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CGD’s work on gender focuses policies in aid, development finance, trade, migration and peacekeeping that will improve women’s economic empowerment worldwide.
Greater equality drives big gains in health, education, employment, and improved livelihoods—for individuals, their families, and their communities. However, in many parts of the world, women and girls, and other marginalized groups including LGBT people, still face legal, economic, and political constraints that prevent them from participating fully and equally in society. CGD uses evidence to show how governments, donor institutions, and the private sector can help create conditions in low- and middle-income countries that allow all people to thrive.
CGD, along with Data2X and the World Bank Group, recently hosted an event on the intersections of civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS), legal identification, and gender equality. That sounds like a mouthful, to be sure, but it all comes down to one simple idea: both men and women need to be able to prove who they are, so that they can exercise their rights as citizens and be counted by their governments.
The evidence is clear: integrating a focus on gender into the development agenda is essential if we’re serious about eradicating poverty, improving health and education, and promoting inclusive economic growth. Multilateral development banks (MDBs) have taken this lesson to heart, but there’s still work to be done.
At the National Cathedral’s Sunday Forum last month, CGD’s co-founder and chair of the board, Edward W. Scott Jr., laid out his vision for a better world: economic opportunity and good health for all. In a wide-ranging conversation with Cathedral Dean Samuel T. Lloyd III, Scott focused on three main topics—expanding trade to promote economic development, solving critical problems in public health, and achieving gender equality worldwide.
At the top of his list of priorities, Scott underlined the limits of traditional development assistance, emphasizing the need for economic policies that allow poor countries to trade with the rest of the world. “Aid is not going to bring countries out of poverty,” he said. “The only way they’re going to get out of poverty is to develop their economies. And one of the most important ways for them to develop their economies is to export things to the rich countries.” He said that rich countries stifle the growth of developing countries’ export sectors by charging them high tariffs. Bangladesh and other countries with very poor populations pay higher tariffs than the developed nations of Western Europe, Scott lamented. “[Developing countries] are not a threat to our economy and yet we have these extraordinarily burdensome tariffs on these countries. And it really has to do with politics.” Lifting the barriers that prevent developing countries from accessing developed country markets is predicted to have profound, positive effects. “If we had unfettered free trade in the world,” Scott said, “500 million people would be almost instantly lifted out of poverty.”
Watch the interview at www.nationalcathedral.org
As another top priority, he listed what he described as ‘low-hanging fruit’ in the public health sector. He explained that, while we know how to prevent diseases like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, they continue to kill millions in the developing world. “The truth is that the AIDS, TB, and malaria issues are emergencies—they’re like a forest fire…the fire is not out on these diseases. We have encouraging results, but there’s a long way to go.”
Finally, on gender equality, Scott highlighted the powerful effects that empowering women and girls has on issues ranging from health to economic development. He cited research linking girls’ education to an increase in women’s earning power, decreased incidence of HIV, and decreased incidence of domestic violence. However, he lamented, gender equity is an area where, as he put it, “talk is much more prevalent than action.” He discussed how cultural sensitivities can complicate efforts to solve problems like child marriage.
Scott has helped create a number of anti-poverty organizations including DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa) now known as ONE, which is dedicated to building public and political awareness about extreme poverty and preventable disease especially in Africa. Most recently, Scott launched the
Remarkable increases in primary schooling over the past decade have brought gender equity to the education systems of many poor countries. But as CGD non-resident fellow Maureen Lewis and visiting fellow Marlaine Lockheed show in Inexcusable Absence, nearly three-quarters of the 60 million girls still not in school belong to ethnic, religious, linguistic, racial or other minorities. Marlaine Lockheed discusses the findings around these "doubly disadvantaged girls" and how the new analysis can inform practical policy solutions to achieve universal primary education for girls and boys.
Q: What's new about your research on girls' education?
A: Maureen and I discovered that nearly three out of four girls who are not in school belong to socially excluded groups, such as the Roma in Eastern Europe, hill tribes in Laos, indigenous peoples in Latin America, and lowest caste groups in India and Nepal. We also found programs that have worked to help socially-excluded girls get an education. Our book offers new insights into the problems of the girls who are still not in school, and highlights examples of proven, practical solutions.
Q: Why does educating these girls matter for developing countries?
A: Education is a basic human right for all, including for these girls from marginalized communities. More broadly, lack of educational opportunities for these girls has severe consequences for their communities, including increased poverty and poorer health, for both males and females. We all know that women who attend school have fewer and healthier children than women with no education. By educating girls in excluded communities, donor agencies and developing countries can help to improve lives for the entire community.
Q: How have countries been successful in getting socially-excluded girls into schools?
A: Countries have taken a two-pronged approach that focuses on both the supply of and demand for girls’ schooling. On the supply side, countries have attacked discrimination through laws and affirmative action, expanded school options through community and alternative schools and improved the quality of school facilities and teaching. On the demand side, countries have created incentives for households to send girls to school, such as scholarship programs in Bangladesh and school feeding programs in Kenya. Both approaches have helped to boost the enrollments of excluded girls.
Q: What can the U.S. and other major donors do to help get girls from excluded groups into school?
A: Enrolling socially excluded girls and keeping them in school entails both different approaches and higher costs than programs designed for members of the majority culture. Cultural variations, linguistic differences and the special needs of girls drive up costs. Often lower-income countries simply cannot afford the extra efforts required to reach excluded groups. The U.S. and other donors, who have done much to help boost the enrollments of girls overall, should ensure that the girls’ education initiatives they help to fund include resources to take into account the special needs of socially excluded girls. For example, financing remedial or compensatory school work for children who are behind or unable to keep up because they have neither the resources nor the necessary support at home. First-time school children often need some additional investment and it is an easily identifiable and achievable task and we have good experiences from across the world on this.
Q: What about the role of international organizations?
A: The UNESCO Institute for Statistics should report school participation and achievement data disaggregated by gender and by ethnic/linguistic group, to make it possible to identify the role of social exclusion. Disaggregating enrollment by gender--reporting separately on the school enrollment and achievement of girls and boys--was essential in monitoring progress towards gender equity. Having data on social exclusion would be a big help in designing programs to meet the needs of the vast majority of the 60 million girls who are still not in school.
Note: Inexcusable Absence: Why 60 Million Girls still Aren't In School and What to do About It will be discussed on Tuesday, Feb. 13, at a CGD event featuring the authors, U.S. Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), and Canadian M.P. Belinda Stronach. The event will be moderated by Gene Sperling, senior fellow for economic policy and director of the Center for Universal Education, Council on Foreign Relations. Complementary copies of the book will be available. See the event listing for more information and to register.
A few months ago, I wrote a note calling for financial incentives to increase the number of women in (military) peacekeeping operations from its current level of about 4 percent closer to the UN Security Council target of about 20 percent. This post includes some more thoughts about the idea, around what to use financial incentives for, and how to fund that.
Knowing in which sectors women-owned businesses cluster can help policymakers identify where their offensive and defensive interests lie so that trade negotiations do not disadvantage women. It would also help in designing capacity-building and other programs to ensure that female-owned businesses can take advantage of new trade opportunities.