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.