Why it matters: Targeting Gender and Development through the World Bank

By student contributor Asthaa Chaturvedi

Dr. Jeni Klugman, photo by Asthaa Chaturvedi
Dr. Jeni Klugman, photo by Asthaa Chaturvedi

We bring our series, “Why it Matters,” to a close with a discussion with Dr. Jeni Klugman, director of Gender and Development at the World Bank Group. The work of her team involves integrating gender into the work of the World Bank and guiding the staff in the realm of gender and development. Dr. Klugman says that Gender and Development division also plays a role in monitoring side. “We monitor how the bank is doing on gender and report on that to the board,” she said.

Gender and development is a vast arena to address even with the resources of a body like the World Bank. There are a number of challenges. “Some countries are still struggling on the basics,” Dr. Klugman said, citing high maternal mortality rates in developing countries, child and early marriage, female genital mutilation, and regions where girls are not even finishing primary school.

When I asked her what was on top of the list, Dr. Klugman said that “violence is way to pervasive.” According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 3 women globally affected by some type of physical or sexual violence.

“I think the second [challenge] which is harder to quantify is around discrimination,” she said. This not only includes laws that exclude women from working in particular sectors or prevent women from acquiring a loan independently, but also relates to self perceptions and aspirations of women and girls, like their expectations about their future, which are often circumscribed.

“Violence is kind of the pointy end but I think discrimination is the underlying driver, ” Dr. Klugman said.

There’s plenty of variation between countries and regions. Dr. Klugman said, “Education is one where there’s been enormous gains over time – in terms of schooling – primary and secondary. The number of tertiary graduates globally is larger for women than for men.”

Dr. Klugman also mentioned the spectrum of issues. From a reverse gender gap of boys dropping out, as seen in the Caribbean, and an increase in women’s labor force participation in Latin America.

Last year the World Bank released it’s 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development. “This is the first time that the bank had picked up gender as the central issue to be addressed in their flagship report,” Dr. Klugman said.

From the substantive point of view, the report outlines many of the gains and advances, and just how persistent gaps can be in gender and development. Incorporating gender and development into the agenda of the World Bank is particularly important when considering project effectiveness, says Dr. Klugman. More than half the farmers in developing countries are women. If a project is not tailored to women’s needs, then it’s missing most of its target group. It also is important as international institutions and governments plan for growth and build financial structures and services, which should serve the whole population. The World Bank can be effective in addressing financing gaps and raising the prominence and profile of gender and development because of its close relationship with finance ministers and heads of state, Dr. Klugman said.

Listen to the clip below to hear Dr. Klugman’s thoughts on what the biggest questions are in gender and development.

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