the Law (WBL) team, and the research and operational teams.
The Competitive Value Chains for Jobs and Economic Transformation Project in Cote d’Ivoire seeks to alleviate constraints of women in labor force participation through the provision of childcare services, including mobile childcare services. And through the establishment of a Long-Term Investment Facility (LTIF), the project will also improve access to financing for at least 200 startups and young SMEs – including those led by women – and 30 large enterprises involved in green investments.
=> Read the Gender Innovation Lab Federation Causal Evidence brief, “Policy Lessons on Access to and Uptake of Childcare Services”
Gender-based Violence (GBV)
Gender-based violence (GBV) affects about 1 in 3 women over the course of a lifetime. GBV has a significant toll on the wellbeing of individuals, their families across generations and societies more broadly. In some countries, intimate partner violence, a form of GBV, is estimated to cost countries up to 3.7% of their GDP. Still, 30 countries do not have laws specifically addressing domestic violence, and 46 countries lack robust laws that prohibit and punish cases of sexual harassment in employment. Lockdowns and reduced mobility due to COVID-10 led to sharp increases in GBV – many countries reported substantial increases in emergency calls for domestic violence.
GBV intersects with various fronts of gender inequalities and requires a multi-sectoral approach. The WBG is increasingly invested in GBV prevention and response though operations in all sectors across regions through helping countries to provide services, create safe environments, promote positive transformation of attitudes, and empower women and girls.
In Kenya, the Bank is helping health care providers identify the risks and health consequences of GBV and offering frontline support and medical treatment. The Bank is helping Kosovo train primary health center workers in topics related to domestic violence and mental health support in response to an increase in GBV reported since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Ethiopia, the World Bank supports key interventions to improve gender parity and the empowerment of girls in upper primary grades through safe spaces, engaging boys to help change behaviors on GBV, life skills training, and school improvements that support adequate facilities for girls.
In Tanzania, the BOOST Primary Student Learning Program for Results is helping schools make improvements to support young girls, including improving school environments to ensure girls are comfortable, establishing life skills clubs to improve sexual and reproductive health knowledge, supporting gender-sensitive teaching, and sensitizing school management and teachers on GBV prevention and response.
=> Read the Gender Innovation Lab Federation Causal Evidence Series brief, “Policy Lessons on Reducing Gender-based Violence”
Assets | Financial | Digital
Of the 190 countries studied in the World Bank Group’s WBL 2023, 76 limit women’s property rights. In 18 countries, women do not have equal ownership rights to immovable property. In 43 countries, male and female surviving spouses do not have equal rights to inherit assets, and 41 economies prevent daughters from inheriting in the same way as sons.
Evidence shows that property rights are key to economic development. Countries with more gender egalitarian legal regimes generally have higher levels of property ownership by women. When women have access to assets, communities thrive. It increases their ability to start and grow businesses by giving them the collateral they need to secure credit. It allows them to invest in their families, changing outcomes for their children and ensures that they can live with agency and dignity.
The Women Entrepreneurship Development Project (WEDP) provides finance and business support for growth-oriented women entrepreneurs in Ethiopia with the goal of increasing their earning and employment. WEDP created the first ever women-entrepreneur focused line of credit in Africa in 2013. WEDP loans are complemented through provision of innovative, mindset-oriented business training to women entrepreneurs. The project also seeks to address cultural and logistical barriers women face to access finance by expanding the forms of recognized collateral needed to secure loans and leveraging new loan products and credit technologies to expand financial accessibility.
Financial and digital services
Women globally are 9% less likely to have an account with a financial institution or mobile banking than men, and the gap is larger in poorer countries. Digital financial services can improve women’s economic participation, facilitate economic development, and make it easier for women to invest in businesses, get jobs, and manage financial risk. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) estimates a $1.5 trillion annual credit deficit for women-owned small- and medium-enterprises (SMEs).
Women are less likely to get access to financial services, such as credit and equity financing; savings; and insurance around the world. There is evidence that the gender gaps are larger for middle-sized firms, which are too big for microfinance institutions and too small for riskier products offered by banks, venture capitalists, and private equity firms. Study estimates indicate a finance gap of $173 billion for women-owned microenterprises (24% of the microenterprise finance gap), and of $1.5 trillion for women-owned SMEs (33% of the SME finance gap).
In low- and-middle-income countries, fewer women have access to the internet and to mobile phones. Even before the pandemic, women in low- and middle-income countries were 8% less likely than men to own a mobile phone. And 300 million fewer women than men use mobile internet, representing a gender gap of 20%. These constraints can prevent women from reaping the benefits of new opportunities in services and trade, including digital platforms and e-commerce.
The Second Private Sector, Digital, and Human Capital DPF in Mauritania supports reforms to increase women’s access to digital finance, particularly in rural areas, through a legal framework to enable the use of digital financial services. It also supports policy measures to enable the rollout of the country’s social protection program. These include the creation of digital IDs for the easy identification of welfare beneficiaries, as well as the facilitation of cashless payments as part of cash transfer programs.
The G2Px initiative was launched in early 2020 in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This initiative contributes to the broader agenda of improving “government-to-person” or “G2P” transfers through digitization. The objective is to shift the paradigm to focus on important development outcomes like financial inclusion, women’s economic empowerment, and government fiscal savings. G2Px puts women at the center of digital G2P payment programs, which can help countries to mitigate exclusion risks and maximize the impact on women and girls.
=> Read the Thematic Policy Note, “Increasing Access to Technology for Inclusion”
ID | Law
Without gender equality in access to identification, governments will struggle to ensure universal access to basic services, economic opportunities, and fulfillment of rights and protections; and to empower women to participate fully in the digital economy. WBL data from 2023 shows that in 28 economies, women are still required to present additional documentation when applying for a passport. The 2017 Global Findex survey found that 45% of women in low-income countries (LICs) do not have an ID compared to 30% of men.
The WBG is supporting 49 countries – through both financing and technical assistance – in strengthening their civil registration (CR) and ID systems. A core part of this support is ensuring that such systems are fully accessible to women and that they can effectively support service delivery and improved access to economic opportunities, free from discrimination.
The Identification for Development (ID4D) Initiative of the WBG is at the forefront of this effort, with generous financial support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation since 2016. ID4D’s work on identification involves identifying and addressing legal, procedural, and technology barriers to women’s access and use of identification, including through interventions to reduce the cost, time, and distance burden for women’s registration, and tailored advocacy and communications around identification to appeal to women, specifically.
Mozambique’s Digital Governance and Economy Project is promoting access to legal identity for women and girls in practical ways, for example by facilitating ID registration (including birth certificates for girls) when women give birth in health facilities.
Laws and regulations
Countries are inching toward greater gender equality, yet women around the world continue to face restrictions on their economic opportunity because of discriminatory laws and regulations. On average, women have just three-quarters of the legal rights afforded to men.
Reforms to remove obstacles to women’s economic inclusion have been slow and uneven among regions. In 2022, 34 reforms were enacted over 18 economies. Most reforms focused on increasing paid leave for parents and fathers, removing restrictions on women’s work, and mandating equal pay. Accelerating progress towards legal gender equality is key for a successful economic recovery. More gender equal laws have been linked to higher female labor force participation, a smaller wage gap between men and women and better development outcomes, such as women’s health and education. However, in 2022, the global pace of reforms toward equal treatment of women under the law has slumped to a 20-year low.
Niger’s high prevalence of child marriage and early childbearing translate into high fertility rate and highest population growth rate in the world. A World Bank study found that expanding educational attainment and reducing fertility could boost the country’s GDP by over 12% by 2030. The Second Laying the Foundation for Inclusive Development Policy Financing (DPF) in Niger supported policy reforms supporting abandoning child marriage, allowing access to family planning assistance to married adolescent girls without parental or husband’s mandatory accompaniment, and allowing girls to remain in school in the event of pregnancy or marriage.
Gender and Climate
Climate change and climate policies affect men and women in different ways, especially among poor, vulnerable, and socially disadvantaged groups. Working on gender and climate together can result in impacts greater than addressing each issue in isolation. This entails leveraging women’s empowerment and leadership in community, business, industry, and policymaking circles to enable better resource management, environmental stewardship, and disaster preparedness; strengthening women’s assets, access to finance, and economic inclusion to build resilience and adaptive capacity; and promoting equal opportunities in the green transition.
The WBG is helping governments, development practitioners, donors, and beneficiaries identify and seize opportunities that leverage gender analysis to make climate action more effective and inclusive. Women’s empowerment, leadership, and decision-making in climate action is associated with better resource governance, conservation outcomes, and disaster readiness. Failing to take into consideration the differences between men and women and the structural and behavioral barriers that impede the participation of women can constrain the effectiveness of climate interventions even before they begin.
The WBG is also ramping up efforts to close gender gaps in access to “new economy” jobs in renewables, climate-friendly construction, and adaptation; fostering full participation of women in benefits from digitalization (e.g. using digital government-to-person platforms to accelerate closing the gender digital divide); fostering women’s leadership in crisis preparedness, early response and recovery mechanisms, and infrastructure governance; and in investment in high-quality jobs and entrepreneurship for women in renewables.
=> Read the Thematic Policy Note, “Placing Gender Equality at the Center of Climate Action”
In Costa Rica, the Bank worked with the government and the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) to conduct a gender analysis that led to a roadmap and action plan for increasing women’s involvement in REDD+ activities. Looking at the land use sector through a gender lens brought into focus some issues such as legal barriers women face around property ownership. This has led to new thinking on how to motivate, support, and recognize women’s contributions to sustainable and productive landscape initiatives. Costa Rica’s Payment for Environmental Services Program now gives priority access to women and eases the property rights requirements that had hindered their participation in the past.
=> Read the Gender Innovation Lab Federation Causal Evidence brief, “Policy Lessons on Women’s Land Titling”
Gender-related constraints and barriers are often amplified in situations of forced displacement. Global evidence suggests that displaced women face a lack of access to crucial services including sexual and reproductive health services, mental health support, continued education and skills training, and services needed after experiencing GBV.
Recent analysis shows that gender gaps among displaced persons are greatest for employment, with rates for displaced men at least 90% higher than for displaced women, peaking at 150% in Nigeria where approximately 36% of displaced men are employed compared to about 15% of displaced women. This reflects broader labor market segregation by gender around the world, compounded by language barriers, lower literacy rates, unpaid care responsibilities, and gender norms that limit refugee women’s prospects.
Intimate partner violence (IPV) is also higher among displaced women compared to women in the host population. In Somalia, host women experienced IPV at a rate nearly 30% lower than displaced women (26% vs 36%). In South Sudan, nearly half (47%) of displaced women have experienced IPV in the past year – a number nearly double the national estimate of 27% and quadruple the global average of about 12%. In Colombia and Liberia, women who experienced forced displacement or proximity to a conflict death were between 40-55% more likely to experience violence in their lifetime. In the case of Colombia, the violence for forcibly displaced women is more severe, often leading to injury.
=> Read the Gender Innovation Lab Federation Causal Evidence Series brief, “Policy Lessons on Reducing Gender-based Violence”
The WBG is in a strong position to support client countries to accelerate progress through relatively small investments that yield considerable dividends, even in FCV settings. The graduation approach, which builds on existing social protection programs to add assets, community support, and skills training to cash transfers, has proven successful across different countries and cultures, including promising results in FCV settings. Similarly, the WBG is increasingly supporting client countries prevent and respond to GBV.
In Bangladesh, the Emergency Multi-Sector Rohingya Crisis Response Project is financing the establishment of gender-friendly spaces to serve as a safe space for women and adolescent girls, and to provide some immediate GBV response services. As of March 2022, 10,500 women and girls were using GBV services through 7 women friendly spaces.
In Northern Mozambique, where internally displaced women and girls face increased vulnerability to GBV, the Investing in Inclusive Human Capital Development Project supports coordinated GBV services by training health, police, and other staff on referral services to identify and respond to GBV.
COVID-19 added a new lens on the WBG’s work in gender. The WBG supported countries to address the immediate health crisis and its corresponding social and economic impacts and is supporting efforts to rebuild economies that are more inclusive and resilient to future shocks.
The Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) is supporting women entrepreneurs impacted by the pandemic not just to survive the crisis, but to thrive with greater long-term resilience. By working to improve women’s access to finance, markets, networks, and information, We-Fi is helping them fulfill their potential and become engines of economic growth and job creation. By December 2021, We-Fi projects directly supported 11,000 women-led enterprises in more than 55 countries with more than 247 partners.
Similarly, the Women Entrepreneurs Opportunity Facility (WEOF) aims to help expand access to capital for women entrepreneurs and demonstrate the commercial viability of investing in women. WEOF offers funding for blended finance, advisory services, and market research to catalyze financial services to women SMEs. By 2022, the initiative has financed 144,000 women entrepreneurs. In Zambia, the Bank is ensuring the continuity of reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health and nutrition services. In Cambodia, the Bank is improving the availability of services that are critical to preventing mortality among women; this includes better access to family planning, reduction of teen pregnancies, and effective screening and treatment for cervical cancer.
The Bank is helping women return to economic activity, including through cash-for-work programs, expanded childcare support, agricultural inputs, and better access to credit and liquidity for women-led firms, including in Afghanistan, Mauritania, Mozambique, and Togo.
Last Updated: Apr 06, 2023