If gender equality is a 'right in itself' and the 'smart thing to do' why has it eluded some governments? That was one of the questions journalists from over 40 countries asked during press briefings organized by the Bank's World Development Report 2012 (WDR) team during the week of September 12. Media from a diverse range of countries wanted to know what their countries could do to bridge gender gaps between boys and girls, men and women. The press briefings reached reporters in six continents via videoconferencing and in-person sessions. Extensive media coverage resulted, with about 156 news stories published by lead print news outlets across the world, in just a week.
International Media coverage
Messages covered by international media include: "Gender equality is shrewd economics as well as a human right," Reuters Newswire. "Gender equality is smart economics as countries which create better opportunities and conditions for women can raise productivity and improve outcomes for children," Xinhua News Agency. "Women in the developing world have made strides in education, but still lag far behind men in opportunities, a gender gap that is hampering growth," Agence France Presse reports in an article headed 'Closing gender gap will boost growth.' The Economist newspaper notes 'Gender inequality - Growth is not enough' – "There are almost 4m "missing women" [Yearly], in the world—that is, women who have died because the rate of female mortality is disproportionately high compared with men's or because fetuses were aborted before birth simply because they were female."
Most news articles picked President Robert Zoellick's quote, "We need to achieve gender equality."
Also prominently quoted were the Bank's Vice Presidents Justin Yifu Lin and Otaviano Canuto, as well as co-authors and Directors of the World Development Report 2012 Ana Revenga and Sudhir Shetty. The Financial Times (UK) writes, "It [the WDR report] argues that giving women more access to education can improve economic growth. "Blocking women and girls from getting the skills and earnings to succeed in a globalised world is not only wrong, but economically harmful," said Justin Lin, the bank's chief economist." "Asked how the World Bank expects the recommendations contained in the report to be put into action, Otaviano Canuto, vice-president, poverty reduction and economic management said, "For the first time we have a framework that is comprehensive enough to encompass not only proposals on how to deal with each one of the specific gaps but … lays out a policy agenda and suggests what to do and how to approach these problems at country level," writes UK's Guardian.
Several TV and radio stations broadcast interviews with President Zoellick on gender equality and development. Outlets included Bloomberg, CNN, PBS News Hour, and US National Public Radio - Diane Rehm (link to radio clip). Radio Australia interviewed Mr. Zoellick as well as co-authors of the Gender Equality report, Ana Revenga and Sudhir Shetty. The co-authors did interviews with BBC World Service, Bloomberg, O Globo, and Radio Euskadi- Spain, to name a few.
Blogs too, were alight with gender equality messages - CNN, The Economist, Real Times, Aljezeera, Poverty Matters, and From Poverty to Power, Modern Ghana, and more.
Media outlets in developing countries tended to focus on country specific implications of the report. In South Asia, journalists were interested in reforms to property rights, changing social norms to promote gender equality, wage disparities, addressing high mortality rates, and empowering women at the grassroots level. In some of their coverage, they advocated for political quotas for women, otherwise known as 'female reservation' to ensure women are represented in elected offices. This has been done with good results in India.
Journalists in Latin America and the Caribbean asked about the effects of another financial crisis on gender gains in the region. They noted that despite high education levels among women, a majority still lack jobs. Journalists also raised questions about the impacts of technology, religion, and access to reproductive health on gender equality. In addition, they wanted to know how specific safety nets, such as conditional cash transfers and subsidized daycare, would improve gender equity.
East Asia and the Pacific media was keen on knowing why the Bank chose to focus on gender, and why now, what is the Bank doing to implement WDR policy recommendations? What can be done to address the issue of "missing girls and women" especially in China? Other questions centered on domestic violence and its effect on the family, quotas, participation of women in labor markets, and impediments of cultural norms.
In Europe and Central Asia, journalists were interested in hearing about what is considered the appropriate level of gender-related public expenditures and whether there were ambitions for medium-term country-specific gender plans. They also asked about the paradox of women in the region having relatively high levels of education and income, but having very low voice, being especially underrepresented in politics and parliament. The issue of women being paid less than men for the same education background and same job was raised as well. Of particular interest to the region was the issue of Roma women, who are often disadvantaged.
Meanwhile media coverage in the Middle East and North Africa focused on the lack of equal access to economic opportunities for women, low female labor participation, the extent of gender inequality, the challenge that women face in juggling joining the workforce with the responsibilities of motherhood, as well as restrictive religious and cultural norms.
Some headlines in Africa read, 'Journalists highlight gender gaps in reaction to 2012 World Development Report' published on Sept. 23, by The Citizen of Tanzania; 'World Bank's growth case for African women' published on Sept. 27, by Africa Review, Kenya; "WB report shows why gender equality is smart economics' by The East African Newspaper of Sept. 25. "World women catching up on education", Cape Times, Sept. 20.
Outreach to Countries
A team led by the Directors of the report, Ana Revenga and Sudhir Shetty, will hold dissemination events around the WDR's key findings in a number of countries around the world. These events, organized jointly with governments, development partners, civil society and academics, aim to foster policy dialogue on gender equality and development, and recent in-depth regional and country-specific work by the World Bank. They will also link to the Think Equal campaign of the World Bank. Initial WDR dissemination events will be held in Pretoria, Tunis, New Delhi, and Dhaka the week of October 10. Countries in other parts of the world will be covered in the following weeks. (Link to WDR 2012 Roadshow Calendar).