Social services


Seminar – Gender Equality Matters: The Way Forward

23 September 2011 | Minutes

Open Forum: Gender — Getting to Equal event notes September 21, 2011

Moderator: Hala Gorani, Anchor, CNN International


Robert Zoellick
President, World Bank Group

Maria Eitel
President and CEO, Nike Foundation

Laura Alonso
National Representative, Argentina

Bunker Roy
Founder, Barefoot College

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Nigerian Minister of Finance

Nadia Al-Sakkaf
Editor in Chief, Yemen Times

Gayle Lemmon
Journalist & Author, Dressmaker of Khair Khana

Fernanda Borges
Member of Parliament, Timor-Leste

Kakenya Ntaiya
Founder, Kakenya Center for Excellence

Muna AbuSulayman
Secretary General, Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation

At a slick open forum designed for broadcast,  the Bank brought a large number of speakers from different parts of the world to discuss its 2012 World Development Report on gender and development.

The event touched on a range of important topics ranging from girl’s education to maternal mortality to training of women to micro-finance, among others, bringing much needed attention to a number of gender equality issues that hold relevance for women across the globe. A theme running throughout  the event was an emphasis on women’s participation in contributing to the economy and women as the next “emerging market”. The conversation however failed to acknowledge women’s fundamental rights to equality ensured through the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and conventions such as the Convention on the Elimination of Descrimination Against Women and instead focused on argumentations about gender equality being good economics.

Following are some of the issues raised. Full transcript and broadcast can be found at

Robert Zoellick, President World Bank

The good news is that progress has been made in gender equality in health and education but overall there are mixed results with potential and the need for huge change. “This is the next emerging market. It is smart economics.”

Women’s increased economic participation and control over resources contributes to economic growth. For instance in the Middle East, women own approx 5% of land so they can’t get credit because they don’t have land to borrow against.

There is no one silver bullet. A number of investments in human capital must be made. We also have to address the number of ‘missing women’ who have never been born due to gender selection preferences, or have died young.

We have to focus on smart economics to convince men. This can go a long way in different cultures.

In education you need to focus on how women and girls spend their time and find enabling steps to save them time such as the use of water pumps and technology.
Sports and girl’s involvement is important because it builds confidence and health.

Kakenya Ntaiya

She has started programmes to educate girls in Kenya. She herself was engaged at the age of 5 and everything she did growing up was meant to prepare her to be a wife. There was no focus on education, b/c families don’t want to invest in a daughter who will become part of someone else’s family.

Role models are very important in changing cultures and practices. Now that she has gone away and gotten an education and come back to her community, men all want their daughter s to go to school and be like her

Maria Eitel, Nike Foundation

Gender equality is central to the economy. There is research that has been done that quanitifies what an investment in girls is worth. We need to engage communities about the value of a girl. We also need to see women and girls as the farmers and leaders of the future and need to make investments in them early on. We have to go from small incremental shifts to massive change.

We haven’t been ambitious enough for women and girls. We have been ok with keeping things small. We have the evidence and know what we need to do but at the scale of what the potential is.

Muna AbuSulayman

You have to make sure that the campaigning issues in a place like Saudi Arabia are what matter to local women themselves. 1million women applied for jobs when a programme was opened by one of the ministries. The campaign for women to drive in Saudi Arabia was more a campaign of interest for those in the West. Women have not pushed for this as much.

Laura Alonso

$.72 for every dollar a man earns. But equal work for equal pay is not the main issue. Of course we have to address this. I come from a middle income country from being paid less than men in the same positions. Women work more and train more and are more committed, but money in our pockets are less. It is not just a problem of money it is a question of justice. Women’s participation in politics is also very important and having quotas to ensure they are in political positions. If you don’t have a core group of women in politics they are not able to change anything. Argentina has a law to ensure 33% women’s participation in both houses. This is making a big difference.

We also need to address gender in trade unions. They are still male dominated and represent a large number of women workers and effect their jobs and careers.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

We have to also talk about boys and men. By educating adolescent boys we will change the game. If we educate them that it changes household economics if they help the women in the house. We have to change their mind set about their roles. By the time they grow up they are equal partners in their relationships.

Fernanda Borges and Gayle Lemmon

98% of micro-finance borrowers are women. But it locks them into small solutions. When it comes to women, we think women and aim low. If we think of women as emerging markets we need to unleash the same attention and resources for them. Women are very secure at repayment and don’t present a risk. Now we have to build a case because banks lend on collateral. Women own little land and earn little. Banks look at those figures. We have to address these issues by thinking more innovatively. We need to have the WB and IFC help rethink how finance is offered.

Bunker Roy

In India his organization has found that training rural women is most effective. When men are trained they often migrate to the cities in search of better jobs. Women stay and keep the skills there in the villages. He emphasised the need to address rural women’s issues in specific ways because their realities are different than urban women. In terms of women’s political participation, a number of shifts have been taking place since India passed a law that 33% of leaders at the village council level must be women.

While he welcomed the World Bank’s report he pointed out that the Bank needed to focus on adapting the WDR report to different levels and ensuring it makes change. For instance he suggested that ground level social audits be done of this report and look at the ground level to ensure there is an impact. He also highlighted that the report needed to be demisitifed and made understandable by those at the ground level. Finally he suggested that there are innovations taking place on a regular basis that are small and go unnoticed. He suggested that the WB think in terms of an ‘innovative’ fund and make it so simple and accessible that innovations we don’t hear about, get scaled up in areas like access to energy, water, education, etc