Trade Forum Features

A new strategy to address gender inequality

7 March 2016
ITC News
No country, no economy, no company or community can meet challenges or achieve its potential without their women

The evidence is clear: when countries value girls and women as much as boys and men; when they invest in their health, education, and skills training; when they give women greater opportunities to participate in the economy, manage incomes, own and run businesses – the benefits extend far beyond individual girls and women. They expand to include their children and families, their communities, societies and economies at large.

This is the vision behind the World Bank Group’s new Gender Equality Strategy, which charts an ambitious path toward improving opportunities for women and girls not only because it is morally right, but because it is critical to economic development.

Informed by months of consultations in 22 countries with governments, civil society organizations, the private sector and other relevant actors, the new strategy builds on robust evidence that persistent gaps between men and women impose significant costs globally that can and must be addressed.

For instance, women are barred in some countries from opening bank accounts or lines of credit and often do not own the kind of property that banks request as collateral. Promising projects to overcome these constraints include recognizing property such as merchandise and other movable collateral that would allow them to access credit. For those who only have limited proof of identity, a problem that often begins with failing to register the birth of a girl, documents such as utility bills could help women open bank accounts, which are strongly linked to poverty reduction.

Our strategy builds on four objectives, all of them indispensable to a more equal world: reducing maternal mortality and closing remaining health and education gaps; creating more and better jobs; closing the gender gap in ownership and control of key assets such as land, housing, technology and finance; and enhancing women’s ability to direct the course of their own lives. It focuses on promising interventions that achieve tangible, real-world results that transform lives and genuinely level the playing field and create opportunities for all.

In Bangladesh, for example, investments in family planning led to improvements in women’s health, declines in child mortality and increased female labor force participation. This is projected to boost growth by almost 2% over the next decade. In Latin America and the Caribbean, women’s labour force participation increased by 7 percentage points in 2000-2012. World Bank research attributes to this a 30% reduction in the region’s extreme poverty and a 28% reduction in inequality over the last decade.

Closing productivity gaps between females and males in sectors such as agriculture adds to growth in the overall economy in low-income countries. One of our most recent studies showed that increasing female farmers’ access to land, capital and financial services would not only lead to real GDP growth but would also ensure a sharp drop in the share of people who go hungry.


We now face the exciting challenge of implementing our new approach and tailoring solutions to suit unique country contexts and building on what works best. We will target areas in which we can be transformational, leveraging partnerships while working closely with the private sector. We will innovate and evaluate.

Infrastructure is a promising and often neglected area when it comes to promoting and implementing gender inequality. More women than men rely on public transport and meeting their needs for safe, reliable, affordable transportation may open up a world of work and other opportunities for women in particular while creating a better transportation system for everyone.

In Brazil, for example, the World Bank designed and supported a program to update Rio de Janeiro’s sprawling urban transport system, taking high rates of gender-based violence into account and drafting the urban network to deliver a wide range of services to women. Now all stations have women’s restrooms and better lighting while five major stations offer legal, medical, and counseling services to women who experience violence. A similar initiative is under way in Ecuador.

Gender inequality remains one of the biggest obstacles to shared prosperity. No country, no economy, no company or community can meet today’s challenges or achieve its potential until all its people can achieve theirs. We look forward raising our game in ways that get us to equal.