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Empowering Women and Girls Q1 2023

Collective action is needed for gender equality and empowerment

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Hana Brixi

Global Director, Gender Group, The World Bank

Women’s empowerment brings prosperity, resilience and wellbeing to communities. Leaders must harness evidence and spur collaborative action toward gender equality and empowerment.

March 8 is International Women’s Day. It is a call to mobilise. Gender equality and empowerment uplift lives and foster a better future for communities and societies. Women are key in helping countries overcome crises and unleash economic potential.

Making gender equality a success story

Bangladesh, from 1970 to 2022, reduced its total fertility rate from seven births per woman to two, and cut under-five mortality by two-thirds. The female literacy rate quadrupled, and women’s employment doubled, all coinciding with a tripling of GDP per capita. Women’s empowerment has helped tackle child marriage and gender-based violence.

Challenges persist all over

However, not every country is experiencing this transformation. In many places, women’s reproductive health remains at risk, girls’ opportunities are shackled, and women are excluded from good jobs. Discriminatory laws and harmful norms endure. We are even seeing a new wave of backlash to progress.

This year, the World Bank Group is updating its Gender Equality Strategy for 2024–2030, distilling three directions in our work: innovate, frame and mobilise.

Women are key in helping countries overcome
crises and unleash economic potential.

How we innovate, frame and mobilise

With our partners, we leverage evidence to help countries design and implement innovative solutions to enhance gender outcomes. We invest in data, evidence and tools, such as economic inclusion programmes that empower women with cash and entrepreneurship assistance, affordable quality childcare, digital platforms and mobile money.

World Bank education projects in Angola, Nigeria and Tanzania are working to empower girls and shift the mindsets of boys. These build on a decade of learning through the Adolescent Girls Initiative and SWEDD projects, both testing approaches to eliminate harmful norms.

We also leverage evidenceto frame solutions to fit local aspirations. Equipped with evidence and examples, community leaders recognise women’s empowerment as a catalyst for food security, while policymakers appreciate how adolescent girls’ empowerment leads to prosperity or how women’s leadership makes climate action and disaster response more effective. Framing, including both rights-based and tailored approaches, helps shift mindsets, incentives and behaviour.

We mobilise resources and, with governments, we support collaborative action to enhance policies, norms and behaviours. Civil society, feminist activists, global and local thought leaders, governments, multilateral actors and the private sector must all make concerted efforts to deliver change.

Learn more about the World Bank Group’s Gender Strategy Update for 2024–3030

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