The World Bank recently released a report called Voice and Agency: Empowering Women and Girls for Shared Prosperity, compiling data and studies about the challenges that women and girls face worldwide. The report finds that education is key to advancing the role of women around the world. Girls with little education are at greater risk of child marriage, domestic violence and poverty, which harms both them and their communities.
Group President of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, launched the report with Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. Kim said that “expanding women’s ability to make decisions and take advantage of opportunities is critical of opportunities is critical to improving their lives as well as the world we all share.”
Though there have been key improvements to women’s rights, many challenges remain.
The key facts in the report include:
- Gender-based violence occurs globally, and often occurs within a woman’s own home. Domestic violence is widespread.
- Work choices are restricted for women because of laws or social norms.
- There is a widespread lack of reproductive and sexual rights, such as the inability to refuse sex with a partner.
- Teenagers in developing countries are more likely to get pregnant. In one year, one in five girls in developing countries under 18 gives birth. Half of all teen pregnancies in the developing world occur in South Asia.
- Women do not have the same level of access to technology and ICT (information communications technology) as their male peers.
- Property ownership increases the social status of women and thus their agency.
- “Poverty increases gender gaps.”
- Women’s groups and collective action build momentum for reform.
This is an urgent agenda that needs to be addressed by politicians and lawmakers. This is not a zero-sum game because gender equality helps men and boys as well. Increasing education and achieving gender equality are longstanding development goals.
More and better data is needed to close the gender gap. There is a need for gender disaggregated data. To address this need, the World Bank has introduced a Gender Data site and Clinton has announced a new initiative, Data 2X, to develop new standards for data collection.
You can read the full report here.
Image courtesy of the World Bank.