Gender should be integral part of all AfDB operations, says AfDB’s Special Envoy on Gender

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As part of the efforts to invite the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) staff members to take ownership of the institution’s new Gender Strategy for the period 2014-2018, the institution’s Special Envoy on Gender, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, held a meeting on February 11, 2014, in Tunis, Tunisia, calling on her colleagues to make gender an integral part of the institution’s operations.

Opening the ceremony, AfDB’s First Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer, Emmanuel Mbi, said the meeting was an opportunity to “address the shared responsibility and collective commitment required to deliver on the Bank’s Gender Agenda.” For Mbi, gender equality is important because it increases productivity and improves economic and social outcomes for society.  

In her introductory remarks, Fraser-Moleketi emphasized the importance of gender equality for the development of the continent. She gave example of girls who are still not entitled to go to school just because they are girls, and women who are not entitled to own land just because they are women.  

To illustrate this reality, the Special Envoy shared the story of a family in which the father unfairly chose not send his daughters to school, simply because they were girls. His sons, on the other hand, were allowed to go to school.

As a result, these girls, now women, have been through all sorts of difficulties. Difficulty to improve their living conditions, difficulty owning land, illiteracy, and so on. A minimum of education, even a basic primary schooling, would have helped them cope with the challenges of life and would have enabled them to take better care of their lives, to be better equipped to start a small business, to provide better health care to their children, etc. According to the Special Envoy, treating men and women equally is about inclusiveness.  

Despite many cultural, social and economic constraints, progress is being made in African countries, with a better understanding of the importance of taking into account gender equality. The Special Envoy illustrated this new context with a declaration made by the Minister of Economic Infrastructures of Côte d’Ivoire, Patrick Achi, at an African Development Fund (ADF) meeting in Praia, Cape Verde, in September2012.  

In the words of Minister Achi: “We are not putting gender [equality] at the heart of our development strategies just to please development institutions or donors. It is in our own best interest first; it is in the interest of our countries, because half of the African population is composed of women. And obviously, we will not develop if that half is left out just because they are women.” The Bank can help in that regard, participants in the February 11 meeting said, by reinforcing policy dialogue in countries, as well as putting in place capacity building programs.

In the exchanges that followed, participants raised a variety of issues. These included the importance of disseminating widely the strategy in the region, the availability of reliable gender data, as well as the need to have more gender experts working on operations.

In her concluding remarks, the Special Envoy quoted AfDB President, Donald Kaberuka, as saying: “Real growth has to be for women as much for men, for younger people as for older, for rural communities as much as urban.”

The Bank’s Gender Strategy that was adopted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 by the Board of Directors. It has two main objectives. On the one hand, it seeks to strengthen gender mainstreaming in all of the AfDB’s country and regional operations and strategies. On the other hand, it seeks to address the AfDB’s own internal transformation to make it a more supportive, gender-responsive institution that values its female and male staff equally.