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Feeling Ambivalent on International Women’s Day

Haishan Fu's picture
Photo: Lakshman Nadaraja/World Bank

On the eve of International Women’s Day, I was at a side event in NYC when my phone started buzzing with well wishes for a happy women’s day from my friends in Asia, filling me with — ambivalence. To be honest, the day always leaves me with mixed feelings: despite the great strides that the world has made in women’s rights in various ways, for me, it’s also a reminder of how so many women still don’t enjoy our basic human rights.

As we’ve returned from women’s day to what in many ways , I wanted to share three thoughts about the intersection of women’s rights with our data world today.

WEPOWER: Why South Asia needs more women in its energy sector

Tehreem Saifey's picture
The World Bank Team, WePOWER Strategic and Institutional Partners (SIPs) and Nepal High School Female Students, Closing Session, Feb 21, 2019.
The World Bank team, WePOWER strategic and institutional partners, and high school female students from Nepal gathered at the closing session of the Women in Power Sector Network in South Asia (WePOWER), Feb 21, 2019. Photo: World Bank

“There is power in not being alone,”  
Demetrios Papathanasiou - Practice Manager, South Asia Energy Unit at The World Bank

The number of women working in the energy and power sector in South Asia is dismally low.

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As for women engineers and technicians, the proportion is even lower: less than 1 to 6 percent.

To promote opportunities for women in the power and energy sectors, especially in technical roles, the World Bank and its partners recently organized the first regional conference for Women in Power Sector Network in South Asia (WePOWER).

and provided networking and learning opportunities to women and girls.

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A recent found that investing in peer networks and building up proteges as two of the six things successful women in STEM have in common.
 
From a personal point of view, I have learned something powerful during the event: When strong and smart women work together and are supported by men who value women’s engagement as equals, let alone in the engineering or energy sectors, something magical happens.

Helping women market traders in Mozambique unlock their sales potential

Luize Guimaraes's picture
Photo: Daniel Jack/World Bank

It’s 40 degrees Celsius and our skin is sticky. There is so much noise, people constantly moving, taxi drivers screaming directions, prices shouted, and sellers calling out to clients. The sun is rising, but inside the market it is completely dark. Pieces of cloth and large plastic bags protect the stalls, the food and the people from the rising heat of the day. The place looks like a beehive of activity.

Reflections from social media conversations: What obstacles do women face in their working lives?

Sarah Iqbal's picture
Young women work at sewing clothes in Boké, Guinea. © Vincent Tremeau /World Bank
Young women work at sewing clothes in Boké, Guinea. © Vincent Tremeau /World Bank

Over 9 days leading up to International Women’s Day, we asked you about some of the obstacles you face in your own countries through the World Bank’s and channels – and the response was overwhelming.

The inspiration for this campaign was our recent work . The study introduces a new index that scores 187 economies in 8 areas, to understand how women’s employment and entrepreneurship are affected by legal discrimination, and how this impacts  women’s participation in the labor market.

South Asia can get more women to work

Hiska Reyes's picture
 World Bank
South Asian countries are making progress in clearing the way for women to get jobs and creating a safer work environment for them. Yet, too many women across South Asia are left out of the workforce—and that despite booming economic growth. Credit: World Bank

This blog is part of a series examining women’s economic empowerment in South Asia. Starting today on International Women's Day and over the next few weeks, we will be exploring successful interventions, research, and experience to improve gender equality across the region. 

Meet Fazeela Dharmaratne from Sri Lanka.
 
Her story, like that of millions of other women in South Asia, is one of struggle between family and work and a story worth telling as we mark International Women’s Day.
 
Unlike too many of her female peers, Fazeela was able to reinvent herself professionally.
 
As a young woman, straight out of school, she joined a bank in Colombo as a banking assistant. In 17 years, she climbed up the corporate ladder to become regional manager—a position she later quit to care for her children.
 
Unfazed, Fazeela started her own small home-based daycare business in 2012, initially serving only 4-5 children. Today, Fazeela is the director of the CeeBees pre-school and childcare centers serving several corporate clients in Colombo.
 
Fazeela’s success belies the fact that
 
And while employment rates have gone down across the region, women account for most of this decline.
 

 
These numbers are worrying because a drop in female employment has important social costs.
 
First, when women control a greater share of household incomes, children are healthier and do better in school.
 
Second, when women work for pay, they have a greater voice in their households, in their communities, and society.
 
Conversely,
 
A by the International Monetary Fund estimated that
 
The good news is that

Five facts about gender equality in the public sector

Rong Shi's picture



Editor's note: This blog post is part of a series for the 'Bureaucracy Lab', a World Bank initiative to better understand the world's public officials.

It is a well-known, if unacceptable, fact that women globally earn significantly less than men for doing the same work. In the United States, women famously earn “79 cents to the dollar a man earns”, and similar disparities hold across developed and developing countries for wage labor (WDR, 2012). 

Sri Lanka’s women want to work—and thrive in the workplace

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture
A woman hand painting fabric in a local Batik fabric factory
A Sri Lankan woman is hand painting fabric in a local Batik fabric factory. Matale, Sri Lanka. Credit: Shutterstock. January 3, 2017.



Being a woman, mother, sister, aunt – name it, it’s something women wake up to daily and they love it.  None of them question about being enumerated for these roles.  We marvel and revel in the roles. 

But make no mistake.

Women want to work, and they want to stay in the workplace. 

What they seek is balance: a gender-balanced workplace, a gender-balanced management, and more gender-balance in sharing wealth and prosperity. 

In that sense, it’s heartening to see some of the proposals put forth in the government of Sri Lanka’s budget: more daycare centers, flexible work hours, and incentives to promote maternity leave. 

These are very welcome changes to think equal, build smart, innovate for change—the 2019 International Women's Day campaign theme—and we encourage those with jobs to implement these policy changes. 

This year, let me share with you

Advancing diversity in international dispute settlement

Meg Kinnear's picture
© World Bank Group
© World Bank Group

As an international organization tasked with the resolution of investment disputes—diversity is, in fundamental respects, embedded in ICSID's DNA.  (ICSID) has 154-member states, encompassing the majority of the world's countries. ICSID cases involve investors and states from every region in the world and concern all economic sectors—from poultry farms in Turkmenistan to pharmaceuticals in Canada.

It is therefore imperative that the people who argue, decide and administer cases reflect this global makeup. And measurable progress is being made towards greater diversity and inclusiveness, thanks to the concerted efforts of the ICSID Secretariat, government officials and legal professionals operating in the field of international investment dispute settlement. 

Skilling up Bangladeshi women

Tashmina Rahman's picture
Learning new skills for better jobs in Bangladesh: Meet Kamrul Nahar Omi




Non-garment industries such as leather, furniture, hospitality and Information & Technology (IT) are also poised to grow.

But how can we , the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day? 

Female participation in the workforce has been increasing but remains less than half of male participation rates across primary working ages.

Of those females joining work, over 80 percent are engaged in low-skilled, low-productivity jobs in the informal sector with little opportunity for career progression.

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Yet, Bangladesh still has a long way to go with female share in enrollments around 25 percent in TVET programs.

In fact, a  identifies some keys areas of intervention for improving female participation in technical diploma programs:

  1. creating a gender-friendly environment in polytechnics and workplaces;
  2. developing more service-orientated diploma programs;
  3. developing a TVET awareness campaign for females;
  4. (supporting a career counseling and guidance system for females;
  5. improving access to higher education;
  6. providing demand-stimulating incentives; (vii) generating research and knowledge;
  7. leveraging partnerships to promote opportunities for females and
  8. generating more and better data to track progress and inform policy and operations for female-friendly TVET. 

How to succeed as Sri Lanka’s top woman entrepreneur: Honesty, hard work, and perseverance

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture
 

Her story is an inspiration to youth (male and female) and women who are afraid of failure and taking risks.

Starting from a modest home-based business, 50 years ago, today Aban is a household brand name that is island wide in Sri Lanka.


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Kristalina Georgieva
Interim President of the World Bank Group and Chief Executive Officer of the World Bank
Annette Dixon
World Bank Vice President, Human Development

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