Cover Image
close this bookToward Gender Equality: The Role of Public Policy (WB, 1995, 88 p.)
close this folderChapter three
View the documentPublic Policies Matter
View the documentEqualizing Opportunities by Modifying, the Legal Framework
View the documentLand and Property Rights
View the documentLabor Market Policies and Employment Law
View the documentFamily Law
View the documentWomen's bargaining position in relation to household
View the documentFinancial Laws and Regulations
View the documentMacroeconomic: Policies
View the documentInflation tends to hit women harder than men.
View the documentSectoral Investments
View the documentUsing Targeting Measures to Narrow the Gender
View the documentInvolving Beneficiaries in Public Policy
View the documentGenerating and Analyzing Gender-Desegregated Data
View the documentWorking in Collaboration
View the documentStrengthening International Policies to Meet New Challenges
View the documentConclusions

Public Policies Matter

As CHAPTER 2 has shown underivesting in girls and women is inefficient for society as a whole. Correcting for past underinvestment will require a "genders" approach to public policy. How this can be concretely achieved is the topic of this chapter.

Equalizing Opportunities by Modifying, the Legal Framework

Laws form tile functional framework of the economy and of civil society. Equality in the legal treatment of men and women creates the legitimacy policymakers need to seek change. Legal and regulatory provisions that discriminate against women-that. for example bar married women from seeking employment or prevent women from holding legal title to land-perpetuate gender inequalities and severely restrict women's ability to participate fully in social and economic development.

Modifying the legal framework to eliminate discrimination and equalize opportunities for women and men is an important goal for public policy at the national and international levels. A supportive legal environment is also vital for other aspects of public policy that have a direct bearing on the opportunities available to women. such as regulations affecting the formal and informal sectors.

Four areas of the law are particularly important for equalizing the opportunities available to men and women: land and property rights; labor market policies and employment law: family law: and financial laws and regulations.

Land and Property Rights

Policymakers should ensure that women and men are treated equally in the public allocation of land. Eligibility for land reform programs, for example. should not discriminate against women's perform claims whether the women are heads of households or members of households headed by men. When communities have been resettled or when a project allocates land to participating producers, women should have the same rights to land as men For refugee and displaced women returning to their homelands. often as de facto heads of households. need fair and equal treatment to allow them to establish a Farming or enterprise base as soon as possible. Whet-e land is in short supply, it may be necessary to recognize the land rights of certain groups, as well as their individual rights. The Indian National Sericulture Project is an example; it has leased land to women's groups and promoted women's access to land under state land-grant schemes (Quisumbilig 1994).

Some countries have enacted legislation to ensure gender equality in property and contractual rights. Under China's Law of Succession, for example males and females have equal rights to inheritance. Complementary measures are needed to ensure that women know their rights. Such measures include legal programs and campaigns to make judges and administrators sensitive to gender issues in the area of property rights (see box 2.1)

Labor Market Policies and Employment Law

Discriminatory labor market policies and employment laws are widespread: examples are bans on hiring married women and restrictions on the type of work pregnant women may pet-form. Labor laws may also restrict female participation in jobs and deny women access to work settings. Even legislation that seeks to promote equal opportunity can have outcomes tot women workers. For example, generous maternity and child-care benefits tot women workers may make hiring women relatively mote costly than hiring men. perpetuating the gender wage gap.

The main issue for public policy its to ensure that fair and equal employment laws exist and are enforced.

Box 3.1 some NGO efforts to promote women's legal literacy

Schuler and Kadirgamar - Rajasingham (1992) describe innovative approaches by non governmental organizations to provide women with useful legal knowledge and tools.

The Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA) has launched "women and the law" projects in five English-speaking Caribbean countries. Using a participatory methodology. the projects aim to create awareness of the law. provide women with legal information that will be useful to them in their daily lives, identify specific areas for action, and influence overall legislative policy. The projects develop educational materials for legal literacy and offer topic specific paralegal training for women's organizations.

The legal literacy program of the Ugandan Women Lawyers' Association (FDA-Uganda) conducts legal literacy campaigns on specified dates each month in different districts. Pairs of FIDA volunteers conduct sessions, using role playing and discussions, on legal topics of relevance to women's lives and provide advice on contacting the FIDA legal clinic for advice and representation. In addition, FIDA and Action for Development broadcast regular radio and television programs on women and the law and publish pamphlets on legal issues of interest to women.

In India the Self - Employed Women's Association (SEWA) holds worker education meetings to provide members with legal information and offers one day training sessions on specialized legal information for community leaders. Members of SEWA paralegal staff research cases, prepare briefs, and argue all cases in labor courts for members. SEWA'S legal literacy efforts are part of its overall strategy of action for supporting self-employed women and women in the informal sector.

In this regard. the main issue for public policy is to ensure that fair and equal employment laws exist and are enforced. Such laws should cover employment and employment-related benefits and should not be applied in a way that restricts women's access to the labor market.

In many countries women are protected by special standards in the workplace. These safeguards are of two types. The first includes measures intended to end discrimination in the labor market by requiring equal pay for work of equal value or by prohibiting the exclusion of workers from certain jobs because of gender. The second type protects women in their role as mottles by requiring employers to pay the full cost of maternity leave and provide childcare facilities. restricting night work, and limiting work categorized as dangerous or hazardous.

The first type of labor standard is often difficult to enforce. although nearly 120 countries have enacted equal opportunity laws. In most cases the law is in place but is not enforced. Furthermore. it often applies only to the formal sector of the labor market. leaving large number of women in the informal sector with little protection. More concerted public and private action is required to devise appropriate for enforcement. In additions complementary measures are needed to increase women’s chances of entering the labor force. Such measures would include mote met-it-based hiring of women in the public sector and the creation of an appropriate regulatory framework that encourages the establishment of day-care centers private nursery schools. and kindergartens for the children of workers in both the formal and informal sectors. (Box 3.2 describes a day-care projects in Bolivia)

Many countries have laws that limit night work. over theme and the use of heavy machinery by women. While well intentioned. these laws. too. can reduce women's employment options by raising the employer's cost of hiring women and perpetuating the notion that women workers are less flexible than male workers. This adverse result occurs because women already tend to have lower levels of capital than men and are limited by traditional notions of what women’s work. Devising effective protective legislation for women is thus a difficult balancing act.

Effective laws to protect women must honor the fine line between ensuring sate working conditions for all workers, including women in the informal sector. and providing equal opportunities for all workers seeking employment. Standards relating to maternity leave and child-care benefits are common in the formal sector. To ensure that such standards do not raise the costs of female labor unnecessarily employment legislation should avoid having employers pay benefits directly. Maternity benefits should be funded through general revenue taxes

Box 3.2 day-care center in Bolivia to enhance the status of women by increasing their employment opportunities in other Latin American countries, and their knowledge of women in Bolivia are over represented , health, and nutrition. The project among the poor, and many live in will establish day-care centers to proficult circumstances. They are twice vice non formal, home-based, integrals likely as men to be illiterate, their child development for children unaccess to child care is limited, they the age of 6 in thirty-four poor subject to discrimination in hiring ban and purebred areas. Women and wages, and they are restricted benefit from the project either as by law from engaging in certain procure givers employed at the minimum ductive activities. wage or as clients of the centers. The Integrated Child Development children in day care gives women Project, financed by a credit from the more time to search for jobs or to in World Bank's International Development their current situations (Winkler opponent Association designed and Guedes 1995).

Or social security systems rather than by direct contributions from individual employers. In Eastern Europe and Latin America, however, this method of funding benefits has imposed a significant cost on the treasury, raising the question of how much should be paid and for how long.

One way of addressing this issue is for governments to encourage women and men to share the responsibility for childrearing by adopting legislation allowing either parent to qualify for the leave and benefits associated with having a child (Folbre 1994). Such legislation can be supported by changes in the tax system to ensure equal treatment of workers within the household and a margin tax rate on the earnings of additional workers in the household low enough to avoid creating a disincentive to women's participation in the labor force (Mac Donald 1994). These tax changes can be complemented by legislation that encourages absent to pay child support. Such laws are in place in many Latin American and Caribbean countries. but none systematically monitors transfers (Folbre 1994). Greater efforts to enforce the law are needed.

Family Law

Gender inequality in family law can worsen women's bargaining position within and outside the household and affect household welfare and efficiency. As noted in chapter women's bargaining position in relation to Household resource allocation is often a key factor in determining the wellbeing of household members. particularly children. Reforms of family law can enhance women's economic and social opportunities while still respecting cultural norms. For instance the minim age of marriage for women should be set high enough so that girls can complete secondary schooling: this would help lower fertility rates. (Allowing for exceptions such as parent consent negates the potential fertility benefit.) Marriage contracts should include stipulations guaranteeing the wife's rights. especially on separation

Women's bargaining position in relation to household

Legal and policy measures can have a direct bearing on the health of women. The law and its enforcement are essential for combating domestic violence against women. If the laws on violence against women are to be enforced, women need to be made aware of the legal recourse available to them and the judiciary and police need to be sensitized to the existence and

Box 3.3 innovative approaches to combating gender violence

Brazil's women-only police stations are an innovative approach to the problem of violence against women. They have been so successful that other countries-including Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Peru, and Uruguay-have emulated them. The police stations have made it easier for women to report gender based crimes of violence, and, with that experience, women are now demanding more support from the police, such as legal counseling and advice. Despite the program's success, the number of convictions for gender-based crimes has not increased, largely because similar innovations have not been made in the judicial system (Heise, Pitanguy, and Germain 1994).

In Zimbabwe the Mussasa project provides support and counseling to abused women and sensitizes police and prosecutors to the issues of domestic violence and rape. To ensure the credibility and acceptability of the training, legal professionals are involved in the program. One branch of the criminal justice system-the police department, for example-often hosts training for another, such as prosecutors (Stewart 1992).

In Costa Rica El Instituto Legal de las Naciones Unidas y Desarrollo runs gender sensitization training for prosecutors, judges, lawyers, and other professionals who deal with crimes of violence against women (Heise, Pitanguy, and Germain 1994).

Implication of violence against women. Affirmative action policies can increase the number of women police officers lawyers, and judges. Trading police, lawyers, and judges can increase their gender sensitivity. making the legal system more responsive to women's needs. Legal literacy efforts can make women aware of their rights and show them how to use these rights to mobilize for change. Some approaches to dealing with domestic violence are illustrated in box 3.3

Financial Laws and Regulations

Access to credit is vital for women, allowing them to manage fluctuations in income and expenditures and to expand their businesses. As we saw in the preceding chapters, credit can be an important source of economic empowerment for women within the household. But in many countries. underdeveloped financial markets, controlled interest rates, and overly rigid backings regulations have led to systems of credit that tend to shut out the pool. many of whom are women If financial institutions are to lend to those unable to obtain credit in the current environment. interest rates must be liberalized. Positive interest rates have important effects on informational money markets, which tend to be more exploitative when formal sector credit is rationed.

Changes in the laws governing access to credit are also vital because women's business profiles often differ from men's. Compared with men. women are more likely to work in low-risk small, and home-based businesses (Rhyne and Holt 1994). This situation creates a demand for small loans that can be obtained without formal, legally secured collateral and that offer relatively flexible repayment terms. Legislation that encourages broad access to financial institutions can increase the availability of these types of loans. but legal changes may also be needed to extend the range of acceptable collateral.

In many countries the regulatory framework contains provisions that are especially punitive to small firms. This adds an additional constraint on women, whose businesses are concentrated at the small end of the size The deregulation of the microentreprise sector would remove implicit disincentives to small-film activity and would relieve some of these Such action would enhance women entrepreneurs' prospects of benefiting from training or credit programs targeted to the microentreprise sector (World Bank 1994d. 1995c).

Redirecting Public Policies and Expenditure to Promote (tender Equality)

It is unlikely that legal reform by itself will be sufficient to ensure that women and men ate treated equally. Further public action may be required to guarantee that gentler-neutral laws are enforced at both national and local levels.

Macroeconomic: Policies

Many developing countries are implementing important policy and institutional reforms to address changing economic conditions on both the domestic and international fronts. These reforms are often supported by international financial institutions and bilateral donors. The pace of reform has varied across countries Those countries that have implemented reforms early on, carried them out consistently, and received adequate financial support have generally enjoyed faster and stronger economic growth than count ties that have undertaken reforms too slowly, too intermittently, or not at all. Where implementation has been slow or the government's commitment weak, economic distortions have tended to multiply and economic trowels to slow. limiting the government's ability to invest in physical and human capital for the future.

It is often the poorest groups in society that stand to lose the most from economic distortions. High and rising inflation places a disproportionate tax burden on the poor including low-paid wage workers and those with fixed incomes. For this and other reasons, inflation tends to hit women harder than men. An overvalued currency is also regressive; it keeps the price of goods artificially low. crowding out many locally produced goods. Women's businesses. which ate often concentrated in the informal sector, can be particularly vulnerable to competitions from cheap snorts. An overvalued currency reduces international competitiveness. limiting the availability of foreign exchange for domestic entrepreneurs and constraining business expansion and employment creation. A firm commitment to policy refortify is therefore essential to economic growth and sustainable initiatives for alleviating poverty.

Inflation tends to hit women harder than men.

Such reforms generally include two kinds of necessary policies. The first emphasizes macroeconomic stability and the removal of price distortions: the second promotes labor-demanding growth in agriculture and industry and better. mote accessible basic social services. mightily in education, health care and water supply. Macroeconomic stability can be achieved by reducing large current account and government budget deficits and by curtailing excessive money and credit expansion. Correct pricing of foreign exchange and of domestic goods and services facilitates trade and investment and promotes growth Reforms of trade and price incentives encourage job creation and higher earnings.

In shots. broadly based economic reforms benefit the poor, as the experiences of diverse countries have shown. Data from the LSMS and similar studies confirm that in Costa Rica, Ethiopia. Than Indonesia, Peru, the Philippines, and Tanzania, declines in poverty rates have accompanied economic reforms. Because of underlying gender inequalities, reductions in poverty do not necessarily improve the economic status of women. Nonetheless. although empirical evidence on changes in women's welfare following reforms is scarce, data from the Philippines suggest that for women. economic reform is by improvements in social indicators and important employment gains (box 3.4). An analysis of household data from Peru indicates that reforms there have not only led to renewed growth and reduced poverty but have also improved the status of female-headed households (box 3.5).

Despite their seminal role in encouraging sustainable. long-term growth. some economic reforms involve transitional costs. for two reasons: the need to implement radical shifts in government policy, and the lag. perhaps of years, between acceleration of economic growth and the realization of the ...

Box 3.4 social progress and labor force gains for women in the Philippines

The Philippines began implementing economic reforms in the early 1980s. While political turmoil and some policy slippage have weakened GDP growth over the period and led to the need for further reforms, quality of life indicators have improved during adjustment. For example, by 1990 the incidence of absolute poverty had declined by about one-third (to approximately 20 percent of the population). Maternal and infant mortality rates also declined over the period: in 1980 the infant mortality rate was 52 per 1,000 live births, but by 1990 it had fallen to 41 per 1,000 births (Johansen 1993).

The percentage of the population with access to safe drinking water increased between 1980 and 1990, from 65 to 93 percent of the urban population and from 43 to 72 percent of the rural population. The figures for sanitation services showed the same increase, climbing from 81 percent with access in 1980 to 98 per cent in 1990 among urban dwellers and from 67 to 85 percent among those in rural areas. Secondary school enrollment rates for boys and girls also showed gains. Girls and boys have traditionally reached similar educational levels in the Philippines, a trend that contributed to women's gains in the labor market during adjustment in the 1980s. While labor force participation rates for men rose only slightly, the rates for women increased dramatically, from 23 to 37 percent.

At the same time, women's wages as a percentage of men's grew from 71 to 80 percent between 1978 and 1988 (Tzannatos 1995). A recent study of a low-income community in Manila found that in some private sector jobs women earn more than men, reflecting in part the high educational level among women in the sector. Earnings in the informal sector are generally low for both women and men. although some women have been so successful in their informal sector businesses that their spouses have opted to leave low-paying jobs in the formal sector to participate in their wives enterprises (Moser 1994). benefits of growth by large segments of the population. The short-term costs can include increases in food prices as subsidies are removed temporary restrictions on credit to control monetary expansion, and cuts in public spending as governments attempt to control budget deficits and reorient spending toward the most important public services. Moreover, inequalities in access to and control over resources and in entry into markets hamper some groups in taking advantage of the opportunities created by economic reform For example, people who are unable to acquire new skills may remain for some thee. Gender inequalities in access to and control over land in rural areas can keep women farmers from taking advantage of changes in the relative prices of tradable and non tradable crops.

Box 3.5 macroeconomic reform and improved living standards in Peru

Between 1985 and 1990 Peru's economic regime was marked by expansionary monetary and fiscal policies and high levels of government intervention in most areas of the economy. Although these policies led to an initial period of growth, the approach proved unsustainable: by late 1987 growth had given way to hyperinflation and deep recession. During 1988-90 real GDP dropped by an average of 8 percent a year. Real wages and consumption expenditure also fell sharply as inflation soared to 7,600 percent a year in 1990.

In 1990 the new government of President Alberto Fujimori introduced macroeconomic reform measures designed to stabilize the economy, reduce fiscal deficits and inflation, increase market efficiency, and improve the country's competitiveness. Under this reform program inflation declined dramatically, falling to 57 percent in 1992 and to 17 percent in 1994. Real GDP grew by about 20 percent between 1991 and 1994, while real per capita consumption expenditure grew by more than 18.5 percent. LSMS data show that poverty declined by 11 percent-from 55 percent of the population in 1991 to 49 percent in 1994. Although the country experienced a brief contractionary period following the introduction of reform measures, household data from Lima for 1990, 1991, and 1994 indicate that in 1994 per capita expenditure was well above, and the incidence of poverty well below, 1990 levels.

Improvements in living standards have been widespread, and the largest gains have been made in some of the country's poorest regions, such as the urban and rural sierra (mountain areas). In most parts of the country, increases in per capita expenditure among households headed by women have been above the national average. In the urban and rural sierra, for example. consumption expenditure by these households increased by 47.7 and 44.8 percent. respectively-figures that compare favorably with increases in per capita expenditure among households headed by men (35 and 28 percent for the same regions).

Although both women and men are expected to gain from economic reform in the long run. gender inequalities at the household and market levels can mean that the benefits of reform reach women, especially poor women. only slowly. Reforms must incorporate measures aimed at counter acting shot-term transitional costs. Among the most important are safety nets specifically targeted to vulnerable groups. For example, in fiscal 1994 seventeen of the twenty-three reform programs supported by the World Bank included components aimed specifically at reducing poverty: fourteen of them targeted programs or safety net measures such as labor-intensive public works projects. targeted and social assistance programs, and unemployment and social security schemes (see box 3.6).

Box 3.6 food coupons improve nutrition in Honduras

The food coupon program in Honduras, part of a social safety net supported by the World Bank and financed by IDA and other donors, was put in place in 1990 to protect the country's most vulnerable people during economic reforms. Starting with about 182,000 participants, by 1994 the program had expanded its coverage to 345.000 of the estimated 430,000 children at risk of malnutrition. The effort also supports nutrition education for health workers, community groups, and mothers. Because coupons are used instead of food. the government saves some 30 percent over traditional food distribution costs, and the beneficiaries are able to choose the food they will consume. Beginning in 1995, an adjustment for inflation will maintain the value of the coupons, enabling participants to satisfy a constant proportion of their food needs.

The project also supports the development and implementation of a long-term nutrition assistance strategy for Honduras. Although attempting to measure changes in malnutrition is difficult in the short term, there have already been noticeable benefits. Between 1990 and 1993 the number of first-graders with severe or moderate malnutrition dropped by 4 percent. Organizers are now trying to graduate women participants from the program by offering training in basic skills such as food processing and helping them find assembly work in local factories (World Bank 1995b).

However, safety nets are not a substitute for a mote integrated approach to economic and social policy that includes appropriate levels of harvest in social services and infrastructure. Recognizing this fact, governments and donors are increasingly incorporating into their reform packages antipoverty initiatives and measures to reduce gender inequality. In Pakistan, for example, the FIDA-financed Public Sector Adjustment. Program provides much needed the financial support for the balance of payments account and reinforces the emphasis on government investment in the social sectors. The program promotes increased access to and improvements in basic education. health. and water supply services that benefit girls and rural areas. It also supports a shift it government education and health spending toward the primary level.

In fiscal 1994 twelve of twenty-three World Bank economic reform pro emphasized the restructuring public expenditure, primarily to and increase spending on education. health care, and other areas important to poverty reduction such as water supply and sanitation. The Burkina Faso reform program is typical; it supports an increase in the total budgeted amounts for primary education and health services, which are particularly beneficial to the poor and to women. Uganda s program seeks to protect and enhance public expenditures for basic social services. including water supply primary health care and primary education. In the long term, the reform of public spending-especially in the social sectors, physical infrastructure and agricultural research and extension-promises significant benefits) trot women.

Sectoral Investments

In principle. public expenditures on social services and infrastructure are allocated on a gender-neutral basis; in practice men and women use these services differently. The resulting inequalities frequently perpetuate gender based differences in the accumulation and distribution of human capital within households. Public policy can address this problem by public expenditure priorities between secrets and within social sectors. Further it can support services and types of infrastructure that provide the highest social returns to public spending and are most heavily used by women and children.

EDUCATION. Estimations of the private returns to education for a number of countries (Psachatopoulos 1994) show that returns are at least equal for girls anti boys and are often higher for girls. Moreover, these rates do not capture the externalities generated by providing education to girls. The combination of private and social returns provides a clear signal for restructuring the allocations of public resources so as to support female education. Yet incidence analysis for a number of countries for which the necessary data are available reveals that educational subsidies per capita are higher for males than for females This difference is partly a result of the bias in allocation of subsidies toward higher levels of education, where female enrolled is lowest. Distortions in the allocation of public resources, such as the provision of mote money foe male-dominated tertiary institutions than for education that benefits girls, should be corrected by reallocating spending toward basic (primary and lower-secondary) schooling. Targeting these educational levels will have the maximum effect on girls' education and will yield higher social returns for society as a whole. In countries where universal basic education has been achieved and capital markets are unable to help households finance higher education, continuing subsidize higher education may be warranted. The rationale for the subsidy would be the productivity gains associated with a better-trained labor force.

To correct the bias against enrollment of girls more targeted interventions are need to influence household (see decisionmaking)

However reallocating public spending toward primary education and later toward higher levels is not sufficient to erase the gender gap in education The bias against enrolling girls in school is evident in both poor and no poor households and applies even at the primary level. To correct this bias, more targeted interventions are needed to influence household decision making

HEALTH. Correcting the gender bias in the public financing of health care IS a more complex process than correcting the bias in education. for two main reasons: the marked differences between the health needs of men and women, and the unreliability of household data on demand for health services in comparison with the data on demand tot education). However it is cleat that targeting health services to women implies provision of adequate funding for prenatal care. infant immunization, and mother and child health services. Because of the significant social benefits of providing women with appropriate health care, governments should make basic services ices that benefit women a top priority among, public health care expenditures.

There is a critical link between the public provision of health care and women's access to educational opportunities. A mother educated to seek preventive care and early treatment of illness for herself and her children (particularly girls) will reduce the cost of health care and in many cases. prevent premature death. Most of these highly cost-effective services can be supplied in rural clinics and health centers. Public spending should be so allocated as to ensure sufficient funding for these primary health facilities.

AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION SERVICES. Agricultural extension and research services are widely considered vital to increasing and sustaining agricultural productivity. Many of these services are being provided by the private sector. but in some countries private services need public support, either because certain markets have not yet been developed or because the infrastructure is poorly developed. However. women farmers and small holders are often not served as effectively by public agricultural extension systems as ate and male farmers (FAO 1993). This disparity stems paltry from expend priorities within agricultural extension services. which concentrate resources on the crops and the technology controlled primarily by male commercial farmers. Reallocating public spending on agricultural extension and research services toward crops and technology raised by or used by small holders and women farmers could yield high social returns to public investment and could increase private returns by improving the skills and productivity of small agricultural producers.

Reallocating public spending on agricultural extension and research services toward crops and technology

Techniques for small holders and women farmers should take into account the need for quality and cost-effectiveness in public services, Economies of scale can be achieved if extension agents deal with groups of farmers instead of with individuals. This approach also provides a valuable forum for exchanging information. fostering peer learning. sharing expensive equipment. and pooling resources for- credit. Mobile trailing units and flexible hours that fit the crowded schedules of women farmers should also be considered. and more female extension agents should be trained to deal directly with female farmers. Such measures can be introduced without large additional resources if existing expenditures are carefully reallocated.

INFRASTRUCTURE, Public investment in economic and social infrastructure is vital in facilitated individual and household investment in physical and human capital. However, public expenditures on roads, water supply, and sanitation infrastructure frequently do not meet the needs of those who use the services most heavily. Women are the main users of water services, and it is essential to involve them in designing and implementing water projects. For example. in areas where transport is inadequate and water collection is a daily burden for women and children, the population tends to use the closest available facility rather than the safest one. In such cases. projects that ensure a safe water supply and take into account the specific needs and constraints of the users often have a significant effect on users' health. In two villages in Zaire where a piped water network was installed to provide safe drinking water, the median incidence of diarrhea was halved among children in households located less than a five-minute walk from a public standpipe. Spending allocations that favor public water supply and sanitation improve the general health of the population, save time for women and children. and increase school attendance. A study from Morocco chows that access to tap and well water instead of pond or river water raised school enrollment for both boys and girls (Khandker, Lavy, and Filer 1994).

Women are the main users of water services and it is essential to involve them in designing and implementing water projects.

Public spending on roads and energy-related facilities (for instance electrification or energy conservation) or other infrastructure is usually assumed to be gander neutral. Yet women and men use these facilities differently The Morocco study cited above found that the availability of electricity increased the rate for girls substantially more than for boys. The study also showed that the presence of a paved road increased by 40 percent the probability that girls would attend school and reduced by 5 percent their probability of dropping out. Overall, improved road conditions increased the probability of school attendance for girls by 32 percent and for boys by 20 percent.

Rural electrification can also ease the time constraints on women who must balance household and productive work. Lack of time is often a primary season for women's weak response to economic incentives. especially in rural areas. The case for making public investments in infrastructure would be stronger if gender differences in the use of projects and services, as well as the potential effect of such investment on productivity and social development. were taken into account.

Using Targeting Measures to Narrow the Gender

As we have seen. policies that specifically target women or girls can address the needs or this group more efficiently and with greater cost-effectiveness than general policy measures. Female household members tend to allocate resources more directly to children. while men tend to allocate more resources to adults. In households in which resources are not pooled. targeting programs to the household as a where will not necessarily benefit all members equally.

Targeting women directly is justifiable on two grounds. First, to the extent that gender inequalities prevent an economy from realizing its full potential. targeting to women can be an effective strategy for increasing productivity and output Second, where gender differences are wide, targeting may be needed to capture social gains and to increase internal efficiency.

Box 3.7 striving for gender "neutral outcomes in china”

In China the introduction of compulsory education laws in 1986 was complemented by policies intended to reduce poverty and increase gender equality. The main decision underlying these policies was to devolve responsibility for primary education to local communities. The communities were expected to devise appropriate measures to raise primary enrollments, especially of girls, taking into account specific local problems. Various measures were developed, including awareness campaigns to motivate parents to enroll all children, flexible work schedules, evening classes, sibling care. and special schools for girls. The strategy succeeded in raising enrollments among both girls and boys, even in some of the poorest and most remote regions (World Bank 1994a).

Targeting women is especially when doing so contributes directly to reducing poverty; or when women have particular needs-for example. when maternal mortality is very high. The exceptionally high gender gap in educational enrollments in some countries can be reduced only by policies (including subsidies) that target girls. An obvious example would be policies that affect the private costs of schooling.

Female household members tend to allocate resources more directly to children it while men

Reducing these direct costs to households Will mean setting new public spending priorities. For example. education institutions for girls especially at the primary level, might be exempted from cost recovery measures. thus increasing the implied public spending subsidy to girls. Similarly. a far; number of publicly funded scholarships can be provided for girls' as has been done in and Guatemala.

Opportunity and travel costs can discourage parents from enrolling especially daughters in school. Some counties have tried to overcome the constraints imposed by opportunity costs by introducing flexible school hours and calendar years and providing child care for younger siblings (box 3.7). In some cases girls who are responsible for looking after their younger brothels and sisters ate allowed to bring them to school.

In countries where cultural values may prevent girls from traveling alone to school. measures are needed that will increase access to safe transport.

Box 3.8 economic reforms and gender targeting in Mongolia

Since Mongolia began its transition to a market economy in 1990, the living conditions of the population have deteriorated dramatically. According to the government's estimates, a quarter of all Mongolians are now living below the poverty line. Single women with young children are among the "new" vulnerable groups that have emerged in the wake of the transition. As of December 1993 nearly 72 percent of households headed by single persons, usually women, were estimated to have incomes below the poverty line. (About 28 percent of all households in Mongolia are headed by women). The Mongolian Women's Federation reports that the divorce rate is rising among jobless low-income couples, increasing the number of single-parent households.

Along with job loss women are affected by the decline in services such as day care and maternity homes.

Mothers now have to look after their children at home, which restricts their ability to participate in the labor market and, ironically, increases their dependence on welfare. When herds were privatized, priority was given to people who, according to the government, could take better care of the animals. Unfortunately, this policy adversely affected female-headed households.

The maternal mortality rate has doubled over the past three years. in part because many more babies are being delivered at home. Other factors that have contributed to the rising maternal mortality rate include a decrease in the number of ambulances and the need for patients to pay for the food they consume while they are hospitalized.

In Mongolia, targeting female-headed households, pregnant women, and children is essential for reducing poverty. Social assistance, health care. education, and help in finding employment are particularly important (Subbarao and Ezemenari forthcoming). change the geographic distribution of primary schools, of provide more boarding facilities. Projects in Pakistan are using school mapping techniques to establish criteria for placing new schools in currently underserved areas. Such programs benefit both girls and boys.

It may be necessary to target women when economic reforms of systemic transitions are occurring. For example, in Mongolia, as well as in other countries making the transition from a socialist to a market economy, women are disproportionately represented among the unemployed and otherwise disadvantaged (box 3.8). Thus, in designing safety nets to mitigate the short negative effects or economic transitions. policymakers need to recognize and evaluate the specific adverse effects on women

It is not always necessary to restrict a particular program of benefit exclusively to women: the objective can sometimes be achieved indirectly.

Techniques based on self-selection appear to be particularly efficient. In Zambia. where men have a strong preference for cash wages, offering wages in kind (food) attracted more women workers than men to public works programs.

In the financial sector. women entrepreneurs are enabled to borrow at market rates of interest when banking institutions adopt innovate collateral requirements, reduce transaction costs, and offer small loans at repeated intervals The Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and Badan Kredit Kecaman in Indonesia do not reserve loans for women specifically: instead. they adopt innovative lending policies the result of which is that women snake up the majority of participants-is 96 percent in a new branch of the Grameen Bank.

Involving Beneficiaries in Public Policy

Until recently. the absence of input from beneficiaries often let's ignorant about how the costs and benefits of policy changes would be distributed among the population Today the views and needs of potential beneficiaries are being taken into account at both the macroeconomic and sectoral levels. This trend should make it possible to determine who benefits. who does not, and why. A good example of a situation in which a beneficiary's point of view can make a significant difference is in public expenditure reviews. Governments with unsustainable budget deficits must make difficult decisions about the allocation of public resources. Their task can of ten be facilitated by suggestions from the potential beneficiaries themselves, since one of the key questions policymakers face is whether investments as presently allocated are reaching the intended populations efficiently and effectively

Three broad approaches can be used to guarantee that the views of women and other intended beneficiaries are adequately reflected in policy and project formulation. First. surveys and other methods of collecting statistical data can be designed to ensure that gender-desegregated data are properly collected and analyzed. Second, beneficiary assessments, which use a range of qualitative research methods such as direct observation. selected individual of group interviews. and case studies. can be used to ensure that the views of all groups are adequately represented.

A third approach involves a range of participatory planning and management techniques that reflect a significant transfer of control to the community and local levels. Participatory evaluations use innovative research that allow illiterate and otherwise voiceless groups to express their concerns and priorities. Small grants and credits managed at the local level by NGOs or governments agencies permit a community to choose the projects that best reflect its OWN priorities. Social funds. whereby resources are channeled to demand-driven projects, are one such mechanism While these participatory approaches have been implemented primarily at the local level, they are also beginning to be used to involve the community in regional and national planning. Participatory methods, by helping to create local capacity. ensure the sustainability of projects and programs. They also help establish rational criteria for making public investment choices that incorporate both social and efficiency objectives.

Generating and Analyzing Gender-Desegregated Data

Gender-desegregated data and the capacity to analyze these data provide public policymakers with essential information and enhance the dialogue with agents outside government. One of the most valuable instruments for collecting desegregated data is the household survey. which can provide detailed information that is invaluable in policymaking. Obtaining full gender information in many instances entails only a small increase in costs. since the desegregation itself involves little extra work. However additional resources ate often needed to analyze the data and make it useful to policymakers. Public statistical agencies might analyze gender-desegregated information in partnership with private and academic institutions in order to share the costs.

There are several important steps in collecting useful and accurate data. First. in places where gender -desegregated household data have not yet been collected. special efforts should be made to obtain them. At a minimum data on how individuals use health and educational services should be collected routinely as part of national consumption and expenditure surveys. If household consumption. income or production surveys have already been carried out but little or no gender--desegregated data have been collected, the marginal cost of collection is likely to be quite modest-perhaps on the order of 10 percent of total costs.

Participatory methods help establish rational criteria for making public investment choose that incorporate both social and efficiency objectives.

Second. in places where basic gender-desegregated data have already been collected, it is important to gather more data from individuals on consumption and. as much as possible. on income and the ownership of assets. Such data ate vital for developing a deeper understanding of how access to and allocation and control of resources are determined within households. More data on men's and women's access to credit and information services, such as agricultural extension programs, are needed for an understanding of women's limited access to important production inputs. The data also indicate the effectiveness of projects and programs in providing such services to women.

Third, there should be an increased emphasis on collecting panel data (thee series) to facilitate snore detailed analyses of changes in household behavior over time. Because full panel surveys are costly, it may be necessary to adopt less-expensive panel methods and combine them with flexible data collection. Anthropological and participatory research methods can be used to enhance the quality and relevance of formal survey questions, as well as to provide a "reality check" on formal survey responses.

Finally, greater priority needs to be given to gender-disaggregated analysis of existing data sets. This analysis should be carried out not only in social sectors such as health and education but also on such issues as the intrahousehold allocation of time and labor and access to and use of productive resources.

Working in Collaboration

Governments' ability to identify and implement policies that promote gender equality is greatly enhanced by the active participation of other players from the development community and civil society. These agents include individual women and men, community-based groups, private-for-profit firms, trade unions, non governmental organizations, and multilateral and bilateral agencies. Interaction between public institutions and other actors provides the basis for a more informed policy dialogue on gender issues. It also lays the foundation for operational collaboration and for broadly based support for public policy measures.

Over the past several decades NGOs have become major players in international development. NGOs are by no means homogenous. In the field of development, they range from large volunteer and charity organizations, many of them based in industrial countries, to community-based self-help groups. They also include research institutes, volunteer-sending agencies, religious organizations, professional associations, and lobbying groups.

NGOs concerned with gender issues have had a particularly important role in designing and implementing gender programs, especially at the grassroots level, and in advocating policy change at the national level NGOs have been effective in providing information and education to women and in helping community-based women's organizations lobby for change. In many countries collaboration between NGOs and governments is still relatively new. Nonetheless, it is growing rapidly-most visibly in the delivery of social and financial services.

For example, in Peru a proposed basic health and nutrition project aims to improve the quality and accessibility of health and nutritional services, with an emphasis on poor women and children. NGOs are expected to play a major role in implementing the project and will be responsible for 75 percent of training and research, 40 percent of education, and 20 percent of service delivery (World Bank 1994g). In Africa many HIV/AIDS support programs are managed by NGOs with assistance from governments and funds from international donors.

In the long run choices made by private sector agents are profoundly important for the persistence or reduction of gender inequalities

In the financial services sector NGOs have found innovative ways of overcoming barriers that women face in access to credit and savings facilities. Among the better-know programs are the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, ACCION International in Latin America, and the NGO consortium ACCORD in Africa. NGOs have been very successful in organizing village banks and mobile banking systems to reach the rural poor. These credit programs provide women not only with the funds to finance income-generating activities but also with opportunities to acquire basic business skills and to assume leadership positions within their peer groups.

Governments also seek to collaborate with a range of institutions from the private sector. In the long run the choices made by private sector agents- whether households, firms, or trade unions-are profoundly important for the persistence or seduction of gender inequalities. Joint public-private sector initiatives can be vital in changing peoples perceptions about the benefits of investing in or hiring women. The private sector has a comparative advantage in providing certain kinds of services to women-for example, vocational education and training. Collaboration with the private sector- often means that public resources can be reallocated to those investments that offer the highest rate of social return. such as basic education and health care.

Strengthening International Policies to Meet New Challenges

Not all issues that bear on gender equality can be effectively addressed by individual nations. For example, refugee and displaced women and children account for up to 80 percent of the 50 million refugees and displaced persons worldwide. The sheer numbers of refugee and displaced women and children highlight the urgent need to devise international strategies for dealing with this problem.

The sheer numbers of refugee and displaced women and children (estimated at 4 million)

The constraints that refugee and displaced women lace are similar to those faced by other women, only magnified many times. They lack access to health services, even though their health risks are high. Girls often have less access to basic education than in their home countries. With little access to family planning, women s fertility rates may be extraordinarily high at a time when the burden of additional children hinders the chances of survival for both mothers and infants. In the absence of professional abortion services, women may rely on self-induced and unsafe abortions. The proportion of female-headed households is highest in refugee situations, yet the women's income-generating activities and skills are minimal

The international response to this type of crisis is usually limited to emergency relief measures. Although vital, these measures often fail to recognize the long-term economic and social costs involved in restructuring the lives of displaced women when they return to their home countries. International public policy has an important role in preparing refugee and displaced women for their future role in rebuilding their societies. Long-term repatriation and development on a regional basis along the lines of the International Conference on Central American Refugees (CIREFCA) in Central America is one approach to involving governments, NGOs and development agencies in a coordinated response to refugee problems. Governments and agencies must make every effort to collaborate in making repatriation viable by establishing development programs that explicitly take account of refugees' needs. Otherwise, chances are high that people will once again be forced to leave their countries. putting at risk national reconciliation efforts.

Another area that demands an international response is the establishment of legal conventions for the enforcement of social justice and human rights. Equality under the law creates the legitimacy policymakers and private individuals need to seek change that will increase well-being and encourage economic opportunity. In certain instances, legitimacy needs to be established at the international level. For this reason it is vitally important that governments ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. This convention. adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1979, provides a framework for action by countries to reduce discrimination against women in political and public life, law and education, employment, health care. commerce. and domestic relations. International conventions of this type provide an important policy lever for women's organizations and other groups in civil society.


This chapter has presented the rationale for public interventions to promote gender equality. Such interventions are needed because of market failures and social externalities that extend beyond the individual household to affect society in general. For resources to be allocated efficiently, public spending should focus on those investments with the highest social returns. Given the evidence of high social and private returns to investments in women's human capital, public expenditures should give priority to the investments that have the largest impact on the welfare of girls and women, especially in basic education and reproductive and other health care services. Policymakers also need to identify areas in which actions can be taken that would have gender neutral outcomes, including sectoral programs addressing transport and infrastructure, water supply. and sanitation

BY directing public resource toward policies and projects that reduce gender inequality policy markers are promoting not only equality today but also higher labor productivity

Governments can no longer afford not to invest in women. The evidence on private and social returns to investments in women and girls cannot be ignored. By directing public resources toward policies and projects that reduce gender inequality, policy makers are promoted not only equality today but also higher labor productivity, a higher rate of human capital formation, slower population growth. and stronger economic growth tomorrows However, none of these goals can be reached without the participation of women themselves. Governments and collaborating institutions must listen carefully to the voices of individual women, to women s groups, and to woman policymakers By working with others to identify and implement policies for greater gander equality, governments can take actions that will make a real difference to the future well-being and prosperity of their people.