World Bank: Improving Women's Lives Through Evidence


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In Uganda, a skills and health training program for teenage girls is dramatically reducing the numbers who engage in risky sexual conduct.

In Kenya, vouchers and information provided to high-school and college students help nudge more women into lucrative jobs like motor-vehicle mechanics and driving, jobs traditionally dominated by men.

In Rwanda, improved land tenure security has empowered women land owners to boost their investments in soil conservation by 18 percent – twice the level of men.

David Evans, Senior Economist and head of Impact Evaluation for the World Bank’s Africa Region says these positive changes in the lives of women and their communities not only benefit their day-to-day lives, but also highlight the far-reaching impacts of innovative development programs that can be scaled up.

A rapidly growing class of World Bank research, called impact evaluations, links these specific results to the better, more promising design of original projects and policies that address development challenges.

“Impact evaluation provides hard data and rigorous evidence for development practitioners to measure the impact of development policies and interventions,” he says.

“By measuring cause-effect relationships, impact evaluations help guide if a program should be scaled up and how it can be improved.”

Therefore World Bank, through its Gender Innovation Lab, is using the Lab’s work to increasingly incorporate gender research into all areas of the Bank’s development work.

Markus Goldstein, Gender Practice Leader and head of the Lab says, “Without hard data and rigorous evidence, we risk our operations not making the changes that women actually need.

Results of this work are already being observed in the areas of agricultural productivity, entrepreneurship and employment, and assets, according to Goldstein.

“Job and life skills training for girls in Liberia and girls’ clubs in Uganda have delivered major increases in work and life prospects,” says Goldstein.

He adds that in Uganda, the difference in earnings between men and women is largely explained by the jobs they choose: “Women entrepreneurs in male-dominated sectors do well. But eliminating differences in how men and women choose jobs requires mentorship and exposure early in life.”

Across Africa, business regulations aren’t what limit women’s businesses the most: Family law, inheritance law, land law, and labor law drive women’s legal opportunities.

“This evidence shows how important gender practice is in all facets of development work, from agriculture to finance to health to social safety nets,” says Goldstein.

“Impact evaluations help to document not only what works and what doesn’t to address gender inequality, but also the tangible economic benefits of doing so.”

To help policy makers better understand how impact evaluation can improve development outcomes, the World Bank has launched a quarterly publication called the Africa Impact Evaluation Update. The first update focuses on skills training and cash transfers.

According to David Evans, the purpose of this publication is for development experts and policymakers to get the evidence they need – easily, rapidly and in plain, non-technical language – to design smart projects that have the biggest impact on people’s lives.


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