World Bank to Increase Economic Empowerment for Millions of Girls & Women in East, Southern Africa

by Nada Khaled


Millions of girls and young women across Eastern and Southern Africa will gain greater access to education and economic empowerment opportunities thanks to the newly approved East Africa Girls’ Empowerment and Resilience Program (EAGER).

This new program, approved on September 28, 2023, and supported by $832 million in International Development Association (IDA) financing, will boost girls’ and women’s education and earnings while strengthening institutional capacity for the implementation of gender equality policies. EAGER brings together countries facing similar challenges hindering girls’ and women’s empowerment and will be deployed in phases. Madagascar and Mozambique are the first two countries to participate in the initiative, with the African Union (AU) serving as the regional institution supporting the program. Future phases are expected to include Burundi, Comoros, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

“EAGER is a groundbreaking initiative that will help to achieve impact at scale by directly reaching millions of girls, women, and stakeholders. It also seeks to create the institutional conditions necessary to empower even more girls and women,” said Boutheina Guermazi, Director for Regional Integration, Africa, and the Middle East.

In its first phase, the EAGER program will directly support over two million girls to stay in or return to school and enable 160,000 women to increase their productivity in the labor market in Mozambique and Madagascar. It will also reach more than six million agents of change, including traditional leaders, parents, and boys, through behavioral change campaigns designed to shift gender norms in the two countries. It will enhance the capacity of 26,000 local administrators, community leaders, and service providers to effectively implement gender equality reforms.

In Eastern and Southern Africa, over 40 million girls do not attend school, and a staggering 55 million girls and young women are married before the age of 18. This lack of access to resources and decision-making power during adolescence often leads to a trajectory of low productivity, leaving them excluded from the labor market or relegated to low-quality jobs in adulthood, thus contributing to a significant gender gap in job earnings.

“A human-centered engagement is needed to address the deep-rooted causes of women’s disempowerment. EAGER is a multi-sectoral effort encompassing education, health, jobs, and social protection, recognizing the strong interrelation of these dimensions in women’s empowerment,” said Sara Troiano, the Task Team Leader on EAGER, emphasizing the need for a holistic approach.

The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, and helps the world’s poorest countries by providing grants and low to zero-interest loans for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people’s lives.

 IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 74 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa. Resources from IDA bring positive change to the 1.3 billion people who live in IDA countries. Since 1960, IDA has provided $458 billion to 114 countries. Annual commitments have averaged about $29 billion over the last three years (FY19-FY21), with about 70 percent going to Africa.

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