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Role of Women, key to South Asia's Development

Role of Women, key to South Asia's Development

Role of Women, key to South Asia's Development

Gender Issues in South Asia

Gender issues in South Asia represent a complex challenge. There has been a greater recognition of the problem across the region. In most countries women have experienced improved access to services and credit markets. However, despite the recent economic growth and changing social norms, dramatic gender inequities persist in South Asia. Addressing the inequities will require greater voice of women in the political decision-making of communities and states.

World Bank's Role:

The World Bank's Country Gender Assessments provide cutting-edge analytical work that—in collaboration with clients—heightened awareness and in-country debate, as well as enhancing political will and consensus in policy implementation.

For outcomes to be successful, however, analysis findings must be operationalized. The Bank projects and other policy support lending are guided by the insights of analysis, and the preparation process continues to fuel debate that helps prioritize interventions.

However, these efforts require complementary government actions, e.g. creating appropriate institutional frameworks to support women’s training, market linkages, access to credit and child care facilities, and schooling infrastructure. Ultimately, sustainable improvement of women’s welfare requires strengthening their ability to influence decision-making both within and outside the household.

Unless women are integrated into the political sphere as critical actors, progress in South Asia will remain slow. This integration can occur by 1) facilitating empowerment programs that seek to build women’s networks and solidarity around issues such as micro-credit; and 2) integrating women’s voice into local governments. South Asia Regional Strategy Update »


Role of Women in Afghanistan's Future
Throughout the 20th century, the debate on women's rights and their role in Afghan society has been closely interlinked with the national destiny. Women not only carry the burden of symbolizing the honor of the family, but often are seen as embodying the national honor as well. Gender has thus been one of the most politicized issues in Afghanistan over the past 100 years. Read More »

Reforms Reaching Rural Afghanistan
When twenty-five year old Ms. Farzana campaigned for a seat at Provincial Council in Takhar Province in September 2005, she wanted to bring a revolution to a system she felt had failed to deliver services and good governance in her province. Read More »

Access to Health Services in Rural Areas
More than 10,000 community health workers—half of whom are women—have been trained and deployed. They have helped increase family planning and childhood vaccination. The number of couples using modern methods of family planning has increased from 47,000 to 115,000 in 11 provinces, in part thanks to supplies distributed by these workers. Read More »


Maternal and Child Mortality: Trends and Projections
Bangladesh has made rapid progress on child mortality in the last two decades. There are now only 66 infant deaths per thousand births. The decline is mainly due to adult female schooling, delayed child bearing among women and expanded measles immunization coverage. If current efforts are sustained, the child mortality MDG target can be met. Bangladesh: To the MDGs and Beyond »

Girls in schools tripled in Bangladesh
Girls’ enrollment in secondary school in Bangladesh jumped to 3.9 million in 2005, from 1.1 million in 1991, including an increasing number of girls from disadvantaged or remote areas. This has enabled Bangladesh to achieve one of its Millennium Development Goals ahead of time – gender parity in education. Read More »


India: Andhra Pradesh Rural Poverty Reduction Project
• Nearly 8 million poor women in rural areas have been organized into 629,870 self-help groups and 28,282 village organizations. The project is expected to organize all rural poor households by 2008.
• The project facilitated small group organization and self management within rural communities, with a particular focus on women.
• Key to the management of risk was that poor women in self-help groups act as a guarantee both for each other and for banks. Read More »

Poor Women’s Role in Global Trade
Can the millions of poor rural women who weave traditional fabrics, sew fine embroideries, fashion handicrafts, and collect agricultural produce be equal participants in the global marketplace? Read More »


Pakistan: A Plan to Get Girls in School
Although more Pakistani girls are in school, a substantial gender gap in enrollment remains and worsens significantly as girls transition from primary to middle school. Although gender differentials in child immunization have declined, considerable gender differentials persist in other aspects of health care. The use of reproductive health services is low, and maternal mortality ratios remain high. The cumulative effects of this pattern are evident in the high sex ratio of 108 males per 100 females. In the labor market, lower educational attainment coupled with social norms that restrict mobility confine women to a limited range of employment opportunities and low wages. Read More »

Girls' Stipend Program in Pakistan
In 2003, the Punjab government with assistance from the World Bank implemented the “Girls' Stipend Program” which provided cash stipend of Rs. 200 to families to ensure their daughters attend school. As a result girls’ enrollment in secondary schools in the 15 poorest districts in Punjab increased by 60 percent from 175,000 to 280,000 since 2003. Read More »

Bridging the Gender Gap: Opportunities and Challenges
The quality of life for women and girls in Pakistan has improved in recent decades. School enrollments have risen across all income categories. Child health indicators such as immunization rates and infant mortality have improved for girls and boys. Fertility rates are declining leading to better healthfor women. Women’s participation in paid labor has increased, particularly in agriculture, and their involvement in the political process has risen thanks to a federal mandate in 2000 to reserve seats for women at selected levels o f government. Read More »

Data Highlights

Gender Profile
Afghanistan | Bangladesh | Bhutan | India | Maldives | Nepal | Pakistan | Sri Lanka

Data Highlight: Only 22% of girls have completed primary level schooling in rural areas of Pakistan as compared to 47% of boys. Read More »

Data Highlight: Only 14% of all births are attended by skilled health staff in Afghanistan. Health indicators for Afghan women are among the worst in the world. Read More »

Additional Resources

- Gender Equality as Smart Economics: Bank Gender Action Plan
Expanding women’s economic opportunities is smart economics. Women’s economic opportunities lag behind women’s capabilities achieved in education and health. This condition is inefficient, since increased women’s labor force participation and earnings are associated with reduced poverty and faster growth. Women will benefit from their economic empowerment, but so too will men, children and society as a whole. (Read More »)

- Smart Economics
Read about about the progress made so far toward fulfilling the targets set out in the third Millennium Development Goal (MDG3). Greater focus on MDG3 is critical because—although valuable in its own right as an important development objective—it is also a key to achieving several others, such as universal primary education (MDG2), a reduction in under-5 mortality (MDG4), improvements in maternal health (MDG5), and reducing the likelihood of contracting HIV/AIDS (MDG6). (Read More »)

- Getting All Girls into School
Despite important progress in recent years, an estimated 43 million girls around the world are still not enrolled in school. The majority of them are from socially excluded groups. New strategies for educating these "excluded girls" must be found. (Read More »)

- Promoting Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment
Global Monitoring Report: Improving gender equality reduces poverty and stimulates growth. (Read More »)

- World Bank Promotes a Gender-Specific Response to HIV/AIDS
Today, women account for nearly half of the 40 million adults living with HIV in the world. HIV/AIDS is fueled by key economic, socio-cultural, legal, and physiological factors that are different for women and men. Addressing these inequalities with gender-specific policy will have huge implications not only in the spread of HIV/AIDS, but also for future economic growth and development. (Read More »)

- South Asia: Development Data
A wide range of social and economic measures on South Asia, including links to the World Bank's most important online development databases. (Read More »)

- South Asia: Analysis and Research
Compilation of all the World Bank's publications on South Asia, with 'search' options and links to analysis and research on other South Asian countries. (Read More »)

- World Bank Program in South Asia
Launching pad to all information on World Bank activities in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.(Read More »)

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