According to the World Bank, gender equality enhances economic development, improves prospects for future generations and strengthens political and social systems. Though women now comprise more than 40 percent of the world’s labor force, they still lag behind men in terms of earnings and productivity. Women also face greater obstacles when it comes to participation in social and political institutions. Particularly in developing nations, the gender gap hinders economic and social development and destabilizes the political environment.
In it’s 2012 World Development Report: Gender Equality and Development, the World Bank suggests four priority areas for improving gender equality. The first is reducing gender gaps in human capital, specifically female mortality and education. Second, improving female access to education and economic opportunities. Third, addressing women’s under-representation in communities and political systems. Finally, understanding how gender inequality applies across generations. These four priority areas help policymakers understand and address problems associated with the gender gap.
Many factors are helping alleviate the gender gap and promote gender equality in developing nations. Globalization and increased access to information are providing women with stronger connections to markets and economic opportunities. These factors also contribute to increasing knowledge about women’s roles in other cultures throughout the world. Perhaps most importantly, there seems to be a broad understanding and growing consensus about the importance of women’s economic, political, and social empowerment.
One area where gender equality seems particularly important is that of agricultural production and food security. The World Bank Report suggests that improving resource access for women could increase agricultural productivity by 4 percent in developing countries. For example, maize production increased by more than 15 percent in Malawi and Ghana when women farmers were provided with the same resources as men. And, according to the World Food Programme, the number of hungry people in the world could be reduced by as much as 150 million if women farmers had the same access to resources as men.
These reports and accompanying statistics suggest that improving gender equality in developing nations will enhance economic production and create stronger social and political systems. With these systems in place, nations and leaders will be better equipped to address the many issues that confront the developing world. Progress has certainly been made when it comes to gender equality. With more and more evidence confirming the importance of empowering women, policymakers would be well served to improve women’s access to healthcare, education, and economic opportunities as well as increasing female participation in social and political systems.
– Daniel Bonasso