An Interview With Jeni Klugman, Director of Gender and Development at the World Bank

At the Women Deliver Conference, I had the pleasure to interview Jeni Klugman, the Director of Gender and Development at the World Bank. Answering questions related to accountability, the Women Deliver Conference, and correct data, Klugman provided Girls’ Globe with excellent insight on issues concerning gender and development.


EE: Hi I’m Elisabeth from Girls’ Globe and I’m here today interviewing Jeni Klugman, the Director of Gender and Development at the World Bank. So question number 1, Jeni:

How can we ensure effective accountability for service providers to monitor outcomes in reproductive and maternal health?

JK: Well, accountability is a key part of the equation. Too often, services are of poor quality, staff is not there, supplies are not there. Different mechanisms are being used to try to improve accountability. There are what we can call long routes and short routes. So, long route is by the ballot box, so holding the government accountable. But it is a long route and elections may not be very frequent or they may not be entirely fair in the whole country. So short routes enable more direct feedback. Some of the examples include publishing data about the amount of money that a clinic receives, [and] enabling complaints to be made directly to the clinics or directly to government officials in the area.

EE: And promoting local governance? Is that also something?

JK: Yea, no accountable local government is an important part of the equation as well.

EE: Ok, great.

Question 2: What do you hope the major outcome of the Women Deliver Conference will be?

JK: Well it’s clearly a major conference. I think that the mere fact of getting so many thousands of people together who are passionate about improving maternal health and promoting gender equality more broadly is a major achievement in itself. I think moving the agenda forward in particular ways, [and] recognition of the economic costs of the interrelationships among the different dimensions of gender equality. But I think also the connections among people are very important as well.

EE: Definitely.

Question 3: For women and girls in the most rural, hard-to-reach populations, how do you ensure correct data?

JK: That’s a major challenge. We know that, for the countries that have the worst records in terms of maternal and child health, indeed that data is also the worst. So [there are] different ways of combating that issue [where it] exists. There are short term efforts, so you can [have] a kind of  survey and collect some data and then you know [the data] for a particular point in time. But I think, more importantly, it is critical to build the capacity, the underlying capacity of the local administration and local statistical systems so that they can collect birth [and] death registrations on a routine basis.

EE: So they can collect it themselves. Right.

Well, thanks so much for watching our video with Jeni Klugman, and if you are interested in viewing more of our Women Deliver coverage, please feel free to explore our website and enjoy! Thank you.

Image Courtesy of Women Deliver
Image Courtesy of Women Deliver

For more videos of Jeni Klugman at the Women Deliver Conference, please see below:

Plenary: Investing in Women’s Reproductive Health Equals Investing in Economic and Social Progress for Everyone

Press Conference Day 1: Investing in Girls & Women

Fawzia Koofi: Leading Afghanistan into a New Era

Image Courtesy of
Image Courtesy of

In third grade, my teacher taught our class a song where the lyrics stated all the U.S. Presidents in order, from George Washington to Bill Clinton. To this day, I still know (and occasionally sing) the song, with every election adding the newest incoming male U.S. President. Unfortunately, throughout the United States’ 239 year history, the U.S. has never experienced leadership from a female President. However, that is not the case in the rest of the world.  Setting extraordinary examples, women leaders serve in the country’s highest office in Liberia, Switzerland, Argentina, Lithuania, Costa Rica, Brazil, Kosovo, Malawi, San Marino, and South Korea. Recently, a campaign has begun supporting a female Presidential candidate in the most unlikely of countries – Afghanistan.

Running for President of Afghanistan in 2014, Fawzia Koofi’s life has been a constant struggle. Left in the Afghan heat to die as an infant, Koofi’s mother believed death as a more sympathetic option than suffering through life as a female in Afghanistan.  Eventually changing her mind and rescuing Koofi from the scalding outdoor temperatures, Koofi’s mother promised herself that no harm would ever come to her child again. Making good on her promise, Koofi eventually became the first female in her family to attend school and, later, a member of Parliament serving as Afghanistan’s first female Parliament speaker.

Surviving an assassination attempt by the Taliban, Koofi continues to campaign for the 2014 Presidential seat. Because traditional Islamic culture views women as property, Koofi’s courageous campaign and leadership stirs tension among some Afghans – particularly the Taliban. Resigning herself to the idea that she might, one day, be killed by the Taliban, Koofi continues fighting for women’s rights and is undeterred on her journey to becoming the first female President of Afghanistan.

For more information on Fawzia Koofi and her Presidential campaign, please visit the following:

Fawzia Koofi Campaign Website

Fawzia Koofi’s book, The Favored Daughter: One Woman’s Fight to Lead Afghanistan into the Future

“Will Fawzia Koofi Be Afghanistan’s First Female President?” – The Daily Beast

WATCH: Jon Stewart Interviews Fawzia Koofi

Raise Your Voice To Build The World We Want

“Promoting the ability of women to articulate their views in a meaningful way (voice) and to become the agents of their own empowerment (agency) is vital to overcome engrained sociocultural conditioning and the gendered division of labor [sic] in private and public spheres, whereby women and women’s interests are typically relegated an inferior and largely invisible status.” – Institute of Development Studies

By now, many of you have heard of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), or goals established by the United Nations and its member states in 2000 as achievable by 2015.  The MDGs focused in a variety of areas including eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, and promoting gender equality and female empowerment. Although the MDGs were not without its criticisms, as not all subjects garnered enough attention to be included (i.e. increasing access to and training of skilled birth attendants), the MDGs are widely deemed a success in that they increased awareness and funds for global programming aimed at improving overall quality of life. However, with the year 2015 upon us, new goals must be set for the world to continue its path to progress.

Looking ahead, the United Nations is currently working to create a post-2015 global development agenda to succeed the MDGs.  The United Nations’ ongoing campaign, “The World We Want 2015,” uses the voices of individuals from all corners of the world to help develop the upcoming priority themes. So far, gender surprisingly fails to be a stand-alone theme of the post-2015 agenda. However, this is not necessarily bad news. Because gender is currently regarded as a deeply cross-cutting issue,

“In the current debates around the post-2015 framework, there appears to be a growing consensus that gender must be integrated across any new framework.” – Institute of Development Studies.  

For example, inequality, one theme of the post-2015 agenda, specifically labels gender as a key focus area on which to improve in the coming years. On The World We Want 2015’s website, found within the inequality thematic concentration is a 2013 publication from the Gender and Development Network titled, “Achieving Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in the Post-2015 Framework” outlines the need for gender equality in the post-2015 agenda and gives suggestions for how to improve upon data indicators and consultations.

The report also dissects lessons learned from achieving gender equality for the MDGs. Specifically, the report claims that, because MDG3 spotlighted gender equality, gender-related organizations around the world gained from using MDG3 as an advocacy tool to enhance legitimacy, increase political will, gain funding and spread awareness. Additionally, the report suggests that in order to make gender mainstreaming* effective, the post-2015 agenda must implement both projects to support girls’ and women’s empowerment as well as organizational gender mainstreaming.

When deciding the post-2015 agenda, we must listen to women around the world as they describe their future goals. We must not be swayed by opinions from political leaders and the media regarding how women half a world away may or may not be living. On the contrary, we must:

  • Listen to women with real experience living in particular countries or regions;
  • Advocate for women’s organizations that work to improve the lives of women in their region; and
  • Spread awareness of The World We Want 2015 through social media platforms to increase the likelihood that women become the driving force behind its gender-related global initiatives.

By actively voicing your opinion regarding the post-2015 World We Want, you will immediately become an advocate and a global change agent.

“It is critical that women organizations across Africa ensure the Post 2015 consultations are driven, influenced and shaped by the voices and experiences of the millions of African citizens who often go unheard.” – FEMNET

To learn more about organizations doing amazing work for women around the world, please see below:

Join the conversation by following The World We Want on Twitter @WorldWeWant2015 and use #beyond2015 #post2015 or #inequalities2015.

*Gender Mainstreaming: The process of assessing the implications for both men and women when initiating any planned action, legislation, policy or program.

CEDAW: Ending Violence Against Women

“Gender equality must become a lived reality.” -Michelle Bachelet


The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) began on January 18 and will go until February 5. CEDAW is an international agreement that “affirms principles of fundamental human rights and equality for women around the world” (CEDAW 2013). This agreement establishes an agenda for how to overcome discrimination of women and girls in countries around the world. It was originally adopted in 1979 and the UN holds as many meetings as are necessary to meet its objectives. To date, 187 out of 194 countries have ratified the treaty. The United States is one of those countries that has not ratified this treaty.

The purpose of CEDAW is to:

  • Reduce sex trafficking & domestic violence
  • Provide access to education & vocational training
  • Ensure the right to vote
  • End forced marriage & child marriage & ensure inheritance rights
  • Help mothers and families by providing access to maternal health care
  • Ensure the right to work & own a business without discrimination

I was so excited to hear about the “African Ministerial Preparatory Meeting” on January 14 in Ethiopia. There were officials from 27 countries, UN officials, and other representatives in attendance. At the meeting, Lakshmi Puri, the UN Assistant Secretary General and UN Women Deputy Executive Director, spoke on ending violence against women (UN Women: West Africa). This is the theme for this year’s convention. Watch her call to action for African leadership.

End violence against women.

On January 17, just before the start of the conference, Puri spoke once again about the elimination of violence against women and the role of the international community (UN Women). CEDAW is more than just a treaty, more than just a piece of paper.

“These texts constitute a powerful body of global and regional norms and standards that then get translated into national and local laws, policies, and actions…they may be pieces of paper…but they carry the weight of moral authority.”

“They can change mindsets and societies and can make a critical difference on the issue of violence against women, which has profound implications not only for the promotion of human rights, but also for the achievement of sustainable development and of peace and security.” 

-Lakshmi Puri

Read the rest of her statement here.

Take the CEDAW pledge.

Pledge to stand with women and girls around the world in strongly support CEDAW until all countries recognize the equality and human rights of women and ratify CEDAW.

Educate a Woman, Build a Nation

Lately, I have been thinking of the many opportunities I have been given for education. I am so blessed. I will be starting graduate school soon. Education has never been a question for me. I always knew I would graduate high school, learn another language (or two), attend a university, and even go to Graduate school. For so many others, this is not the case. Don’t take education for granted.

There is an extreme lack of educational opportunity among women in other countries, namely developing countries. I think about my mom in India, Laxmi, and her desire to learn, to be educated, but her desires are muffled by the needs of her family. I think about the sweet women I met in Mali who have never known the value of education; they have never known anything beyond feeding their children, selling good at the market, and cleaning their homes. I think about these girls in the small village of Kouri, Mali, who, in between bouts of broken French told me…

They wanted nothing more than to come to America to go to school, to be educated.

Photo courtesy of Elisabeth Jessop

Education is a key to development.

When a woman is educated, she is literate and she can communicate with other members of society and create additional opportunities for herself. Health education is particularly important for all women.

Girls and women all over the world remain deprived of full and equal opportunities for education. The UNESCO World Atlas argues that there has been progress towards parity in primary education; however, after secondary level education, this tapers off significantly in the developing regions. In Nicaragua, 45 percent of girls with no schooling are married before age 18 versus only 16 percent of their educated counterparts. In Mozambique, the figures are 60 percent versus 10 percent and in Senegal, 41 percent versus 6 percent. See what a little education can do? Education is a key to preventing immature childbirth and early childhood marriage (Girl Effect).

From research, we know that when a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, on average, she will marry four years later and have 2.2 fewer children (Girl Effect). An extra year of primary school has proven to boost a girls’ wages by 10 to 20 percent. An extra year of secondary school boosts their wage about 15 to 25 percent – one extra year of school! Think of how that one additional year could improve and change the course of their life.  In Half the Sky, Kristof and WuDunn argue:

“The single most important way to encourage women and girls to stand up for their rights is education, and we can do far more to promote universal education in poor countries.”

Emmanuel Jal, a child soldier-turned-rapper, shares his thoughts on the power of educating women. He says:

“The best way to help Sudan, is to educate its women.”

He speaks of his sister who was raped during the civil war. Rather than sit and complain about it, she has turned her pain into positive actions, because “she understands the power of education.” He goes on to say that women are much more clever than men but never have the chance to fully demonstrate their strength. Women are the ones who educate the kids and teach them how to behave; they take care of the household and make sure everyone gets fed. “Men are too busy talking politics and killing each other” (World Bank).

In Kenya, if every girl completed secondary school, this would add about $27 billion to the economy over the course of their lifetimes (Girl Effect). In Ethiopia, if girls completed secondary education, nearly $6.8 billion would be contributed. These are astronomical figures.

In October 2010, The World Bank started an initiative called “Educate a Woman, Build a Nation…” They created an Adolescent Girls Initiative (AGI) to help young women get jobs after high school.  This program also encourages the girls to finish high school. Since its inception, almost 20,000 adolescent girls from Afghanistan to Rwanda have been impact (Girl Effect). In their occupational training programs, they have a nearly 95 percent completion rate. BRAC reaches nearly 800,000 girls globally by providing girl spaces, life skills, and access to microfinance (Girl Effect). Movements like the AGI, and other similar initiatives launched by BRAC, the NoVo Foundation, and the Nike Foundation, have changed the way the world perceives the importance of education for both men, and women.

Education can transform and empower girls and women to create sustainable development for society as a whole.


Girl Effect: Fact Sheet.

UNESCO: World Atlas of Gender Equality in Education.  United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, 1-94.

Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn: Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.

World Bank: Key Issues on Gender and Development.

Modern-Day Slavery and the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation

This week, many Americans are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, a document issued by President Lincoln during the civil war to free all slaves.

“Henceforward, shall be free…”

Today, 150 years later, even within the United States,

Slavery still exists.

Although the Emancipation Proclamation was the beginning of increased freedom for many blacks, many still did not regain their civil rights in the United States until the 1960’s. Still today, many individuals remain trapped in forced prostitution and domestic servitude. I was reminded very recently that slavery exists in my own community – Salt Lake City, Utah.


Young girls in my local community, as young as 14, were forced into sex chains. Think about it, that could be you.

U.S. tiers
Photo courtesy of CNN Freedom Project:

Although modern-day slavery is not only an issue among girls and women, it disproportionately affects females compared to males. Based on the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report of 2007, over 70% of victims are female. Even worse, Utah is ranked a tier 3 state out of 4 tiers, based on the lack of measures taken against human trafficking.

According to the Department of State, 14,500 – 17,500 human beings are being trafficked into the U.S. each year. And there are 20-30 million slaves in the world today. That is a lot (see image below). To put things in perspective, at the time of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, there were about 4 million slaves in the U.S.

Photo courtesy of Free the Slaves:
Photo courtesy of Free the Slaves:

Want to learn more about Slavery 101? Check out this video from Free the Slaves

Each of us can make a difference. How?

1. Raise awareness.

2. Support a cause.

3. Advocate.

Raise awareness. Talk about it. Tell your friends, Polaris Project has some great outreach and awareness you can use to educate your community. The first step to ending modern-day slavery is through education and prevention.

Support a cause. Check out some of the following organizations to get involved: Polaris Project, CNN Freedom ProjectThe Red Thread Movement, Free the Slaves,  Not for Sale CampaignEnd Slavery Now, and many others.

Advocate for policy against human trafficking in your city, state, or country. Contact your local leaders and politicians, encourage them to support bills that will prevent human trafficking or support victims of human trafficking. Research the existing laws in your city, state, and country.

Let’s finally put an end to slavery. You can make a difference.