World Bank: more action on gender inequality needed

The World Bank is calling on governments to address gender inequality as part of their socio-economic policies. The bank’s director of poverty reduction and economic management, Ana Revenga, told a seminar in Bangkok recently that there had been major improvements in developing countries over the past 25 years. These gains included an increase in the number of girls enrolling at all levels of education, a sharp decline in maternal mortality rates, falling under-five mortality rates and a rise in life expectancy for both sexes.

Ms Revenga, one of the experts drafting the 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equity and Development, said developing countries were tackling gender issues faster than developed countries. East Asia has been among the best regions in improving gender-related problems, which is in contrast to Latin America, she said. Although the gender wage gap has generally shrunk, Ms Revenga said it remains in sectors such as agriculture.

Sudhir Shetty, the World Bank’s chief economist, said the uneven improvement in gender equality was because of poverty, policies, preferences and norms. Higher income alone is not enough to bring about sufficient progress, he said. Governments must take action to bring about gender equality. Civil society, especially women’s groups, could also push for gender-friendly policies.

Virada Somsawasdi, head of the Women’s Studies Centre at Chiang Mai University, welcomed the World Bank’s gradual shift of concern to gender issues. ”We should look into why rich and developed nations still suffer gender disparities such as sexual violence and power relations in business and the political domain,” she said.

Source:  Bankok Post 11/12/2010

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