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Voice 
andAgency 
Empowering women 
and girls for shared 
prosperity
Why voice and agency? 
Able to speak up and be heard, 
and to shape and share in 
discussions, discourse and 
decisions 
Able to make decisions about 
one's own life and act upon 
them to achieve desired 
outcomes, free of violence, 
retribution, or fear 
Voice 
Agenc 
y 
“An empowered woman is one who can help herself and others, who has 
a job, knows about herself and her environment and her community. If you 
join societies, organizations, communities, and other social things, even 
spiritually, you will be empowered.” 
— A participant from a focus group in Ghana (Tsikata and Darkwah, 
2011)
Table of Contents 
1. Framing the Challenge: Norms, Constraints & 
Deprivations 
2. Enhancing Women’s Agency: A Cross-Cutting 
Agenda 
3. Freedom from Violence 
4. Control over Sexual and Reproductive Health and 
Rights 
5. Control over Land and Housing 
6. Amplifying Voices 
7. Closing Gaps in Data and Evidence
More than 700 million women subject to violence at 
the hands of a husband, boyfriend or partner in their 
lifetime 
Source: Preliminary analysis of WHO (World Health Organization), global prevalence database (2013) using World Bank regions.
Beyond the human tragedy, violence incurs major 
economic costs 
Often at least what the country spends on primary 
education 
Source: Duvvury et al., 2013
Women often face many deprivations and harmful 
norms 
Percentage of women 
Source: Voice and Agency 2014 team estimates based on DHS for 54 countries using latest available data from 2001-2012.
Extensive deprivations in Niger 
Percentage of women 
Source: Voice and Agency 2014 team estimates based on DHS for 54 countries using latest available data from 2001-2012.
Education is critical in overcoming deprivations 
Suffer three deprivations 
Secondary 
education and 
higher 
Suffer at least one 
deprivation 
Primary 
education or less 
Share with deprivations 
Source: Voice and Agency 2014 team estimates based on DHS for 54 countries using latest available data from 2001- 
2012. 
Primary 
education or less 
Secondary 
education and 
higher
Education is important for sexual autonomy… 
Source: Voice and Agency 2014 team estimates based on DHS using latest available data from 2001-2012.
…And reduces the likelihood of early 
marriage 
Girls who finish high school are six times less likely to marry early 
Child marriage prevalence in 111
Control over land and housing can expand women’s agency 
But, fewer 
women than 
men report 
owning 
housing… 
…or land
Women’s voices can be transformative 
Collective 
action 
Political 
participation 
and decision 
making 
Information 
and 
communicatio 
n 
technologies
But attitudes are restrictive 
The belief that women make equally good leaders is correlated 
with female representation in parliaments 
Sources: Voice and Agency 2014 team estimates for 87 countries based on World Values Survey data, latest years available (1996-2012); 
Inter-Parliamentary Union, 2013.
6 
5 
4 
3 
2 
1 
0 
Uneven progress in addressing legal 
Changes in average number of legal constraints by 
Middle East 
and North 
Africa 
disparities 
South Asia Sub-Saharan 
Africa 
East Asia 
and the 
Pacific 
Latin 
America and 
the 
Caribbean 
region 
OECD Eastern 
Europe and 
Central Asia 
Average no. of constraints 
1960/Initial 2010 
Note: Number of potential constraints equals 11 
Hallward-Driemeier, Hasan and Iqbal, 2013 Women’s Legal Rights Over 50 
Years
The need for legal reform remains 
Number of 
Source: Wcomoenu, Bnusitnresise ansd the Law 2014 
At least one legal 
difference between 
men & women 
No laws on domestic 
violence 
Restrictions on 
women as head 
of household 
Unequal inheritance 
rights 
31 
29 
28 
128
Momentum for change: the case of domestic 
Number of countries with legislation against domestic 
violence 
1 2 3 4 
8 
13 
19 
23 
27 28 30 
35 37 
41 
47 
54 56 
61 63 
67 69 
72 74 76 
violence 
Source: World Bank, Women, Business and the Law 2014: Removing Restrictions to Enhance 
Gender Equality
Promising directions for changing social 
norms 
Access 
to 
justice 
Social 
protecti 
on Engaging 
men, boys, 
families, 
communiti 
es 
Economic 
opportuniti 
es 
Educati 
on 
Media
Gender-Based Violence: What works? 
Prevention 
• Include men AND 
women 
• Engage entire 
community 
• Combine multiple 
approaches 
• Last at least 6 months 
• Address social norms 
around the 
acceptability of 
violence 
Source: D. Arango, M. Morton, F. Gennari, S. Kiplesund and Mary E. forthcoming. Interventions to Prevent and Reduce Violence Against 
Women and Girls: A Systematic Review of Reviews. Background paper to the report on Women’s Voice and Agency. Washington, DC: World 
Bank. 
Forthcoming, the Lancet. 
Response 
• Target survivors rather 
than perpetrators 
• Encourage women’s 
autonomy and 
empowerment 
• Include psychosocial 
elements (e.g. 
counseling) and victim 
advocacy
Programs enhancing agency 
TOSTAN 
Working with 
communities 
to eliminate 
FGC and 
child 
marriage 
SASA! 
Mobilizing 
communities 
to reduce 
domestic 
violence 
PROGRAM 
P 
Promoting 
men’s 
roles as 
gender-equitable 
caregivers
“Data not only measures progress. It inspires 
it.” 
-Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton 
Selected New 
Gaps Efforts 
Internationally agreed core 
indicators (52) 
Evidence on Data and Gender 
Equality (EDGE) 
Data 2X 
Internationally agreed 
indicators on violence against 
women 
GBV: Scarce, infrequent and 
often underestimated 
Sexual & reproductive 
health: Scarce 
Access to land: Data not 
collected at individual level 
Voice: Limited
Media reception to the report 
600+ tweets featuring #WomenCan have captured 10+ Million impressions to 
date. 
On May 14, #WomenCan was the #7 trending Twitter topic in the United 
States*** 
and the #2 trending Twitter topic in Washington, D.C. 
Original “postcards” 
posted on the 
World Bank’s 
Facebook channel. 
World Bank Live Event 
9,143 page views to date, 4,597 live blog views, 70 online questions submitted 
Top 10 Countries: US, UK, Canada, India, Australia, Mexico, South Africa, Germany, Japan, France 
***A World Bank first
Over 400 news stories in more than 20 countries covered -- US, Canada, 
Pakistan, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, China, Malaysia, South Africa, 
Nigeria, Uganda, Turkey, Morocco, Syria, Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, 
Kuwait, Egypt, and Algeria. 
Educating Girls: Big Payoff For $45 A 
Year 
May 15, 201411:37 AM ET - NPR Tell Me More 
Girls without an education are six times more 
likely to marry young than those who've finished 
high school, according to a new report from the 
World Bank Group. Guest host Celeste Headlee 
learns more. 
World Bank: 700 million women 
subject to conjugal violence 
Child brides face increased chances of 
illiteracy, domestic violence, report 
says
#WomenCan 
Voice 
andAgency

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Voice and Agency: Empowering Women and Girls for Shared Prosperity

  • 1. Voice andAgency Empowering women and girls for shared prosperity
  • 2. Why voice and agency? Able to speak up and be heard, and to shape and share in discussions, discourse and decisions Able to make decisions about one's own life and act upon them to achieve desired outcomes, free of violence, retribution, or fear Voice Agenc y “An empowered woman is one who can help herself and others, who has a job, knows about herself and her environment and her community. If you join societies, organizations, communities, and other social things, even spiritually, you will be empowered.” — A participant from a focus group in Ghana (Tsikata and Darkwah, 2011)
  • 3. Table of Contents 1. Framing the Challenge: Norms, Constraints & Deprivations 2. Enhancing Women’s Agency: A Cross-Cutting Agenda 3. Freedom from Violence 4. Control over Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights 5. Control over Land and Housing 6. Amplifying Voices 7. Closing Gaps in Data and Evidence
  • 4. More than 700 million women subject to violence at the hands of a husband, boyfriend or partner in their lifetime Source: Preliminary analysis of WHO (World Health Organization), global prevalence database (2013) using World Bank regions.
  • 5. Beyond the human tragedy, violence incurs major economic costs Often at least what the country spends on primary education Source: Duvvury et al., 2013
  • 6. Women often face many deprivations and harmful norms Percentage of women Source: Voice and Agency 2014 team estimates based on DHS for 54 countries using latest available data from 2001-2012.
  • 7. Extensive deprivations in Niger Percentage of women Source: Voice and Agency 2014 team estimates based on DHS for 54 countries using latest available data from 2001-2012.
  • 8. Education is critical in overcoming deprivations Suffer three deprivations Secondary education and higher Suffer at least one deprivation Primary education or less Share with deprivations Source: Voice and Agency 2014 team estimates based on DHS for 54 countries using latest available data from 2001- 2012. Primary education or less Secondary education and higher
  • 9. Education is important for sexual autonomy… Source: Voice and Agency 2014 team estimates based on DHS using latest available data from 2001-2012.
  • 10. …And reduces the likelihood of early marriage Girls who finish high school are six times less likely to marry early Child marriage prevalence in 111
  • 11. Control over land and housing can expand women’s agency But, fewer women than men report owning housing… …or land
  • 12. Women’s voices can be transformative Collective action Political participation and decision making Information and communicatio n technologies
  • 13. But attitudes are restrictive The belief that women make equally good leaders is correlated with female representation in parliaments Sources: Voice and Agency 2014 team estimates for 87 countries based on World Values Survey data, latest years available (1996-2012); Inter-Parliamentary Union, 2013.
  • 14. 6 5 4 3 2 1 0 Uneven progress in addressing legal Changes in average number of legal constraints by Middle East and North Africa disparities South Asia Sub-Saharan Africa East Asia and the Pacific Latin America and the Caribbean region OECD Eastern Europe and Central Asia Average no. of constraints 1960/Initial 2010 Note: Number of potential constraints equals 11 Hallward-Driemeier, Hasan and Iqbal, 2013 Women’s Legal Rights Over 50 Years
  • 15. The need for legal reform remains Number of Source: Wcomoenu, Bnusitnresise ansd the Law 2014 At least one legal difference between men & women No laws on domestic violence Restrictions on women as head of household Unequal inheritance rights 31 29 28 128
  • 16. Momentum for change: the case of domestic Number of countries with legislation against domestic violence 1 2 3 4 8 13 19 23 27 28 30 35 37 41 47 54 56 61 63 67 69 72 74 76 violence Source: World Bank, Women, Business and the Law 2014: Removing Restrictions to Enhance Gender Equality
  • 17. Promising directions for changing social norms Access to justice Social protecti on Engaging men, boys, families, communiti es Economic opportuniti es Educati on Media
  • 18. Gender-Based Violence: What works? Prevention • Include men AND women • Engage entire community • Combine multiple approaches • Last at least 6 months • Address social norms around the acceptability of violence Source: D. Arango, M. Morton, F. Gennari, S. Kiplesund and Mary E. forthcoming. Interventions to Prevent and Reduce Violence Against Women and Girls: A Systematic Review of Reviews. Background paper to the report on Women’s Voice and Agency. Washington, DC: World Bank. Forthcoming, the Lancet. Response • Target survivors rather than perpetrators • Encourage women’s autonomy and empowerment • Include psychosocial elements (e.g. counseling) and victim advocacy
  • 19. Programs enhancing agency TOSTAN Working with communities to eliminate FGC and child marriage SASA! Mobilizing communities to reduce domestic violence PROGRAM P Promoting men’s roles as gender-equitable caregivers
  • 20. “Data not only measures progress. It inspires it.” -Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Selected New Gaps Efforts Internationally agreed core indicators (52) Evidence on Data and Gender Equality (EDGE) Data 2X Internationally agreed indicators on violence against women GBV: Scarce, infrequent and often underestimated Sexual & reproductive health: Scarce Access to land: Data not collected at individual level Voice: Limited
  • 21. Media reception to the report 600+ tweets featuring #WomenCan have captured 10+ Million impressions to date. On May 14, #WomenCan was the #7 trending Twitter topic in the United States*** and the #2 trending Twitter topic in Washington, D.C. Original “postcards” posted on the World Bank’s Facebook channel. World Bank Live Event 9,143 page views to date, 4,597 live blog views, 70 online questions submitted Top 10 Countries: US, UK, Canada, India, Australia, Mexico, South Africa, Germany, Japan, France ***A World Bank first
  • 22. Over 400 news stories in more than 20 countries covered -- US, Canada, Pakistan, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, China, Malaysia, South Africa, Nigeria, Uganda, Turkey, Morocco, Syria, Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, and Algeria. Educating Girls: Big Payoff For $45 A Year May 15, 201411:37 AM ET - NPR Tell Me More Girls without an education are six times more likely to marry young than those who've finished high school, according to a new report from the World Bank Group. Guest host Celeste Headlee learns more. World Bank: 700 million women subject to conjugal violence Child brides face increased chances of illiteracy, domestic violence, report says

Editor's Notes

  1. Expanding the voice and agency of women and girls is integral to the global development agenda. When women and girls are able to speak up and be heard, and to make decisions that matter to them, their families, their communities and their nations, everyone benefits.   This is the main headline coming out of Voice and Agency. There are three key messages -- why it matters, what is the scale of the challenge, and what we can do.
  2. What is agency? Voice is about people being able to speak up and be heard, and to shape and share in discussions, discourse and decisions.   Agency is about people being able to make decisions that matter to them: about their lives, their families, their communities and their countries.   We are focusing on girls and women, many of whom have no say over whether, when and how many children to have, who are unable to buy or inherit land, who have no say in major decisions at home and in their community, and who, in their hundreds of millions, have been battered by their husbands. These are deprivations of agency that violate basic human rights, and which hold back development.  In a very basic sense, this is not at all new -- even if still somewhat controversial in some parts of the World Bank. Indeed, 188 states have now ratified the 1979 Convention that outlaws discrimination against women. And 75 countries have constitutions that outlaw discrimination by gender.
  3. This is the context within which the World Bank undertook a major program of research to address these challenges, building on the 2012 WDR on gender.   We had quite an extensive process of consultations, research, analysis, and engaged with a range of world experts in the field.   The slide here presents the book’s table of contents – we begin with cross cutting issues, and then proceed to address a series of specific challenges, beginning with violence.
  4. In most of the world, no place is less safe for a woman than her own home. The map shows regional rates of violence inflicted by intimate partners, which reach as high as 43 percent in South Asia. More than one in three women globally have been subject to physical and/or sexual violence – and in the vast majority of cases, this is at the hands of their husbands or boyfriends. The total numbers (818M) are startling, amounting to close to the total population of Sub-Saharan Africa, and almost triple the population of the US.  These statistics reflect enormous personal tragedy and human suffering. While human dignity is arguably priceless, intimate partner violence has a high cost.
  5. Intimate partner violence costs about 1.5 to 2% of GDP, coming close to, or exceeding, the amount many countries spend on primary education. In Peru, for example, the costs of intimate partner violence are more than double the country’s spending on primary education.   In the light of such enormous economic costs, why do these widespread breaches of human rights persist? Our major finding is that bad outcomes are being driven by regressive social norms and restrictive laws.
  6. We looked at patterns in over 50 developing countries, to see how regressive norms play out at the household level. Norms like accepting violence, having no say over major household decisions, and being married young.   The Venn diagram highlights the headline global results: that almost four out of five women report at least one of these constraints, and that more than 1 in 8 experiences all three.   Behind the global picture are countries where the situation is even worse.
  7. In Niger, for example, virtually every single woman experiences at least one of these constraints and almost half are subject to all three.   When looking at the profile of women facing multiple agency deprivations, we find that they share a common factor: little to no educational attainment.
  8. This picture shows how women with primary schooling or less are much more likely to suffer multiple agency deprivations than those who finished high school.   About 90% of women with no more than a primary education, experience at least one constraint, compared with 65% of women with a secondary education or higher. And when it comes to three deprivations, we see that almost 1 in 5 of women with only a primary education experience all three, versus 1 in 20 with secondary schooling and higher.
  9. We find that lack of education is also associated with sexual autonomy and early marriage. For instance, globally, while 9 out 10 university graduates, say they can refuse sex, only about 7 out of 10 women with a primary education can do so. In Mozambique, Cameroon and Côte D’Ivoire, we see that up to 4/5ths of women without any education lack sexual autonomy.   Education also reduces the likelihood of early marriage. In fact, girls who finish high school are six times less likely to marry early.
  10. Far too many girls are wives and mothers. Globally, one-third of girls are married before age 18 and 1 in 9 are married before age 15. If present trends continue, more than 142 million girls will be married before the age of 18 in the next decade, that is, 39,000 girls each day.
  11. Control over land and housing can also play an important role in expanding agency.   Our analysis across a range of countries found that women who have more control over property tend to have: greater self-esteem and respect from other family members; and larger economic opportunities and mobility outside of the home.   Studies show that women’s access to assets can affect girls’ survival rates, their nutritional status and investment in girls’ schooling, suggesting far-reaching benefits.   But around the world, we see that women own substantially less land and housing than men. The two graphs in this slide depict the large disparities in many countries in reported land and housing ownership, though gaps are narrow or closed in some places, like Rwanda and several African countries.   And in all of this voice matters.
  12. Women’s voices can be transformative. Indeed our review shows that grassroots women’s movements play a critical role in influencing positive legal reforms. Women’s groups have also worked effectively to support the expansion of economic opportunities.   Having more women in decision-making positions, including in parliaments and cabinets, is critical. Having more women in office is important in itself, and can have positive implications. An increase in the number of female lawmakers in Rwanda led to progressive legislation on inheritance and reproductive rights. And, a higher presence of women legislators is correlated with increased perceptions of government legitimacy among men and women around the world.   But again, we find that despite encouraging gains, women remain politically underrepresented.   Why? In large part, it seems, because attitudes remain adverse.
  13. The evidence shows a strong correlation between attitudes about women’s leadership and their representation in parliament. Rwanda and South Africa are interesting outliers and in both cases, the introduction of gender quotas seemed to have driven change. Before the African National Congress established a 30 percent quota for female candidates in 1994 South Africa ranked 141st in the world in the percentage of legislative seats held by women. It currently stands at 8th in the world, with Rwanda in first place.   So change is possible.   It is a daunting agenda that is long term in nature, but where there are major opportunities for quick wins. One obvious candidate – and where we have seen some progress -- is legal reform.
  14. The graph shows change over the past fifty years, and that Sub-Saharan Africa has witnessed the most significant gains in repealing discriminatory legislation. By way of contrast, both the Middle East and North Africa and South Asia regions have made alarmingly little advances. Despite this progress, legal discrimination remains pervasive.
  15. In 2013, 128 countries with data had at least one legal difference between men and women.   Twenty-eight countries—mainly in the Middle East and North Africa and South Asia—had 10 or more differences.   The legal differences range from barriers to women obtaining official identification cards to restrictions on owning or using property, establishing their creditworthiness, and getting a job.   Still, there are signs that the momentum for addressing legislative discrimination is growing. Some of you may be aware of the prominence of tackling discrimination in the work on the post 2015 development goals. And the momentum around legally sanctioning domestic violence is encouraging.
  16. Three-quarters of the 100 countries recently studied by Women, Business and the Law, criminalize domestic violence. This is remarkable given that only one country had criminalized domestic violence 40 years ago. However, only 38 of these 100 countries have introduced tailor-made laws or provisions that explicitly criminalize marital rape or sexual assault within marriage. Laws alone are not enough – but are an important start and can make a difference. Our analysis found that women who live in countries with domestic violence legislation have 7 percent lower odds of experiencing violence compared to women in countries without such laws. Furthermore, we present new analysis that shows that the longer the legislation is in place, the lower the tolerance of violence, suggesting that laws themselves can affect norms.
  17. A strong legislative response is needed. Progressive laws – and their enforcement – are a critical first step in creating change.   Changing norms is equally important. This requires broad-based participation in the change process. Men, boys, community leaders, and family elders can be key allies and stakeholders. Indeed programs that target and engage only women will bring only partial results. The report shows that interventions need to engage boys early, and highlights success stories around the world, from Brazil, to Burundi and Malawi.  
  18. Together with colleagues George Washington University, we recently completed the first global systematic review of reviews of evidence on the effects of gender-based violence prevention. This included 179 recent impact evaluations, largely from developed countries like the US.   While some insights can be taken from evaluations in wealthier countries to inform policy and program design, we need far more investment in building the evidence base behind solutions in developing countries.   The work underway in the developing countries to test and document innovations to improve the situation of women and girls is critically important to build the evidence base.   So what do we know? We know that programs need to target both men and women. We also find that the most promising interventions have multiple components, deliberately address norms, involve the wider community, and span long time periods.  
  19. And what about specific interventions? Here we highlight a few promising approaches that are being tried and rigorously tested around the world.   Tostan, a community empowerment program, uses social networks to spread awareness of human rights and how they can build healthier communities. Best known for its success in combatting female genital mutilation in Senegal, Tostan now operates in over 450 African communities and works to improve health, governance and early childhood development as well.   Program P, developed as part of the global MenEngage campaign, promotes men’s practices as gender-equitable caregivers and prevents violence against women and children in the process.   And more recent results from SASA! in Uganda show that community mobilization around gender norms has halved rates of partner violence.   Importantly for the World Bank and other international development partners, there are major implications for our work on education, social protection and jobs. Indeed expanding women’s economic opportunities is one of the most visible and game-changing means of affecting norms and expanding agency.   But, despite the potential for change, expanding economic opportunities is a major policy challenge. Our Gender at Work report showed that when compared to men using a wide range of measures, women are disadvantaged at work. Lack of skills and training; gender-biased attitudes; and childcare responsibilities are just a few of the gender-specific constraints. Promising interventions in this arena combine training in trade-related skills with initiatives designed to boost aspirations and confidence. Building social networks helps too. Change requires more and better data and new measures to track progress, so we can learn when we are making a difference, and so that we can all be held to account.
  20. As the Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton so eloquently said “Data not only measures progress. It inspires it.”   Among the key gaps are measures of agency that capture aspirations and confidence, and measures of participation in politics at the local level. These gaps are now well recognized and efforts are underway to address these gaps and come up with innovative measures to capture women’s voice and agency. For example, the World Bank is exploring partnerships with UN Women and other agencies to pilot the nine internationally agreed core indicators to measure Violence Against Women.   Before closing, I just want to share what we know about the reach of this work and findings to date.
  21. This slide documents the significant impression our May launch in Washington DC made -- our hashtag #WomenCan was the #7 trending Twitter topic in the United States and the #2 trending Twitter topic in Washington, D.C. – both firsts for the World Bank). And many people – from all across the globe -- watched the event live.
  22. Media coverage – in print, online, television, and radio – was extensive -- our team has already been able to document over 400 news stories across more than 20 countries.  
  23. Voice matters. Agency matters. When women and girls can make meaningful choices, where they can make their voices heard, everyone gains. Ensuring that they can is simply the right thing to do.