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Gender Equality as Smart Economics, the World Bank’s Gender Action Plan: A Year Later

March 7, 2008 -- A year ago, the World Bank Group launched a new Gender Action Plan to help unleash economic potential of women in developing countries.

The plan, "Gender Equality as Smart Economics," focuses on both making markets work for women and empowering women to compete in markets. Giving women better access to land, labor, agriculture and financial markets will help raise their productivity and incomes, which will benefit their families and the economy as a whole.

Since its inception, the plan has allocated US$14.9 million, roughly a third of its funds, to support gender-related activities in 71 Bank projects. Here’s a sample of the undertaken activities:

Afghanistan: Gender components are being mainstreamed into rural and agricultural projects.

Honduras: The Land Administration Project is developing a tool that facilitates and promotes joint land titling to improve women’s access to land. Capacity building for women’s organizations and NGOs will increase awareness of women’s property rights as well as the legal frameworks that are in place to exercise and protect these rights.

Egypt, Liberia, Lao PDR, Kenya, Peru and Vietnam: Projects are underway to increase women’s economic opportunity in the short term. These projects are implemented through a grant to the United Nations Fund for Women (UNIFEM).

Egypt: A project is promoting gender equity in private firms through voluntary training and certification. Firms that choose to participate in the program will set gender equity policies in staff recruitment, training, career development and sexual harassment prevention. The project is modeled after a successful Bank project in Mexico.

Ethiopia: A Gender Action Plan-funded study influenced Bank lending in rural land titling programs and empowered women. The study found that when space was provided to include both spouses’ pictures on the certificate, land certificates were issued jointly to husband and wife more often. In cases where pictures were not required, fewer land certificates were issued to both spouses. More than 80 percent of respondents indicated that certification reduced conflicts, encouraged them to plant trees and rent out land, and improved their perceived possibility of getting compensation in case of land conversion. Women respondents with joint certificates almost universally reported having improved their economic and social status. These results influenced the Bank’s decision to support a US$30 million nation-wide program that scaled up land registration and certification.



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