A critique of the World Bank’s 2012 gender report

The 2012 WDR reflects a conceptual shift in how the World Bank views women’s rights, but will the Bank put its conclusions into practice?

The World Bank’s 2012 World Development Report: Gender Equality and Development, is 458 pages long. By contrast, the German Development Institute‘s critique of the World Development Report is a 4 page brief, but these pages have punch.

The gist of the paper is how the World Development Report shows that the Bank now acknowledges that “….social and cultural factors make it difficult for women to participate with equal rights in the social and political life of their societies.” This statement isn’t groundbreaking in itself, but it shows a sea change in how the World Bank thinks about women’s equality. In the past, they viewed gender equality as a natural side effect of bringing greater prosperity to a region, but a more complex narrative has emerged where increased prosperity for a nation as a whole won’t necessarily make it any easier for a woman to get an education, start a business, or have access to birth control. The brief also critiques the World Bank’s past efforts at gender assessment, and gives them suggestions for areas that need improvement.

The World Development Report 2012 “Gender Equality and Development”: conceptual turning point: but no change in practice?, by Elke Herrfahrdt-Pähle and Birte Rodenberg, German Development Institute