Interview with Okon Nyong, AfDB Head of the Bank’s Gender, Climate Change and Sustainable Development Unit, on the context and nature of this year’s celebrations

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Tony Nyong

Question:  How will the Bank celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day?

Answer:  As we all know, this year marks the 15th Anniversary of the UN Conference on Women held in Beijing.  Therefore, the Bank has prepared a series of events which will take place throughout the year.  We have put together an interesting program for Monday afternoon, March 8th where we will have two guest speakers: Mrs. Marie Delphine Ndiaye, President of the Women Lawyers Association of Senegal who will do a presentation on women’s rights and economic empowerment.  The second presentation by Mrs Faiza Azouz will focus on Women in Technology based on a nation-wide study carried out in Tunisia in 2009.   

In the morning we will launch the Gender Help Desk which will provide technical support and contribute to Bank efforts to enhance gender mainstreaming into its operations.  Apart from the program for the official day, we anticipate hosting seminars, prominent guest speakers. For example, March 19-20, in collaboration with New Faces and New Voices Network, we will host the African Women’s Economic Summit in Nairobi.

Question: How would you relate International Women’s Day to the expected outcomes of the Beijing Conference?

Answer:  The Beijing Conference gave us the Platform for Action on which governments, international organizations and the Civil Society Organizations are committed to act.  The Beijing Conference has set targets to be achieved.   

Over the last 15 years, Africa has made progress in certain areas in particular in achieving gender parity in primary education and representation in Parliament.  But we have to be vigilant that the gains are not eroded by the current global crisis and continue taking decisive actions that can give us the intended results – in particular in building women’s economic resiliency.  In celebrating this event every year, we renew our commitments.

Question: What are some of the current Bank Group gender mainstreaming activities in Regional Member Countries?

Answer:  Recently, the Bank adopted the Updated Gender Plan of Action which focuses on three main areas

  • Upporting investment activities that promote women’s economic activities,
  • Building institutional capacity and knowledge building,
  • Supporting governance and policy reform.  

In the coming three years the Bank will concentrate delivering on measurable results in these areas.  Our operations in infrastructure, water and sanitation, agriculture, education, health, private sector development and poverty reduction will continue to respond to the development needs of women and men.  AfDB will continue to work closely with various departments and strengthen staff capacity through economic sector work, knowledge building, and the development of gender mainstreaming tools and training.

Question:  How have these activities impacted on gender equality in Africa?

Answer:  The Bank is an important actor in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment in Africa as a means to reduce poverty and promote growth.  Bank investments in various sectors continue the change the lives of men and women on the continent and improve employment and income.   

In order to better understand the impacts of Bank operations, the Bank has initiated a series of studies starting with operations in human development and we will expand these gender assessments to other sectors.  We recognize the need to strengthen our monitoring and evaluation practices on gender equality in order to determine the impact of our efforts.   

Moreover, the limited gender statistics makes evidence-based development planning and monitoring progress difficult.  This is one area that the Bank will work to strengthen the capacity of Regional Member Countries (RMCs) to collect, analyze and disseminate gender statistics.  We need to continue sharpening our focus and improve our approach in supporting RMCs achieve the MDG targets.  We will continue enhancing our collaboration with key partners.