Gender equality is not only the right thing to do, it’s smart economics. This is the message of a new World Bank report on the importance of empowering women around the world. According to the research, women now represent forty percent of the work force but hold just one percent of the wealth. They earn between twelve and eighty cents to every dollar earned by men. And, despite an increase in life expectancy, nearly four million females “go missing” in developing countries every year. However, reducing the gender gap means changing governments on the national and local level. We examine the global economic advantages and challenges of narrowing the gender gap.


  • Robert Zoellick President of The World Bank former deputy secretary, U.S. Department of State
  • Kakenya Ntaiya President and founder of The Kakenya Center for Excellence
  • Ritu Sharma Co-founder and president of Women Thrive Worldwide

Program Highlights

A new World Bank report says empowering women is smart economics. The argument is that greater gender equality can enhance productivity and improve development outcomes for the next generation. World Bank President Robert Zoellick and two women working hard to challenge the gender gap all over the world talk about what it will take to enact real change.

What Can the World Bank Do?

Over the past 5 years, the World Bank has devoted $65 billion to projects that have integrated gender components. According to World Bank President Robert Zoellick, the challenge for the World Bank as a large institution dealing with 187 different countries is mainstreaming this kind of assistance so that “it doesn’t just become a check in the box.” “How do you make sure that when people are designing projects that they’re understanding some of the gender elements?” Zoellick said.

Work Gets in the Way of Opportunity

Kakenya Ntaiya, President and Founder, The Kakenya Center for Excellence: “I’ve traveled all over the world and spent many, many hours working alongside women on farms, speaking with women in villages, really listening to their priorities. And the two things that I hear most about that are preventing them from contributing more is that they barely have time to sleep. Women are working 17 or 18 hours a day.” The idea that women have some “untapped potential” could be dangerous without taking into account the practicalities of everyday life for them in these countries, “when what they really need is just more time.”

What Creates Real Change?

Ritu Sharma, co-founder and president of Women Thrive Worldwide: “I think the best thing the Word Bank could do is to invest. Invest in women like Kakenya. There are so many women who are doing extraordinary things in their communities, incredible…starting businesses with $50. Women who are building shelters for women in Afghanistan, the dangerous place in the world.”

Changing Men’s Perceptions

Sharma says it is also vital that fathers, husbands and brothers begin to see the women in their families as full human beings and to love them as much as they love the men in the family. Ntaiya says that some men still want to see women as second-class citizens. “It’s that will, that one person who can stand up and say, no. And that is what I’m looking for, that one man or two men in my village who will say that,” Ntaiya said.

You can read the full transcript here.


  • 11:06:55

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. A new World Bank report says empowering women is smart economics. The argument is that greater gender equality can enhance productivity and improve development outcomes for the next generation. A little later we'll hear about the challenges of changing the gender gap from two women working toward this goal.

  • 11:07:30

    MS. DIANE REHMBut first, joining us from The World Bank studio to discuss the findings of this report is the president of The World Bank, Robert Zoellick. Good morning to you, sir.

  • 11:07:45

    MR. ROBERT ZOELLICKGood morning, Diane.

  • 11:07:46

    REHMGive us an overview of this report, if you would.

  • 11:07:51

    ZOELLICKWell, I think what's most striking about it is a sense of how at a time that countries around the world are struggling with economic conditions and they're looking for foundations of growth, that they've got 50 percent of their population that could be contributing a lot more and benefitting a lot more from a different set of policies.

  • 11:08:14

    ZOELLICKSo in some countries, it's having the rule so women can own property or get credit. In others, it's a more complicated question of making sure that people have equal access to professions. But the striking aspect is that while progress has been made in areas such as education and health, proper investments and proper adjustments in policy offer huge potential for the individuals involved and for their societies.

  • 11:08:47

    REHMSo when you talk about gender equality, talk about just what you mean.

  • 11:08:56

    ZOELLICKWell, the idea here is basically it starts out, you know, with The World Bank since we deal primarily with developing countries, but we looked at developed countries too, is basic fairness, treating people the same, giving them the same opportunities. So the same chance to go to school, the same chance to move to higher levels of educations, the same chance to move into jobs. But part of understanding gender and development is also recognizing some of the differences.

  • 11:09:34

    ZOELLICKSo for example, we've identified that compared to women in developed countries or to men in developing countries the world loses about four million girls and young women each year. Well, what does that mean to lose? Well, what it means is that about 40 percent of those girls are never born.

  • 11:09:56


  • 11:09:56

    ZOELLICKAnother third are lost in the childbearing years and the rest are lost as young girls. And so here in particular, policies that might be focused, for example, on health and sanitation and some of the childbirth issues, need to be directed towards women, but the stakes are the same as losing a Los Angeles or a Johannesburg every year.

  • 11:10:20

    REHMI was fascinated to look at the earnings gaps between women and men. For example, in Sri Lanka, women make 50 cents on the dollar, in Bangladesh 12 cents on the dollar.

  • 11:10:39

    ZOELLICKYes. And this obviously depends on a whole series of potential policies. So for example, in some developing countries, women don't have the same ability to own property. It might be legal. It might be informal.

  • 11:10:54

    ZOELLICKFor example, in Ethiopia, we put in with the government a simple change on the property titles that allowed one to put two names. And so by allowing one to have two names, you had women as well as men and that opened the whole door to being able to borrow credit and have different aspects of ownership. So that is the case in some countries.

  • 11:11:17

    ZOELLICKIn other countries, it's more subtle so you see that, for example, the numbers in Germany are much less. And I think what I've been able to see is this reflects the fact that women tend to go into certain professions and job categories. They tend to be lower-earning. Now, how much of that is choice? How much of that is structure? How much is the fact that people might be discouraged to go into, say, engineering professions or lack of mentors in those professions. So the interesting thing about this is that I think there are some good lessons for developed as well as developing countries.

  • 11:11:52

    REHMAre you saying that if a woman is educated, say into the law, that she will earn the same amount as a man or are you saying it just won't happen?

  • 11:12:11

    ZOELLICKWell, I think it varies by country. I mean, we've seen this in the United States. For example...

  • 11:12:16


  • 11:12:16

    ZOELLICK...what I saw even in the time I was growing up, as I fortunately came into a period where some of the first women pioneers had gotten through a generation of law school, but they tended to be pushed into different types of legal work that wasn't the mainstream. I think a lot of that has changed over the time for the better. So it also, I think, will vary in terms of what support you provide. So one of the other set of points here is, say, in developing countries, having access to available water, electricity that lowers the time demands that women have at home with their families and that allows them to take on other jobs.

  • 11:13:01

    ZOELLICKBut there's another side too that I think people can recognize. For example, we now have studies that show that, and this came out of Brazil in particular, that for social safety net programs, if the money is given to the woman head of household, that child mortality is vastly reduced. You get benefits in education. So this is recognizing there may be differences in terms of how men and women approach their family and their children and because of that, some developing countries are now structuring their programs to make sure the money goes to the woman head of household.

  • 11:13:33

    REHMAnd what happens if the money goes to the man?

  • 11:13:41

    ZOELLICKWell, in general, in the developing countries, you don't see quite as much invested in the children. You don't see quite as much invested in the community. And so, in particular, if you're focused on those aspects of early stage of development, you'll want to direct the funding towards the women and that's -- that has worked quite well actually in Mexico and Brazil and it's now spread to some 40 other countries in one form or another.

  • 11:14:08

    REHMSo as I understand it, if men get the money, it's quite likely that that will be spent on something to benefit the man. But if it's given to the women, women will somehow work with it to improve the family?

  • 11:14:30

    ZOELLICKWell, you always have to be careful about generalizations, Diane, and obviously, what we're doing is we're looking at overall surveys...

  • 11:14:34


  • 11:14:34

    ZOELLICK...and, you know, you have, for example, with the problem of child soldiers, you have some particular issues with young boys so gender needs to look equally at the challenges of both sexes. You're now seeing in some countries that boys are not getting educated to the same degree that young girls are, but that still doesn't mean that the young girls who are educated can get into the workforce.

  • 11:15:00

    REHMMr. Zoellick, I want to go back to this whole issue of women going missing in developing countries and I'm curious as to exactly why this happens?

  • 11:15:20

    ZOELLICKWell, some are never born because of gender preferences and so that's, I think, one of the saddest stories and you see that with the demographic numbers in some countries. Another set are basically lost early in childhood because of the particular diseases or care or perhaps they don't rank as high when a family is dealing with limited food supplies and they suffer malnutrition. There are different diseases.

  • 11:15:50

    ZOELLICKAnd then, about a third are lost in the childbearing years and this is, again, for developing countries, a signal of, if you provide some of the support for childbearing, post-natal support, pre-natal support, you can save lives and have healthier children.

  • 11:16:06

    REHMAnd what about HIV AIDS?

  • 11:16:11

    ZOELLICKI don't recall the particular sort of sex effects of HIV AIDS. In Africa, it's just been, I think, devastating for both sexes.

  • 11:16:21

    REHMLosses as I saw were rather great in sub-Saharan Africa for girls, especially those hit by HIV AIDS. What is this report proposing, Mr. Zoellick, in order to lessen the disparity between the genders?

  • 11:16:45

    ZOELLICKWell, the first benefit is, I think, is just to get this information out and for people to see in developing and developed countries that this is not only a question, as you mentioned, of basic fairness and right, but it's a question of smart economics and looking across different developing countries and seeing the benefits that people are foregoing as well as the lack of individual opportunity.

  • 11:17:10

    ZOELLICKBut then we talk about particular areas, for example, human capital interventions. So what can be done with sanitation, water, some of the basic health areas? What can be done in educational investments? But then another area is how you help women reach their full potential and prove their productivity or prove their effectiveness and efficiency.

  • 11:17:33

    ZOELLICKThen there are issues that become a little bit more complicated in terms of women's voice so I mentioned the example of giving women a greater voice in communities in terms of having the resources of the safety net programs. But obviously there's questions of political voice, the ability to contribute and what the surveys have shown is that women parliamentarians, legislators might have a, as a general matter, a slightly different focus on some of the issues of concern.

  • 11:18:01

    ZOELLICKAnd then, finally, obviously since you're looking at this over the longer term is how to prevent over generations these forms of discrimination, either direct or subtle from perpetuating themselves.

  • 11:18:15

    REHMDo you believe that this report, which is not the first that The World Bank has published on gender, will make a difference?

  • 11:18:29

    ZOELLICKWell, I certainly hope so. In the initial reaction that we got -- when we do these reports, we do a big report like this every year so we talk an awful lot to parties before we prepare it and at least the interest across a broad range of developed and developing countries is very strong.

  • 11:18:45

    REHMAll right. Short break, we'll be right back.

  • 11:20:03

    REHMAnd back to you, Robert Zoellick, president of The World Bank, one last question for you. What do you believe The World Bank can do to change what's happening to women, their working lives, the fairness delivered to them on a micro level in the communities, in the tribes, in the villages?

  • 11:20:32

    ZOELLICKWell, over the past five years we've devoted some $65 billion to projects that have integrated gender components. But I think this report can be a lesson for us too. I think there's a lot more that we can learn from this process and from stimulating the debate. And I think the challenge for us as a large institution, you know, dealing with 187 different countries is how do you mainstream this in a way that doesn't just become a check in the box. How do you make sure that when people are designing projects that they're understanding some of the gender elements?

  • 11:21:06

    ZOELLICKAnd one of the points, you know, going back to one of your earlier questions was I suspect some listeners may wonder, well, is – you know, are all societies, different cultures, different religions, how do they react to some of these things? And I visited a lot of these projects. I remember one in India in Rajasthan, a very, very poor state. And it was a project that was community development with women who were having some milk cows and increasing the fat production and being able to market the milk.

  • 11:21:36

    ZOELLICKAnd what I saw in terms of not only the added income, but what it did for the women in the community starting to affect, for example, their wanting to say things about the schools and the quality of the schools has these ripple effects that you just can't fully quantify that are very important. But equally I went to some of the men in the village and I asked them, you know, how they felt about this. And what I found, whether it's Afghanistan, India, places in East Asia, Africa is very encouraging, which is that when you can see people start to increase their family income by 50 percent or 100 percent or 200 percent, everybody likes the idea.

  • 11:22:15

    ZOELLICKAnd at a time when, you know, the world is looking for additional sources of growth, this is the next emerging market.

  • 11:22:22

    REHMYou know, we had a message posted on Facebook from Ruth who says, "Empower women in other countries around the globe. I suggest first pass the ERA in the USA." To what extent do you believe, Mr. Zoellick, that passing the ERA here in the USA might send a signal to other countries around the world?

  • 11:22:55

    ZOELLICKWell, Diane, in my job I stay away from the domestic political debates, but let me just explain it this way. I think, you know, as an executive in an organization people have a responsibility to practice what they preach. And over half the officers -- so it's about 50 people at The World Bank group -- are now women. And that's a higher number than we have for some of the lower level managers. And what I've seen is these things -- these changes don't just happen. You actually have to work at -- you have to do it when you're doing your outreach and putting together the shortlists of different people.

  • 11:23:28

    ZOELLICKAnd so I think all of us have a responsibility, whether it's legal or not, to try to frankly engage in smart economics as well as do what's right.

  • 11:23:37

    REHMAnd engaging in smart economics could help the impact of the global recession. How do you see what's happening in Greece and the other countries around the world, Mr. Zoellick?

  • 11:23:55

    ZOELLICKThat's a big question, Diane.

  • 11:23:55

    REHMI know, I know.

  • 11:23:56

    ZOELLICKLet me just say I think this is at a very serious point. I refer to a new danger zone for the Euro zone in particular. And so far the European actions have provided liquidity or financing so as to make sure that the Greeks can sell their bonds, or the banks can have access to various resources. But these are fundamentally stop gap measures.

  • 11:24:21

    ZOELLICKSo what you're facing now in Europe are some very fundamental decisions like those that were faced in 1989, '90 when you find the end of the Cold War, about how Europe will act as a region. Will they have a fiscal union that will match the monetary union? If so, with what disciplines, what form? Or if they don't, frankly how are they going to manage the consequences of some countries that have very high debts and competitiveness problems.

  • 11:24:49

    ZOELLICKBut I frankly think the U.S. is facing some of these issues too. So bringing right back to the gender report, one of the aspects about this that is so powerful is at a time you're looking for sources of growth, you know, just look out the window.

  • 11:25:04

    REHMRobert Zoellick, president of The World Bank, former deputy secretary in the U.S. Department of State. Thank you so much for joining us, sir.

  • 11:25:16

    ZOELLICKThank you, Diane.

  • 11:25:17

    REHMThank you. And joining me in the studio now to talk about the challenges of changing the gender gap to women who are working toward this goal, Kakenya Ntaiya of the Kakenya Center for Excellence and Ritu Sharma of Women Thrive Worldwide. Good morning to both of you.

  • 11:25:43

    MS. RITU SHARMAGood morning.

  • 11:25:43

    MS. KAKENYA NTAIYAGood morning, Diane.

  • 11:25:44

    REHMTell me, Ritu, your own response, your own feelings about what you heard from President Zoellick.

  • 11:25:55

    SHARMAI think it's great The World Bank did this report. They essentially did the same report about ten years ago in gendering development. And it's wonderful to have The World Bank's bully pulpit on this issue, The World Bank saying that equality for women is a good thing. It's good economics.

  • 11:26:19

    SHARMAI think, however, there is a danger in oversimplifying this issue to just economics. I've traveled all over the world and spent many, many hours working alongside women on farms, speaking with women in villages, really listening to their priorities. And the two things that I hear most about that are preventing them from contributing more is that they barely have time to sleep. Women are working 17 or 18 hours a day.

  • 11:27:01

    SHARMASo to think that somehow women have a quote/unquote "untapped potential" that they are waiting to be tapped, I think, is somewhat dangerous. Now to be fair, the report does talk about women's time burdens, but it doesn't go into enough depth at really addressing that issue. And I think what we run the risk of is giving women -- quote/unquote "giving women more opportunities" when what they really need is just more time.

  • 11:27:38

    REHMNtaiya, what is -- Kakenya Ntaiya, what is your own thinking about this new report and the comments of Mr. Zoellick?

  • 11:27:52

    NTAIYAI think for The World Bank to put out a report like that is a great thing. It raises the issues that many, many people have been addressing for many years. And I think for me it's always that we need to go beyond just the abstract and talk about the theory and talk about its economic empowerment. But to me what does that mean to a local woman in my own village who has no access to credit, who has no right to property? What we run -- I mean, there's so many -- I look at issues that I deal with like female genital cutting that in my community it's something that hinders women. And it's against the law in Kenya but it's still being practiced.

  • 11:28:43


  • 11:28:44

    NTAIYAIt's because one is that those people who are suppose to implement the law they're men who are in the villages who already uphold what the cultural rights are. And so for them instead of supporting the women they -- literally it's a barrier because the women -- the person who is supposed to implement the law is supporting FGN for example. Or he's supporting women should not go to school. So how does that person give the women the right? So it's really -- we talk about it in theory but to me it's always going back to really empowering women from the rural place.

  • 11:29:25

    REHMKakenya Ntaiya and I know that you grew up in a small village in Kenya. You're the firstborn of eight. Your father was a policeman working in a distant city. At age five they announced your engagement to a six-year-old neighbor. Tell me about your life growing up in Kenya.

  • 11:30:01

    NTAIYAAs you said, I was betrothed. I was engaged when I was five years old and was supposed to be married when I reached puberty. Everything I did growing up was to prepare me to be that respectful woman for that young man. You know, collecting firewood, water from the river and, you know, caring for my younger siblings. And everything I did literally just prepared me to be a woman.

  • 11:30:29

    NTAIYABut one thing that I really looked was -- I looked at the life my mother was living. It was a very hard life. My father had a job. He stayed in the city, never came home. He came once a year. We didn't see him for many times. And when we -- when he came home, it was even harder for my mom because he will beat him, he will sell the -- you know, the cows that we had or the maze we had planted. And he would go and drink with his friends. And my mom because she doesn't own anything, she couldn't question him.

  • 11:31:00

    NTAIYAAnd that -- looking at that life and really I didn't admire being -- you know, ending the state that my mom will be. And so -- but the thing also about my mom was that, you know, she always told us that she never wanted us to live the life she was -- she didn't want us to grow up to be like her. And it's something so painful because every mother wants their daughters to grow up to be like them. But the life she was living was very hard. But I managed to negotiate with people in the community.

  • 11:31:30

    REHMHow? How? What did you do?

  • 11:31:34

    NTAIYAAt the -- when I was 12 years old, I was supposed to undergo female genital cutting. And to me, I wanted to go to school, but to us is that when you undergo through this right to womanhood, you get married. So I wanted to avoid it and I managed to talk to my father that if he was not going to let me go back to school, I was going to run away. And to me running away, he will stay with a stigma that you have a daughter who is uncut and so that the stigma becomes on his side.

  • 11:32:07

    NTAIYASo I negotiated that I would go through the cutting if he lets me go to school. And so he did agree and I did go back to high school. And I finished high school. I had found somebody who was in this country and wanted to come to school in the U.S. And it was something like (word?) 'cause no girl in my village has ever left the village to go to the city, leave alone leaving a country. And when the news came that a girl is going to America to study, it was like chaos in the entire village. Everybody was against it. Nobody -- you know, this is -- this chance should be given to a boy.

  • 11:32:44

    NTAIYABut I managed to, again, go to the elders in the more respectful way and ask them for their support to support me to come and get my education so that I can support them.

  • 11:32:56


  • 11:32:57

    NTAIYAAnd so that's how I managed to be here.

  • 11:32:58

    REHMWhat a story. Kakenya Ntaiya of the Kakenya Center for Excellence. Also here, Ritu Sharma of Women Thrive Worldwide. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Ritu, I'm sure you've heard many stories like this.

  • 11:33:24

    SHARMASadly, I have. And I think as Kakenya knows, most of the girls in the village are still living in the same way as her mother, which is I think what motivates us both to do this work. And she's really put her finger on the reality for most women, which is that violence is what really fundamentally keeps them down.

  • 11:33:48

    REHMControls them.

  • 11:33:49

    SHARMAControl. It is what forces them to do what the man says. It is what forces them to stay. It is what forces them to make choices that are not in their own self interest or in their own economic sense. I think this report looks at women as rational economic agents. I would love to be called a rational woman but that's yet to happen.

  • 11:34:20

    SHARMAI think that women...

  • 11:34:22

    REHMBut you are a rational woman operating in an irrational system.

  • 11:34:30

    SHARMAYou are, exactly. And for most woman they can't -- if you are afraid you're going to be beaten it's very hard to make good decisions.

  • 11:34:42

    REHMAnd if you are afraid you're going to be cut, as I presume your mother was and you were, you had to bargain your way out of it, Kakenya.

  • 11:34:58

    NTAIYAExactly. And for me I didn't even know it is against the law actually because I was in the village. I didn't get any education about the things -- I didn't know I had the right to go to school. And so that's -- it's just, you know -- but when I came to this country and went to college and found out that it was against the law to practice female genital cutting, it's actually the right -- I had the right to go to school and that my mother was not supposed to be beaten and that she has the right to own a property. And to me, it just -- I just -- it was just -- I was just amazed, you know.

  • 11:35:35

    REHMI need to know how you came to this country.

  • 11:35:42

    NTAIYAI -- as I said, I got a scholarship to go to a university here. And through that I...

  • 11:35:49

    REHMBut how did you even make application for such a scholarship?

  • 11:35:55

    NTAIYAI had a friend who was actually from the village who was a man. And he actually helped me get a form. And he never thought I would come because one, I was already engaged and a husband was already waiting. But because I went to him and I said, I want to go to where you are. And he said, okay, are you serious? I said, yes. And so he gave me the forms, I applied to the only one university. I got accepted and I -- but the thing was to raise money to come here.

  • 11:36:27

    REHMOf course.

  • 11:36:28

    NTAIYAAnd also to encourage -- because I didn't want to leave -- to despise my elders I didn't want just to run away and come here. I wanted them to support me because over time they have supported the men to go away. They always raise money for boys to go to school. So I wanted them to raise money for a girl to go to school. And so I managed to talk to them. I went to the elder who is like a chief of the village very early in the morning before the sun rise. So the first thing he sees in the morning is me. And we believe that morning brings good news. So I was bringing good news to him that he was going to support me to come here.

  • 11:37:08

    NTAIYAAnd so we rallied the village, we rallied -- to me what was so significant at that time was to get the mothers to be involved in sending their own daughters. And I would send -- I would sit down and listen to them and I said, you know, if you can support me to go to school, I could -- I will come back and help you. And I will write down -- they would talk about maternity clinic, they would talk about schools, they would talk about many things that they wanted in their own community.

  • 11:37:35

    REHMKakenya Ntaiya and we will talk further and take your calls when we come back.

  • 11:40:03

    REHMWe're talking about the opportunities and the challenges facing women worldwide and a new report from The World Bank talking about the global advantages of gender equality. We are a long way from that around the world and even here in the U.S., going back to the defeat of the equal rights amendment, which never happened. Here in the studio, Kakenya Ntaiya of The Kakenya Center For Excellence and Ritu Sharma of Women Thrive Worldwide. Ritu, tell me about your organization and what you have been doing.

  • 11:40:55

    SHARMAWell, what we are here to do is to represent in the United States in front of the U.S. Congress, the White House, the State Department, the voices of many, many, many women like Kakenya and women who have not been able to come to this country. And to bring the reality of their lives to the decision makers here in Washington, who, right now, are looking at massive budget cuts to aid that will really impact women and girls around the world. Our job is to represent those voices and make sure that they get a fair hearing here in the nation's capital.

  • 11:41:37

    REHMAnd, Kakenya, tell me about The Kakenya Center For Excellence.

  • 11:41:45

    NTAIYAThe Kakenya Center For Excellence is a school for girls, 8-year-olds to 14 years old, based in my own community. It's a school we started. And our aim is really to empower the girls to tell them that they can reach this, you know, there are no limits to what they can achieve. We talked with them about -- we teach them about what female genital cutting is. We teach them their rights, that they have the right to go to school. We teach them that, you know, they don't have to be married when they're young. And so for -- really, for them to achieve their dreams. And …

  • 11:42:25

    SHARMAAnd how are the village elders behaving now?

  • 11:42:30

    NTAIYAThey're very -- actually, very supportive. They didn't like the idea when it was starting, but now that the girls are in the school, the girls are speaking up instead of speaking, you know, looking down. Everybody wants to be part of a success. So we -- they are very supportive of what we are doing and everything else.

  • 11:42:51

    REHMHow large is your village?

  • 11:42:55

    NTAIYAI think you would consider it as a town. It's about 10,000 people. It's still -- but, you know, we started the school two years ago and now we have 94 girls. And each year we add 30 girls into the school and empower them.

  • 11:43:12

    REHMAnd how is it being paid for?

  • 11:43:15

    NTAIYAMost of the girls -- it's a combination of many, many, many, many routes and many, many supporters. I have been fortunate that -- to have very, very many people support the girls through scholarships and through, you know, supporting a girl at the school.

  • 11:43:32

    REHMAnd who is doing the teaching?

  • 11:43:36

    NTAIYAWe have teachers from the actual -- the local community. And with -- around Kenya who are teaching the girls. And the mothers also, the fathers also support the girls. They, you know, provide food for the girls. So it's a combination of many, many people.

  • 11:43:53

    REHMSo back to your story, after you came here you went to college, four years. And then went on to graduate school, as well?

  • 11:44:07

    NTAIYAYes. I'm actually, right now, just about to finish my doctorate from The University of Pittsburgh. And going back to Kenya in November to really do work on the ground 'cause I …

  • 11:44:20

    REHMWill you stay there?

  • 11:44:21

    NTAIYAOh, yes, yes, yes. I think that it's been very challenging working from a distance. And to me, what really motivates me, what makes me so excited is to see those young girls so happy and smiling. And, you know, it just -- they have so much hopes. And I just wanna be there because they inspire me. And there's so much we -- I can do in my own country and also throughout Africa. And I think being in Kenya will be the right place to be.

  • 11:44:52

    REHMIs there continuing genital mutilation there in your village?

  • 11:44:58

    NTAIYAUnfortunately, some of them are still there, but one thing that I have to tell you, that all the girls that are coming to our school, their parents have signed an agreement that they will never cut their daughters. And this is just, you know, amazing. So I'm sure that -- our goal is that we wanna eradicate FGM in the next, you know, 5 to 10 years in my own village.

  • 11:45:23

    REHMYou have done extraordinary work. How do your village elders think of you now?

  • 11:45:33

    NTAIYAThey all take pride of my success, obviously, because they did bless me to come to this country. And they all want their daughters to be like me 'cause I have become a role model. And that I always speak of very -- it's very important to have role models because in my village we didn’t have any other person. But now, they have me. And they look at me and they say, she has made it. And so I want my daughter to be like her.

  • 11:46:02

    REHMAnd for you, as you talk about and hear Kakenya, Ritu, how many other women can you reach?

  • 11:46:16

    SHARMAI think that the only way the world is really going to change is the way that Kakenya is changing it. We've had the economic evidence, that's in this World Bank report, for many, many years. It's useful, but it's not what changes the minds of men or elders or communities. What changes people is being faced by a girl who is saying, it's my right to go to school. It's my right to live. That's what really changes communities from the ground up. I think the best thing the Word Bank could do is to invest. Invest in women like Kakenya. There are so many women who are doing extraordinary things in their communities, incredible -- starting businesses with $50. Women who are building shelters for women in Afghanistan, the dangerous place in the world.

  • 11:47:23

    REHMSo you're saying simply recognizing the inequality is just doing one step.

  • 11:47:31

    SHARMATo see it is to take the first step. To support those who are putting their lives on the line to change it is the next best step that you can take.

  • 11:47:45

    REHMAnd you, Kakenya, what is your view when you hear talk about gender inequality in terms of money? Is that the answer?

  • 11:47:59

    NTAIYAI think you can put money in a woman's hand, but when she's so afraid that her husband's going to beat her, it's not going to help her. But if she knows her rights, if she's educated -- and that's why I believe in education so much -- if she's educated about her rights she's able to go to the police. She's able to say, I have the right. She's able to speak up. And one thing that, you know, and that's what I do in the school, is that we wanna teach the girls they need to speak up. Because it's one thing for us to do for them, but if they speak up that is a whole different thing. Because now, they are the ones who are taking the lead.

  • 11:48:40

    REHMBut you had your mother's support. How many girls in that village will have their mother's support to do as you did?

  • 11:48:54

    NTAIYAI think always -- mothers always want the best for their daughters. And that what we know from my experience is that, you know, when we teach the mothers about that -- the approach is not just teaching the girls. It's teaching the mothers. It's teaching the fathers. It's bringing the entire community together because you can't do just by girls alone, but you have to bring the fathers in there. And mothers, as Mr. Zoellick was saying, that if you invest in a woman, she is going to invest in her daughters. She's going to invest in her boys. She's going to bring up a family, but when you educate or you invest in a boy, it's just gonna be one person or one family or -- that's it. It doesn't have a ripple effect as when you educate a woman.

  • 11:49:38

    REHMInteresting. All right. Let's open the phones first to Katie, in Greenville, N.C. Good morning. You're on the air.

  • 11:49:49

    KATIEGood morning. I have to say I just absolutely got goose bumps from this last section. Thank you so much. I just wanted to mention another story of a woman that I heard about, Wangari Maathai -- who is quite well known, as I understand it -- And her tree-planting movement. And I recognize that there is so much value in all the small stories, as we were just discussing, but this movement, as far as the environmental impact that's possible, that can be concurrent with the empowerment of women and how well those two things went together in Wangari Maathai's tree-planting movement. And I just wanted to bring that up as a really -- another incredibly inspirational story. And thank you so much. I'll take my response off the air.

  • 11:50:45

    REHMThank you, Katie.

  • 11:50:47

    SHARMAWangari Maathai is another just incredible, remarkable woman. And Kakenya's sitting next to me with a big smile on her face. I think we both just have incredible admiration for Wangari.

  • 11:50:59

    REHMTell me about her.

  • 11:51:00

    SHARMAWangari Maathai is a woman who began The Green Belt Movement in Kenya. What she saw happening was that trees were being cut down, stolen for logging. And she brought the community together, the women, to plant trees and reforest, stabilize the community, stabilize the soil. And what she did that is so inspired -- and I'll never forget her saying this to me -- is that you need the men, too. The women can grow seedlings in the nursery. And they are so tender and so caring of the trees, but nobody can dig a hole like a man. And we need both. We need both. Her story is that she spent many years in jail. She was prosecuted by the government. And then she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.

  • 11:51:59

    REHMI wonder if you, Kakenya, believe that this report from the World Bank can change minds, can change attitudes within villages like yours, about the need for an equality between the men and the women, as Sharma has just said, it's clearly important to have both, but to treat them equally.

  • 11:52:34

    NTAIYAExactly. And I think that the report is so influential in the government of Kenya, which can take the step of, you know, distributing and actually doing the work that is written on the report. And so it's one step that the World Bank is recognized about it. And then putting pressure on countries and which I think that the bottom line is that, who is that who is gonna be on the ground, actually implementing and actually doing the work. So it is one step, but we still have a long way to go.

  • 11:53:09

    REHMWhat is, from your perspective, what do you see is the biggest challenge to gender equality?

  • 11:53:19

    NTAIYAI think the biggest challenge for me is that there is this ignorant mind that people do -- men do realize that women are very important in bringing change in their community. But is that power dynamic that -- it's an ignorant mind that we -- it takes some strong-will people to step up …

  • 11:53:45


  • 11:53:46

    NTAIYA… and say, no. Because it's not that people didn't know that FGM is against the law. They know it, but they don't wanna practice. They still wanna oppress the women. They still wanna see them as, you know, second class citizen. They still wanna see them down, but it's that will, that one person who can stand up and say, no. And that -- I’m looking for, for that one man or two men in my village who will say that.

  • 11:54:11

    REHMDo you believe you'll find them?

  • 11:54:13

    NTAIYAYes, I do. I have them -- I have them …

  • 11:54:15

    SHARMAShe'll marry one of them.

  • 11:54:17

    REHMShe'll marry one of them, no doubt. But as you look at these statistics that Mr. Zoellick and I talked about, the almost 4 million women who go missing each year. Some of these because of infanticide, some selective …

  • 11:54:42


  • 11:54:43

    REHM… abortion. How much has each of you seen of this happening? Ritu?

  • 11:54:52

    SHARMAOh, I've seen it profoundly and with my own eyes in villages where the boys -- the baby boys are fat and chubby and adorable and the girls are thin as rails. And it's heartbreaking as a mother. It's unspeakable. And you see it. It is everywhere. It's part of the fabric. It's part of the psyche of lives. And I very much agree with Kakenya, that it's not just about changing economics or making an economic case for change. It is about winning hearts and minds.

  • 11:55:32


  • 11:55:33

    SHARMAIt is about opening the minds of fathers so that they see their daughters as full human beings and love them, as much as their boys.

  • 11:55:43

    REHMKakenya, you have how many siblings, seven?

  • 11:55:47


  • 11:55:49

    REHMAnd are they boys, girls?

  • 11:55:51

    NTAIYAThey're -- we have two boys and the rest are girls.

  • 11:55:56

    REHMAnd the rest are girls.

  • 11:55:57


  • 11:55:57

    REHMAre they in school?

  • 11:55:59

    NTAIYAYeah, all -- everybody in my family in school.

  • 11:56:04

    REHMAnd it's all because of you?

  • 11:56:06

    NTAIYAI believe so, but also my mom. My mom is a very strong woman. She just, you know, she's undergone so much that she just -- she makes us go to school, whether we like it or not. So …

  • 11:56:20

    REHMAnd the boys?

  • 11:56:21

    NTAIYAYes. Both boys and girls.

  • 11:56:24

    REHMSo how do you see your future?

  • 11:56:28

    NTAIYAOh, wow. I really wanna work to better my community, my country and my world. And to me that means I wanna work to make sure that, you know, girls, boys, you know, all children, as seen equally and not as based on gender, but be -- a child is a child and they have rights and they're protected. And the same thing to women. So …

  • 11:56:56

    REHMKakenya Ntaiya of The Kakenya Center For Excellence, Ritu Sharma of Women Thrive Worldwide. Thank you both so much for joining me.

  • 11:57:11

    NTAIYAThank you so much, Diane.

  • 11:57:12

    SHARMAThank you. It's great to be here.

  • 11:57:13

    REHMAnd thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.

  • 11:57:17

    ANNOUNCER“The Diane Rehm” show is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture, Monique Nazareth, Sarah Ashworth, Lisa Dunn and Nikki Jecks. The engineer is Tobey Schreiner. A.C. Valdez answers the phones. Visit for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information.

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