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The Drive for Financial Inclusion: Lessons of World Bank Group Experience – Approach Paper

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Financial inclusion is expected to help address poverty and shared prosperity by improving and smoothing household incomes at the same time as reducing vulnerability to shocks, improving investments in education and health, and encouraging the growth of businesses and related employment. The poor face immense financial challenges. The income of the poor is not only lower but also more volatile. Show MoreFinancial inclusion is expected to help address poverty and shared prosperity by improving and smoothing household incomes at the same time as reducing vulnerability to shocks, improving investments in education and health, and encouraging the growth of businesses and related employment. The poor face immense financial challenges. The income of the poor is not only lower but also more volatile. They often rely on a range of unpredictable jobs or on weather-dependent agriculture. Transforming irregular income flows into a dependable resource to meet daily needs represents a crucial challenge for the poor. Another challenge lies in meeting costs if a major expense arises (such as a home repair, medical service, or funeral) or if a breadwinner falls ill. Savings, credit, insurance, and remittances can each help the poor to smooth volatile incomes and expenses, providing a margin of safety when income drops or expenses rise, or providing the needed funds for children’s education or health care. Additionally, financial inclusion in the form of financial services for microentrepreneurs and very small enterprises has been guided by the intention that it can help them to survive, grow, and generate income for the poor. Nonetheless, evidence that financial inclusion directly takes people out of poverty is mixed. The main objective of this evaluation is to enhance learning from the Bank Group’s experience, including the World Bank, IFC, and MIGA, in supporting client countries in their efforts to advance financial inclusion over the period of FY14–20. It both updates and expands on a 2015 IEG evaluation, which assessed Bank Group activity for FY07–13. It not only updates an evaluation of WBG activity in financial inclusion and in support of national financial inclusion strategies, but also plans for a deep focus on the following: (i) A retrospective look at the drive for universal financial access (the UFA 2020 initiative), including outcomes achieved in its 25 focus countries; (ii) Progress and challenges in women’s access to financial services (gender); (iii) An in-depth examination of digital financial inclusion efforts and the role of digital financial services as vehicles for financial inclusion. This work intends to focus more deeply on outcomes on the ground for poor households and microenterprises. It intends to understand the relevance and effectiveness of these activities, including the outcomes and the mechanisms by which observed outcomes were achieved. The evaluation aims to identify lessons applicable to the World Bank, IFC or MIGA by obtaining evidence-based findings of what works, why, and for whom.

Early Evaluation of the World Bank’s COVID-19 Response to Save Lives and Protect Poor and Vulnerable People (Approach Paper)

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Disrupting billions of lives and livelihoods, the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic jeopardizes countries’ development gains and goals on an unprecedented scale. Restoring human capital and maintaining progress on development priorities depends on successfully containing and mitigating the effects of the pandemic, especially its toll on poor and vulnerable people. This Independent Evaluation Group Show MoreDisrupting billions of lives and livelihoods, the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic jeopardizes countries’ development gains and goals on an unprecedented scale. Restoring human capital and maintaining progress on development priorities depends on successfully containing and mitigating the effects of the pandemic, especially its toll on poor and vulnerable people. This Independent Evaluation Group evaluation will assess the World Bank’s early portfolio of COVID-19 support aimed at saving lives, protecting poor and vulnerable people, and strengthening institutions in these areas. The evaluation has one overarching question: What has been the quality of the World Bank’s early COVID-19 response in terms of saving lives and protecting poor and vulnerable people? The evaluation will conduct multilevel analyses, anchored at the country level, to triangulate evidence for early learning from the implementation of the World Bank’s support.

Mozambique Country Program Evaluation (Approach Paper)

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Mozambique’s recent history is characterized by economic growth, rising inequality, and fragility. After the end of a civil war in 1992, Mozambique enjoyed a sustained period of growth until 2014, positioning it as one of the fastest-growing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Such growth, however, was not broadly shared and inequality increased. Fragility in Mozambique traces back to the uneven Show MoreMozambique’s recent history is characterized by economic growth, rising inequality, and fragility. After the end of a civil war in 1992, Mozambique enjoyed a sustained period of growth until 2014, positioning it as one of the fastest-growing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Such growth, however, was not broadly shared and inequality increased. Fragility in Mozambique traces back to the uneven historical development of the state, in part shaped by geographical characteristics, and to the nature of the political settlement and the exclusionary political arrangements that it maintains. This evaluation seeks to assess the World Bank Group’s success at helping Mozambique address challenges that constrain its development. The evaluation will cover fiscal years (FY)08–21 and is timed to inform Mozambique’s next Country Partnership Framework (CPF). The evaluation will assess the Bank Group’s support for addressing three development challenges and drivers of fragility in Mozambique: (i) rural poverty linked to weak agricultural productivity and regional inequalities; (ii) weak institutions and governance; and (iii) vulnerability to natural disasters and climate change.

Towards Productive, Inclusive, and Sustainable Farms and Agribusiness Firms: An Evaluation of the World Bank Group’s Support for Development of Agri-Food Economies (2010-2020) – Approach Paper

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Sustainable development of the agricultural sector and the associated agrifood industry is key to ending hunger and poverty and meeting other global goals, such as those related to climate change. Fostering broad-based agricultural development requires transforming agrifood systems because of their critical role in economic growth, employment, and sustainable agricultural development. The World Show MoreSustainable development of the agricultural sector and the associated agrifood industry is key to ending hunger and poverty and meeting other global goals, such as those related to climate change. Fostering broad-based agricultural development requires transforming agrifood systems because of their critical role in economic growth, employment, and sustainable agricultural development. The World Bank Group has been a major supporter of previous efforts to develop agriculture and the broader agrifood system economies. The objective of the evaluation is to assess how well the World Bank Group identifies the needs, addresses the constraints, and achieves results in supporting agrifood system development, defined as the development of more productive, inclusive, and sustainable farms and agribusiness firms. More specifically, the evaluation aims to (i) assess the relevance of the World Bank Group in identifying and addressing the key AFS development challenges of raising productivity, improving inclusion and reducing environmental sustainability threats especially from climate change; (ii) assess the effectiveness of World Bank Group support in making AFS more productive, inclusive, and sustainable; and (iii) identify lessons of experience, success factors, and constraints on effectiveness.

Nepal: Shunaula Hazar Din – Community Action for Nutrition Project (PPAR)

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Improvements in child nutrition in Nepal have lagged behind the country’s economic, social, and human development progress over the past decades. At the time of project design in 2011, Nepal ranked among the top countries with the highest national prevalence of stunted growth (40 percent) in children under the age of five, and the country was not on track to reach the Millennium Development Goal’ Show MoreImprovements in child nutrition in Nepal have lagged behind the country’s economic, social, and human development progress over the past decades. At the time of project design in 2011, Nepal ranked among the top countries with the highest national prevalence of stunted growth (40 percent) in children under the age of five, and the country was not on track to reach the Millennium Development Goal’s target of reducing the rate of malnutrition by half. Improving child nutrition is essential for enhancing human capital accumulation, boosting economic growth, and reducing poverty, since the consequences of undernutrition for young children last through adulthood and reduce their potential to learn and to contribute to society. The project was the World Bank’s first stand-alone lending operation in support of Nepal’s nutrition agenda. The project name, “Sunaula Hazar Din,” which means “golden 1,000 days,” reflects the importance of the period from conception to 24 months of age as a window of opportunity to prevent undernutrition before it surfaces. The project’s objective was to improve practices that contribute to reduced undernutrition of women of reproductive age and children under the age of two. At entry, the project covered 15 districts (out of 75 districts in the country), selected based on levels of stunted growth and poverty. A second objective was added in 2015, after the devastating earthquake that struck the country in April, to provide emergency nutrition and sanitation response to vulnerable populations in earthquake affected areas. The project was then operational in 23 districts. Ratings for the Community Action for Nutrition Project are as follows: Outcome was moderately satisfactory, overall efficacy was substantial, Bank performance was moderately satisfactory, and Quality of monitoring and evaluation was substantial. Lessons from the project include: (i) A community-driven implementation approach may not enforce the multisectoral design approach of the project to address the multiple determinants of nutrition. (ii) Equal RRNI-cycle time frames across the menu of goals can slant the selection of goals toward those for which technical know-how is already available, and hence overshadow the spirit of flexibility of the CDD approach. (iii) In settings with limited human resources, the implementation of innovative operations such as RRNIs requires a robust operational planning that takes into account a steep learning curve, strong preparatory arrangements that address weak capacities at entry, and adequate project readiness at entry. (iv) Good collaboration with specialized development partners in emergency relief facilitated the effective responses that maintained the focus on nutrition and on the original intent of the project. (v) Good collaboration with specialized development partners in emergency relief facilitated the effective responses that maintained the focus on nutrition and on the original intent of the project. (vi) In CDD projects that support the achievement of goals yet to be chosen by communities, and which are thus unknown at the outset, additional efforts to collect more granular baseline data at the ward level can facilitate the assessment of the project achievements at completion.

Five Ways to Continue Closing Gender Gaps: Lessons from Albania and Rwanda

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Doctors congregating outside a hospital in Tirana in 2004. Despite gains made in closing gender gaps in the past decade, the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating inequalities. Photo: Albes Fusha/The World Bank.
With the COVID-19 pandemic aggravating inequalities, closing gender gaps has become ever more urgent. We look to recent evaluations of World Bank Group supported programs in Albania and Rwanda for five lessons on how to keep Show MoreWith the COVID-19 pandemic aggravating inequalities, closing gender gaps has become ever more urgent. We look to recent evaluations of World Bank Group supported programs in Albania and Rwanda for five lessons on how to keep pushing the agenda. The ongoing social and economic disadvantages that women around the world face, known collectively as ‘gender gaps’, has left them especially vulnerable to the many impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Women have lost jobs at higher rates, often losing out on education to become care-givers, and their already unequal decision-making power has diminished even further (World Bank, 2020 and 2021). This development calls for policy makers to act strategically to reverse the disproportionate impact of the pandemic and make progress towards reducing gender gaps, which persist despite decades of initiatives and efforts (e.g. UN, World Bank, and IDA). The World Bank Group supports the closing of gender gaps through the implementation of its Gender Equality Strategy, which emphasizes strengthening a country-driven approach, with policy dialogue informed by better country-level diagnostics and sex-disaggregated data to achieve results. IEG’s Country Program Evaluations assess the outcomes of World Bank Group support to client governments; they often include a focus on how this support helps reduce gender gaps and advance gender-specific goals in specific countries. Drawing from recent IEG evaluations of Albania and Rwanda, this blog highlights five general recommendations for governments and development partners seeking to make greater progress in closing gender gaps: 1. Integrate a gender perspective in Country Programs While many country strategies mention gender issues, a gender perspective is not always well integrated. For example, the World Bank Group’s Country Partnership Strategy for Rwanda for Fiscal Years 2014–18 described gender as an overall cross-cutting issue to be pursued – however, it provided little explanation of how gender would be integrated into the Word Bank-supported program or how progress would be reported on. Other common pitfalls include (i) making gratuitous reference to gender mainstreaming without identifying clear areas of action; (ii) reporting on gender using results indicators from individual projects, rather than focusing on outcomes at a higher level e.g., the program or country level; and (iii) inconsistent treatment across sectors – it is often the case that sex-disaggregated indicators appear in education and health sector projects, but not in energy and transport sector projects (World Bank, 2016: 20-23 and World Bank, 2019). 2. Leverage analytical work to build consensus Use analytical work to engage government authorities, citizens, and other stakeholders to articulate and build support and consensus for reforms. In Albania, in-depth analytical work undertaken by World Bank staff helped diagnose gender inequities, and inform the articulation of policy options to address vulnerabilities and gender disparities in a range of areas including labor force participation rates and wages, shortcomings in agency and property rights for women, and significant levels of domestic violence. In Rwanda, several gender-focused analytical products, including ones from the Adolescent Girls Initiative, informed World Bank-supported country strategies and operations. 3. Push most difficult reforms to remove legal and regulatory constraints In Albania, despite recent improvements, legal and regulatory constraints, combined with implementation gaps, still hinder economic opportunities for women. To address the significant gender gap in land ownership, in 2019, the World Bank Group encouraged inclusive land and property registration and policy reforms through the first gender-focused Development Policy Financing Operation. Some of the reforms supported included increasing registration of women as co-owners of properties and improving regulation that allows women to use property to access financing.  At the same time, the Bank worked closely with bilateral donors to coordinate complementary support to build institutional capacity to support the property registration reforms. 4. Ensure data availability While more sex disaggregated data has become available in recent years, data availability remains a challenge. In Albania, the absence of up to date household survey data makes it difficult to update analytical work, calibrate reforms, and gauge progress toward reducing gender disparities. Given the essential role of household survey data in effective project design and in advancing the gender agenda, the Bank will need to be more assertive in encouraging authorities to prioritize publication of future surveys and that these surveys are carried out regularly. 5. Monitor and evaluate using sex disaggregated indicators It is key to include and utilize results indicators to measure progress toward gender objectives. In Rwanda, the results framework for the Bank-supported country strategy included gender-disaggregated indicators, such as the number of female-headed households benefiting from social protection programs. The Rwanda Country Program Evaluation provided some evidence that the Vision 2020 Umurenge Program[1], which the World Bank has consistently supported, has had beneficial effects on the empowerment of women by increasing their access to labor earnings and financial services, in turn enabling precautionary savings and better coping in the face of shocks. A Way Forward Better integrating a gender perspective, using analytical work to build consensus among stakeholders, encouraging policy reform, investing in data availability and monitoring using sex-disaggregated indicators, are five ways governments and development partners can more effectively help clients bridge gender gaps. IEG aims to contribute to this effort through several upcoming evaluations including of Bank-supported programs in Bangladesh, Chad, and Madagascar, as well as of World Bank Group Support in Closing Gender Gaps in Countries Affected by Fragility, Conflict and Violence.   [1] An Integrated Local Development Program initiated by the Government of Rwanda in collaboration with development partners and NGOs to accelerate poverty eradication, rural growth, and social protection.   Pictured above: Doctors congregating outside a hospital in Tirana in 2004. Despite gains made in closing gender gaps in the past decade, the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating inequalities. Photo: Albes Fusha/The World Bank.

World Bank Group Gender Strategy Mid-Term Review

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Colorful image of many silhouettes of women of all races and ages. Image adapted from shutterstock/ Angelina Bambina
The gender strategy Mid-Term Review assesses how well the implementation of the gender strategy positions the World Bank Group to contribute to closing key gender gaps at the midpoint of the strategy’s eight-year cycle (FY16–23). The gender strategy Mid-Term Review assesses how well the implementation of the gender strategy positions the World Bank Group to contribute to closing key gender gaps at the midpoint of the strategy’s eight-year cycle (FY16–23).

How to Implement a Strategy to Close Gender Gaps?

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Photo: © Stephan Gladieu / World Bank. Prof. Amivi Kafui Tete-Benissan (left) teaches cell biology and biochemistry at the University of Lomé. She’s also a vocal activist who encourages girls to pursue science as a career path. “Female students represent only 10 percent of our student body in science and engineering,” she says sadly.
Many large development organizations face challenges in implementing a gender strategy. A mid-term review of the World Bank Group’s Gender Strategy uses a theory of action to illustrate the institutional factors that enable implementation. Recent evaluations in the African Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and the World Food Program point to difficulties in helping staff to think Show MoreMany large development organizations face challenges in implementing a gender strategy. A mid-term review of the World Bank Group’s Gender Strategy uses a theory of action to illustrate the institutional factors that enable implementation. Recent evaluations in the African Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and the World Food Program point to difficulties in helping staff to think and act with a gender lens in their work. Key issues often revolve around who supports staff, how to resource support and what knowledge is required to assist implementation. The current gender strategy of the World Bank Group has defined the institution’s approach since 2016. At the heart of the Gender Strategy is a move towards the prioritization of gender gaps drawing upon focused analysis, action and measurement. The gender gap approach seeks to address deficits identified in the gender mainstreaming approach (used previously), such as: weaknesses in embedding a gender equality orientation across organizations, fragmented results and low replication of success (UNU-WIDER, 2014: 13). A recently completed IEG mid-term review of the World Bank Group’s Gender Strategy identifies opportunities to maximize implementation efforts. The review found that commitment to the Gender Strategy by Bank Group management and staff has translated into progress against plans and good practices in implementing the strategy. This commitment is reflected in changes in how organizational goals are framed and in the increased number of projects targeting gender gaps. When support was well defined, resourced, and coordinated, it helped projects address specific gender gaps for agreed priorities. While commitment at the level of strategy is a prerequisite, actions at the level of the country portfolio and in coordinating support, are also needed. The review found that challenges in implementation arose when there was a lack of support to help identify a gender gap, limited ability to translate technical knowledge into practice, or limited monitoring of gender in projects implementation. To visualize and discuss needed enhancements we put together what evaluators call a theory of action – a diagram that describes the important elements for implementation, their design and connections. The theory of action identified four interconnected institutional elements and factors that enable the implementation of the strategy: commitment to strategic objectives; prioritizing gaps at a country-level; coordinated support to implementation; and monitoring and evaluation of commitments and projects from design to closure. The diagram below elaborates on these four areas.   Commitment to Strategic Objectives Maintaining a focus on the strategic objectives requires strong commitment from the management and governance structures of the organization. Buy-in is necessary for successful implementation of the strategy through, for example, creating staff incentives to reinforce the strategy’s aims. Without this commitment gender will not remain in focus and other areas of work will become prioritized. Implementation actions need to consistently match this commitment and be commensurate with the level of ambition in the strategy. Prioritization of a Country-driven Approach The gender strategy advances a country-driven approach as a critical pathway to support the closure of gender gaps. In the World Bank Group, a country driven approach is particularly important as country programs form the main unit to define, implement and review progress with national governments. The Gender Strategy highlights that sustained progress to closing gender gaps will accrue through coherent alignment from country objectives to projects, policy dialogue, diagnostics, and monitoring. Fully addressing gender gaps takes sustained effort, spans multiple projects, and can be addressed more strategically using Bank Group instruments collectively in a country. For example, to enable more women to enter the workplace can require a change in childcare practices, which needs a coherent approach comprising of policy change, training and private sector investments to support countrywide implementation. Coordinating Support to Implementation To build on commitment and prioritization a country program needs a range of support. The review noted that implementation of the strategy could be enhanced when four sources of support worked together: knowledge generation, curation and use; gender groups that maintain standards, advise staff who support implementation of the strategy on the prioritization of gaps and help synergize efforts between different organizational siloes; gender specialists, and focal points with contextual and sector know-how who can connect different resources; and gender innovation labs to support new influential efforts to address gaps. The review identified how these four sources enabled or constrained implementation of the strategy. For example, all four play a role in supporting the use of analysis to identify and address gender gaps. Gender groups and Gender Innovation Labs can invest in and champion evidence production, such as, impact evaluations, business cases, and specific studies that can assist project implementation. Yet, even with these sources of support in place, unless operational staff receive assistance from both gender specialists and focal points, evidence on gender gaps can be difficult to access or be too hard to translate into different contexts. Monitoring and Evaluation Cutting across all these areas is the need to monitor and evaluate. Without processes to assess commitments, project design, implementation and outcomes, actions may fail to adapt and attention to gender may weaken. The World Bank has put in place processes to measure progress on closing gender gaps through reporting on both corporate commitments and project design, but less attention to implementation and outcomes. With good monitoring and evaluation of gender gaps, opportunities for adaptation can be identified and the assessment of outcomes can help direct implementation towards success. For example, through monitoring supported by the Gender Action Learning System, a project in Kenya identified during implementation the need for enhanced targeting of women entrepreneurs. Further, as a result of a range of evaluation activities, a commercially viable and effective technical assistance(?) and training program for women-owned and women-led small and medium enterprises was scaled-up. Together monitoring and evaluation help to maintain focus on priority gaps and help understand if the gaps are closing meaningfully. Final Thoughts Ensuring synergies in support helps to overcome implementation bottlenecks. Having well organized support enables actions to be contextualized and focus on prioritized gender gaps. Enhancing internal organizational support models through improved coordination, standards and evidence translation are within the control of development agencies and as review shows, requires continued effort. Read the World Bank Group Gender Strategy Mid-Term Review Photo: © Stephan Gladieu / World Bank. Prof. Amivi Kafui Tete-Benissan (left) teaches cell biology and biochemistry at the University of Lomé. She’s also a vocal activist who encourages girls to pursue science as a career path. “Female students represent only 10 percent of our student body in science and engineering,” she says sadly.

Meet the Evaluator: Elena Bardasi

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Elena Bardasi
Building evaluative evidence for the Bank’s gender strategyBuilding evaluative evidence for the Bank’s gender strategy

Argentina: Basic Protection Project (PPAR)

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The Basic Protection Project was prepared in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, in the context of increased pressure to expand coverage and accessibility of Argentina’s social protection policies. The social protection system had historically been linked to the formal labor market through contributory schemes (pension benefits, unemployment insurance, family allowances, health and Show MoreThe Basic Protection Project was prepared in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, in the context of increased pressure to expand coverage and accessibility of Argentina’s social protection policies. The social protection system had historically been linked to the formal labor market through contributory schemes (pension benefits, unemployment insurance, family allowances, health and housing insurance coverage). Noncontributory programs—for children, the unemployed, and informal workers—were limited. The project aimed at strengthening and expanding Argentina’s social protection system by supporting expansion of coverage and improving the design of two income transfer programs for the unemployed and families with children. Ratings for this project are as follows: Outcome was moderately satisfactory, Risk to development outcome was low or negligible, Bank performance was satisfactory, and Borrower performance was moderately satisfactory. This assessment offers the following lessons: (i) The choice of indicators is critical for incentives to be effective, especially when a short implementation time is expected; but the definition of some of the DLIs and the information used to determine their targets were not discussed in detail at appraisal. (ii) This PPAR had to clarify the understanding of “effectiveness,” as it was not made explicit in project documents. (iii) Institutional strengthening of the MTESS statistics area was an important additional aspect of the World Bank’s support, given the peculiar context in which this project was implemented.