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Bern, Press release, 22.11.2011

If the obstacles hindering women from working in all of the economic sectors and being active in all of the professions did not exist, work productivity could be boosted by about 25% in certain countries. This is but one example among many others that showcases how fundamental gender equality is for development. The World Development Report 2012 published by the World Bank is focused directly on this theme. Launched last September in Washington, the Report was presented on Monday in Geneva and on Tuesday in Bern in partnership with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

Today, women make up more than 40% of the total active population, constitute some 43% of the agricultural labour force, and represent over 50% of the university students on a global scale. In all of the regions of the world, their life expectancy exceeds that of men. In Malawi and in Ghana, for instance, the production of corn could be increased by nearly one-sixth if the women farmers enjoyed the same access to fertilizers as do the men. In this sense, gender equality is not only per se a basic objective of development, but also a decisive factor in economic growth.  

This is one of the conclusions taken from the World Development Report 2012 published by the World Bank and dedicated to the theme of Gender Equality and Development. Presented on Monday in Geneva and Tuesday in Bern at an event co-organized by the World Bank and the SDC, the Report shows that equality between men and women can lead to an increase in economic productivity and can benefit the coming generation by providing better living conditions resulting from development. In countries as different as Brazil, Nepal, Pakistan and Senegal, the experts have found that an improvement in women’s and girls’ education and health levels made it possible to enhance the wellbeing of their children.  

In the course of the last twenty-five years, as the Report points out, the living conditions of women and girls have undergone a considerable change. Significant progress has been made in terms of education, life expectancy, and participation in economic and social life. However, disparities continue to exist in several domains. In numerous countries characterized by feeble and moderate revenue, the rise in the mortality rate of women and young girls is glaring. Simultaneously, in developing and developed countries, marked differences exist in both the level of remuneration and in female representation in the upper political and economic spheres.  

Conscious of the fact that discrimination against women represents the most common form of exclusion across the globe and that the lopsided balance of power between men and women is one of the causes of poverty and political instability, the SDC considers gender equality as an overarching objective in all of its activities.  

According to the World Bank, economic growth alone is not enough to resolve all of the problems. For this reason, the Report identifies certain domains on which public policy should focus in order to move forward, e.g., reducing excess female mortality, closing education gaps, and increasing women’s voice and agency in households and in society. Improving access to clean drinking water as was done in Vietnam, or enhancing the healthcare given to pregnant women as exemplified by Turkey, both contribute to a reduction in maternal mortality. On the economic level, enhancing women’s access to credit and to land ownership, along with supporting women’s self-help groups and the establishment of children’s day-care centres are among the measures advocated by the World Bank. Furthermore, it recommends that the international community create broader partnerships with the private sector, development agencies, and civil society organizations in order to combat the inequalities still existing between the sexes.  

Further information:

The World Bank’s World Development Report 2012
Gender and Development – Website of the World Bank
Gender – Website of the SDC

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