Laws Impacting Women’s Economic Opportunities Still Prevalent In Most Parts Of The World

A World Bank Group report examining laws in 173 economies finds that 90% of economies still have laws restricting women’s economic empowerment. Violence and lack of jobs are amongst the key barriers for women in developing countries.

Legal barriers to the economic advancement of women are widespread, shutting them out of certain jobs, limiting their access to credit, and leaving them unprotected against violence in many economies around the world.

The World Bank Group’s Women, Business and the Law initiative found other alarming data. In 100 economies, women face job restrictions. For example, women are barred from working in certain factory jobs in 41 economies; in 29 economies they are prohibited from working at night; and in 18 economies they cannot get a job without permission from their husband. Only half of the economies covered have paternity leave, and less than a third have parental leave, limiting men’s ability to share childcare responsibilities. In 30 economies, married women cannot choose where to live and in 19 they are legally obligated to obey their husbands.

The Women, Business and the Law report determined that less legal gender equality is associated with a lower number of girls enrolled in secondary school compared to boys, less women working or running a business and a wider gender pay gap between men and women. Where laws do not protect women from domestic violence, women’s life expectancy is lower. Conversely, where governments provide childcare, women are more likely to receive wages.

In Ghana, Women, Business and the Law conducted a 2-day workshop with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), organized by the World Bank Group in partnership with the Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF). The workshop aimed at improving understanding of how legal and regulatory environments shape women’s economic opportunities globally and in the sub-region, as well as building awareness of gender differentiated laws and identifying areas for legal reform.

“At the World Bank Group, we believe gender equality is a development solution for ending extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity. Greater gender equality leads to greater economic growth and benefits, not only for women, but for society as a whole,” said Ronke Amoni Ogunsulire – IFC Country Manager for Ghana, while delivering the opening remarks for the workshop.

The workshop aimed to provide participants with data, evidence and information on global and regional experiences that can be used to promote women’s rights and gender equal policies. The workshop was also an opportunity to share knowledge around challenges and best practices to advance and promote women’s empowerment in Ghana, and how to put data into action to promote change.

“By using its convening power, the World Bank Group can create and deepen connections between CSOs working on the ground on women’s empowerment, and enable sharing of experiences and data that can be used as a tool to influence policy change,” said Sandie Okoro, Senior Vice-President and World Bank Group General Counsel, who spoke on the topic of “Getting to Equal” during the event.

The workshop gathered nearly 50 participants from civil society organizations, policy-makers and stakeholders working to promote women’s empowerment in Ghana around topics and discussions on women’s empowerment, access to property and credit, and protecting women from violence, among others.

“Gender equality and empowering women and girls is critical for development progress; if over half the world’s population cannot achieve their full capacity, we all stand to lose. The Women, Business and the Law research and data can help improve our understanding of the linkages between legal inequalities and women’s empowerment and economic opportunities,” stated Paula Tavares, Private Sector Development and Legal Gender Specialist, with the Women, Business and the Law team.

Since 2009, Women, Business and the Law, has collected data on laws and regulations that affect women’s employment and entrepreneurship to inform research and policy discussions on the linkages between the legal environment and economic outcomes for women.

The data focus on seven indicators: accessing institutions, using property, getting a job, providing incentives to work, going to court, building credit and protecting women from violence. The report is published every two years. The 2018 Women, Business and the Law report will be launched on March 29th.

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