This major new report by the World Bank distills vast data and hundreds of studies to shed new light on constraints facing women and girls worldwide, from epidemic levels of gender-based violence to biased laws and norms that prevent them from owning property, working, and making decisions about their own lives.
According to the report, girls with little or no education are far more likely to be married as children, suffer domestic violence, live in poverty, and lack a say over household spending or their own health care than better-educated peers, which harms them, their children, and communities.
Some 65 percent of women with primary education or less globally are married as children, lack control over household resources, and condone wife-beating, compared with 5 percent of women who finish high school, Voice and Agency: Empowering Women and Girls for Shared Prosperity finds.
Across 18 of the 20 countries with the highest prevalence of child marriage, girls with no education were up to six times more likely to marry than girls with high school education, it finds. Nearly one in five girls in developing countries meanwhile becomes pregnant before age 18, while pregnancy-related causes account for most deaths among girls 15-19 in the developing world—nearly 70,000 die each year.
In all regions, better educated women tend to marry later and have fewer children. “Enhanced agency—the ability to make decisions and act on them—is a key reason why children of better educated women are less likely to be stunted: Educated mothers have greater autonomy in making decisions and more power to act for their children’s benefit,” World Bank Group Director for Gender and Development Jeni Klugman said. “Educated mothers have greater autonomy in making decisions and more power to act for their children’s benefit.”
In Ethiopia, 1-year-olds whose mothers had a primary school education along with access to antenatal care were 39 percent less likely to have stunted growth, for example, while in Vietnam infants whose mothers had attained a lower-secondary education were 67 percent less likely to have stunted growth.
Voice and Agency, which builds on the 2012 World Development Report, focuses on several areas key to women’s empowerment: freedom from violence, control over sexual and reproductive health and rights, ownership and control of land and housing, and voice and collective action. It explores the power of social norms in dictating how men and women can and cannot behave—deterring women from owning property or working even where laws permit, for example, because those who do become outcasts.
Policymakers and stakeholders need to tackle this agenda, drawing on evidence about what works and systematically tracking progress on the ground. This must start with reforming discriminatory laws and follow through with concerted policies and public actions, including multi-sectoral approaches that engage with men and boys and challenge adverse social norms.
Expanding opportunities and amplifying the voices of women and girls isn’t a zero-sum equation, because gender equality conveys broad development dividends for men and boys, families, and communities. Conversely, constraining women’s agency by limiting what jobs they can do or condoning gender-based violence can cause huge economic losses and hinder development efforts.
In 2012, the World Bank Group introduced a new Gender Data Site, which comprises surveys, statistics, analytical work, and reference materials covering girls’ and women’s employment, access to productive activities, education, health, public life and decision-making, human rights, and demographic outcomes.
Secretary Clinton has also announced a new initiative, Data 2X, that will develop new curriculum standards to ensure data producers and users train in gender-sensitive techniques.
The project will work with key data organizations, including the United Nations, World Bank Group, OECD, PARIS21, and Gallup, to also publish a roadmap on how to fill priority gaps in gender-sensitive data as quickly as possible.
Click here to read the original article by the World Bank.