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About the Global Qualitative Assessment

Defining Gender in the XXI Century: Conversations with men and women around the world

Between June 2010 and February 2011, the World Bank launched local research teams into the field across 20* countries from 6 developing regions to hear first-hand about how men and women "do gender" in their everyday lives. The researchers met separately with small groups of males and females from three generations, convening a total of 500 groups with 4000 individuals.

The discussion groups examined whether and how gender roles and norms are changing, and reflected on questions such as: How did you decide to end your education? Are men and women better at different jobs? Do women and men save differently? What makes a good husband? A good wife? and What are some of the common causes of tensions or fights between men and women in this community? The findings from the rapid assessment will be informing the World Development Report 2012, and national, regional and global reports drawing from this dataset will also be posted here in the months following the WDR's release.

Assessment Scope and Design

To inform the 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development (WDR 2012), rapid qualitative assessments were undertaken in 20* countries to explore trends in gender roles and norms, and what women and men say drive their major economic decisions.

The purpose of the rapid assessment is to explore: i) women's and men's subjective views of, and experiences with, making key economic decisions, such as how to make a living and how to build and protect major assets; and ii) whether and how the gender norms that surround these choices may be shifting, for example, as educational opportunities expand, as the economic structure changes and as connectivity beyond the community increases.

The overall assessment approach and data collection tools build on the World Bank's previous global qualitative research programs, Voices of the Poor and Moving Out of Poverty . The methodology is designed to enable comparative analysis of differences between males and females across three generations, urban and rural communities, and diverse country contexts. The five data collection methods for the assessment are outlined below. They include a community questionnaire, three focus group discussions (one each for adolescents, youths, and adults), and a mini case study. The tools were piloted in urban and rural communities of Peru and Liberia in June 2010.

Local researchers convened approximately 500 focus groups, meeting separately with male and female adolescents, youths, and adults. The groups discussed a wide range of topics, including reasons for happiness and favorite free time activities; decisions surrounding when to leave school, where to work, and family formation; and gender differences in accumulating savings and controlling major assets. Questions also explored problems of domestic violence, public safety, and women's physical mobility. One module charted how young women and men spend their days, and another explored different levels of power and freedom that a women or a man might have in their communities.

Although extensive quantitative analysis on some gender dimensions of development is possible (and has been done) using household surveys, their insights are limited because most do not examine intra-household and community-level dynamics, and they often cover only a limited set of economic, demographic, and human development factors. In particular, contextual factors and how they interact with the deeper influences of power relations and norms on women's and men's decisions are difficult topics for even well-designed household surveys to explore effectively. Yet, a lack of understanding of the role of these factors limits our understanding of these issues and the possible levers for policy action.

For the full methodology, see: C. Turk, P. Petesch and A. M. Munoz Boudet. 2010. Gender and Economic Choice: Methodology Guide. World Bank. Also, see the Data collection tools and respondents Table.

Regions and Countries

The assessment sample is large and diverse. It covers nearly 100 communities across 20* countries from six developing regions. Country contexts range from low to upper middle income economies, and from conflict-affected or fragile to peaceful and stable states.

At the community level, the samples were designed to capture a mix of urban and rural contexts as well as more modern and traditional gender norms. In every country, teams conducted fieldwork in both middle income and poorer neighborhoods of cities and towns, as well as in prosperous and poor villages. Teams also travelled to areas with important minority ethnic, caste, religious and tribal groups, such as a Roma settlement in Serbia, an indigenous highland community of Peru, a tribal village of Orissa, India, and a nomadic community in the northern region of North Yemen.


  • Burkina Faso
  • Liberia
  • Tanzania
  • North Sudan
  • South Africa
  • Togo

East Asia
and the Pacific

  • Fiji
  • Indonesia
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Vietnam

Eastern Europe
and Central Asia

  • Moldova
  • Poland
  • Serbia

Latin America
and the Caribbean

  • Doninican Republic
  • Peru

Middle East
and North Africa

  • West Bank/Gaza
  • Yemen

South Asia

  • Afghanistan
  • Bhutan
  • India

Meet the Teams

Global Assessment Team

Carrie Turk
World Development Report Team &
Lead Social Scientist, Europe and Central Asia Region,
Social Development

Patti Petesch
Consultant, World Development Report Team

Ana Maria Muñoz Boudet
World Development Report Team

Analysis Team

Jane Henrici, Allison Helmut
Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR)
Washington DC

* Togo was visited after the publication of the WDR 2012 report.

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