New World Bank Report Calls for More Action to Achieve Equality of Girls and Women

A new report released by the World Bank, entitled “Voice and Agency: Empowering Women and Girls for Shared Prosperity” presents new evidence about the key constraints withholding girls and women worldwide from achieving their full potential to benefit their families and communities.

One critical highlighted point is that girls’ access to education plays an essential role in shaping their future and enhancing their ability to implement decisions and choices, even when gender norms are limiting. The report reveals that girls with no access to education are six times more likely to get married as children, causing them to live in extreme poverty and denying them a voice at household level. This contributes to prevalent  levels of gender-based violence—one of the key constraints listed in the report.

Globally, 700 million women suffer physical and sexual violence at the hands of their husbands, boyfriends or partners, the report finds. The rates of violence vary from region to region with 21 percent in North America to 43 percent in South Asia, and almost one-third of women across 33 low-and middle-income countries reveal that they do not feel they can say no to sex with their partners. These women in particular have limited control over their sexual and reproductive rights.

The report also discloses  that biased laws and norms inhibit women from owning property, working and making decisions about their own lives. Fewer women than men own property and land, and they are under-represented in politics and formal positions of power. For example, women account for less than 22 percent of parliamentarians and less than 5 percent of mayoral positions worldwide, with variations from country to country.

The report calls upon policy makers and stakeholders to tackle this agenda through a set of recommendations that include:

• Promoting programs that promote more gender equitable communications and decisions
• Reforming discriminatory laws, particularly in the realm of family, inheritance and property laws
• Engaging men, boys, communities, and traditional authorities to change norms around violence, reproduction, and household gender roles
• Increasing school enrollment and achieving gender equality in enrollment of girls as a development goal, and ensuring that enrollment through upper secondary levels for girls is especially prioritized.

Read the full report


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