Gender equality has strong influence on growth, employment, food security and poverty reduction efforts benefiting the entire economy

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The Executive Director for Canada, Kuwait, South Korea, China and Turkey, and Chair of the African Development Bank Group’s Board Committee on Operations and Development Effectiveness (CODE), Hau Sing Tse, addressed a retreat on gender, held on Friday December 13, 2013 in Tunis. As part of his remarks, he noted that gender equality is a major factor of development in both developed and developing countries. Furthermore, he said the AfDB Board is keen and supportive of placing more emphasis on gender equality in Bank projects.

Tse noted that there would be expectations for the Bank during the Mid-Term Review of the African Development Fund’s 13th Replenishment (ADF13) and that the Board looks forward to the successful implementation of the Bank’s Gender Strategy and the work of the AfDB’s Special Envoy on Gender.

The retreat of 30 gender specialists included brainstorming on how to make the Bank a more gender-sensitive environment and, more importantly, mainstreaming gender equality issues in rural, electrification, drought resilience and sustainable livelihood projects financed by the institution in the region.

In a presentation based on a highly analytical and synchronized value chain development approach that touches on all aspects of inclusive growth, Tse underscored that gender forms a crucial part of the inclusive growth objective of the Bank’s Ten Year Strategy, and that there are also obvious links between the Gender Strategy, Human Development Strategy, Agriculture Strategy, Fragile States Strategy and Country Strategy Papers, among others.

“Gender equality has a strong influence on growth, employment, food security and poverty reduction efforts benefiting the entire economy,” said Tse.

Drawing from experience in Niger, Tse said, “Food security issues in Niger are inextricably linked with gender. We cannot begin to tackle food security issues in the Sahel without dealing with the issue of high population growth [7.2 births per woman in the region].”

On operationalizing the strategy, the ED recognized that there are many and good past examples of Bank projects with a strong gender component “that can inform best approaches from within the Bank. We should be confident – this is already happening. However we must get better at operationalizing cross-cutting issues,” he observed.

The Executive Director also noted that within the context of resource constraints, the institution must prioritize and work with the tradeoffs: “We should not only focus on mainstreaming but also on developing relevant standalone projects that aim to address gender inequalities,” he emphasized.

Echoing Tse, the Bank’s Quality Assurance and Results Department Director, Simon Mizrahi noted the importance of managing the tradeoffs between ideals and the reality of the world we live in. The meeting agreed with the need to be pragmatic and think outside the box, drawing on good practices. Other MDBs are also grappling with these issues and the Bank Group can draw on the lessons learned, he said.

For her part, the Special Envoy on Gender, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, observed that a lot of critical work has been done and that the retreat had gone a long way to deepen the Bank’s understanding of the prospects of gender equality in development. The meeting gathered relevant operational departments, including those of the private sector, agriculture, environment, and even energy, who came together with gender experts to concretize and have a clear agenda on how AfDB can effectively help Regional Member Countries achieve the Bank’s transformation program. The outcome of this meeting will be shared across the organization and will touch the entire institution.

The meeting was reported to have provided the institution with a wealth of relevant information, knowledge, as well as the right orientation and focus towards the implementation of Africa’s transformation.