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2008 International Women’s Day-Interview with AfDB Gender Specialist, Laeticia Mukurasi

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2008 International Women’s Day-Interview with AfDB Gender Specialist, Laeticia Mukurasi

Question: "Financing for Gender Equity" is the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrations in the Bank. Could you please expatiate on the import of this theme?

Answer: As you are aware, the Bank, as a member of the international community, participated in the high level meetings, namely, the International Conference on Financing for Development in March 2002 and the High Level Forum that culminated in the adoption of the Paris Declaration on Aid effectiveness in March 2005. Both meetings generated a consensus in the international community on the need to adopt a comprehensive approach to finance development, including gender-sensitive development and also the need to undertake reforms in aid delivery and management for improved effectiveness and results. The two global frameworks therefore offer the potential for integrating initiatives for financing for gender equality as part of these broader processes of sustainable development. The question by gender advocates has been: (i) what resources are available to finance gender equality? ii) what mechanisms can be put in place to track how increased aid will impact on different groups, particularly women? and iii) since total aid is expected to amount to US$128 billion in 2010, how will increased aid levels translate into resources for financing gender equality in the context of new aid modalities?

Studies have indicated that a low proportion of bilateral official development assistance (ODA) was focused on gender equality within a five-year period (1999-2003), averaging US$3.1 billion out of a sector-allocable US$17.2 billion.  Equally, it has been estimated that the financing gap for achieving Goal 3 of the Millennium Development Goals – promote gender equality and empower women – in low-income countries, ranged from $8.6 billion in 2006 to $23.8 billion in 2015.

These developments are of importance to the Bank as a development finance institution because through its gender policy, the Bank promotes gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Equally, the Bank made a commitment to create a tool to track the level of financial resources invested in promoting these issues and the gender impact of its investments.

Question: Recently Bank Group President, Donald Kaberuka, said that gender should be accorded "the same importance as agriculture", in the Bank. Could you explain this to our readers?

Answer: Although I do not know the context in which the President Kaberuka made such a remark, I think he wanted to underscore the centrality of both agriculture and gender to Africa’s economic development. Agriculture is the mainstay of the continent’s economy. It accounts for about 60 percent of the total labour force, 20 percent of total merchandise exports and 17 percent of GDP. Equally women in Africa have been dubbed "a hidden growth reserve" as they provide more than half of the region’s labour. In fact, as was extolled in the Bank’s Gender Policy, whereas both women and men play substantial economic roles, much of Africa’s economy is in the hands of women, especially the agricultural and informal sectors. For example, women work far longer hours than men as their work day may be up to 50 percent longer as their activities within the productive and reproductive sectors are closely intertwined. The gender division of labour entails a combination of farming work, childcare and household duties. According to a recent World Bank study, women perform about 90 per cent of the work of processing food crops and providing household water and fuel-wood; 90 per cent of the work of hoeing and weeding with primitive instruments; 80 per cent of the work of food storage and transportation from farm to village and 60 per cent of the work of harvesting and marketing. Other studies focusing on transport patterns in several Sub-Saharan African countries show that women move, on average, usually via head loading, 26 metric ton kilometers a year, especially water and fuel wood, compared with less than 7 metric ton-kilometers for men. This, combined with women’s contribution to agriculture, has led to estimates that women contribute about two-thirds of the total rural transport effort.

Question: So far, how much, in financial resource terms, does the Bank Group devote to gender under ADF-10?

Answer: Although women have benefited from the Bank investments over time, at present there is no tool or mechanism to track the amount of resources dedicated to gender equality. Discussions are ongoing about instituting such a mechanism.

Question: In spite of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and action plan on Women empowerment, and the many declarations and dialectics about gender equity in Africa, the women on the continent reflect the ugly face of poverty.  How do we explain this phenomenon?

Answer: Your question underscores the fact that in some circles, poverty is perceived as a highly gendered phenomenon and in ways that are not captured by income or other conventional measures. For some scholars, researchers and development practitioners, feminisation of poverty can be assessed in terms of individual capabilities as well as outcomes that are fostered through gender relations, and reinforced and sustained through processes and practices of households, communities, states and other institutions. In the Bank’s Poverty Policy, for example, it is acknowledged that men and women share the burden of poverty differently. Women and girls tend to be disadvantaged in terms of social outcomes such as education and health. They also have limited opportunities to make decisions about issues that affect their lives, bear the brunt of domestic violence and are more susceptible to infectious diseases. In addition, they have a greater workload compared to males when domestic and 'productive' work is combined. The Bank’s Gender Policy echoes these observations and notes that women-related poverty is directly related to the absence of economic opportunities, lack of access to economic resources, including credit, land ownership and inheritance, lack of access to education and support services. This situation has been further compounded by labour migration, changes in family structures and inequality in income and consumption, together with the unequal distribution of control between and within families, which have left women disadvantaged and have prevented them from developing their full potential.

However, arguments and counter arguments about this issue have also been noted. It is argued, for example, that the analysis of intersections between gender and poverty do not necessarily conform to broad generalizations and that the conflation of women with poverty by assuming that women are always more negatively affected by poverty is analytically and potentially misleading. For example, the assertion that female headed households (FHH) are necessarily poorer is increasingly being contested as it suggests that poverty is mainly determined by household characteristics rather than the socio-economic context in which women live. "Scape goating" female headship as a cause of poverty can have two undesirable consequences: first, it averts attention from the wider systemic and structural causes of gender and socio-economic inequality that contribute to it, and, two, it suggests that poverty among women is confined to cases where females head the household, thus camouflaging the fact that women in male-headed households experience poverty too and may even be worse-off than FHH. The need for nuanced, context-specific research on correlations between gender and poverty within and between countries has been emphasized.

Question: Do you think any African country will meet the MDG targets on gender?

Answer: Several African countries are already achieving some of the MDGs on Gender. According to the 2007 Report on Assessing Africa’s Progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, jointly prepared by the AfDB, UNECA, and the African Union, Southern Africa is by far the best performer on MDG 3, followed by North Africa, and then East Africa. The report shows that West Africa and Central Africa need to work more on this goal.

With regard to primary education, most African countries are likely to reach the gender parity goal by 2015 as demonstrated in nine countries - Libya, Gambia, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles and Uganda – which have already reached gender parity in primary education in 2005. In some countries such as Lesotho and Namibia, the enrolment of girls outpaces that of boys and governments have  introduced proactive programmes to address this imbalance.

Progress toward gender parity is slower in secondary education, though, and has mainly been achieved in twelve countries in 2004. These countries include Algeria, Botswana, Cape Verde, Lesotho, Libya, Namibia, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa Swaziland and Tunisia, while some other countries are likely to achieve the goal such as Egypt, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Sudan and Zimbabwe. Eleven countries which have a good potential to achieve gender equality in secondary education by 2015 are: Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Malawi, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania.

The picture is gloomy, though, for tertiary education as available data indicate many countries are unlikely to achieve the goal by 2015. However, nine countries - Algeria, Cape Verde, Lesotho, Libya, Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, and Tunisia have achieved the gender parity target in tertiary education, while Madagascar and  Sudan are close to satisfying this indicator.

Concerning literacy rates for people aged 15 and 24 years, an optimistic trend has been observed in the 30 countries for which data are available, 24 have either already achieved gender parity in literacy, or have the potential to do so by 2015. The eight countries that have already reached the goal of gender parity in literacy for the 15-24 age group by 2004 are: Botswana Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Mauritius, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, and Swaziland.

With regard to women’s representation in national parliaments, while there is progress, the pace of change remains low for 27 of the 32 countries for which data are available for 1990 and 2005. The following 12 countries have more than doubled the percentage of seats held by women in national parliaments: Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, Swaziland, South Africa and Tunisia. Eight other countries have made very significant progress: Uganda, Zambia, Seychelles, Senegal, Malawi, Gambia, Equatorial Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Madagascar and Angola. The highest achievers are Rwanda, with 48.8% almost reaching gender parity, Mozambique with 34.8%, South Africa with 32.8% and Seychelles with 29.4% of women parliamentarians. Moreover, women are increasingly assuming power in certain countries like in Liberia or are being appointed to head important ministries. In the Gambia, the Vice President is a woman. South Africa has a female deputy president. Mozambique’s prime minister and foreign affairs minister are women, while Cape Verde has a female minister for the presidency of the council of ministers, state reform and national defense. In Liberia, a woman is the finance minister.

Question: The Bank is developing a tool to track resources aimed at promoting gender equality. Could you explain the workings of this tool and how effective will it be?

Answer: The tool known as the Gender Resource Allocations and Results Tracking System (GRARTS) is being developed with the objectives to i) strengthen the link between Bank Group Gender Policy objectives and resource allocations; (ii) ensure efficient targeting of resources; (iii) enable tracking of resources dedicated to  contribute to increasing gender equality in an activity such as a programme or project; iv) enhance accountability for Bank Group commitments to gender equality and provide an indication of good economic and financial governance practices (iv) enable tracking of changes in gender dimensions of inequality that result from Bank investments over time and (vi) contribute to development effectiveness by ensuring a more effective delivery of aid and poverty reduction. The ultimate aim of GRARTS is to mainstream gender into the criteria that determine planning, development and implementation of Bank programmes and projects.

Although it is too early to concretely demonstrate how effective such a tool would be, its adoption would be timely, given the need to develop strategies and procedures to enhance aid effectiveness as embodied in the Paris Declaration. Since the Declaration entails the scaling-up of aid, it would enable the Bank to track how increased resources would affect different groups, including women. Currently, ongoing discussions suggest that there is a need for such a tool as neither donor nor partner country systems are yet equipped to track and monitor the resources which are focused on promoting gender equality. The proposed exercise would, therefore, be the Bank’s contribution to addressing this deficiency. 

Such a tool would entail neither separate budgets for women-specific programmes nor an addition to existing financial reporting systems in the Bank (SAP, COSTAB and DATA WAREHOUSE). Rather it would require an analysis of the impact of Bank investments on women and men. The analysis would result in actionable elements, the development of gender codes and classifications and the integration of cost categories and codes in the systems that are used to enter financial data. Undoubtedly, the implementation of GRARTS will require the Bank to build capacities and expertise in both budgeting and gender analysis.

Question: Will there be any follow-up actions after March 8, 2008?  If so, in which areas?

Answer: The Bank recently finalized ADF-11 replenishment negotiations with an unprecedented replenishment level of US$8.9 billion, corresponding to an increase of 52 percent over ADF-10 resources. It is noteworthy that the agreed programme contains very strong endorsement on gender equality issues.  Since the Bank is in a stronger financial position, it will be able to offer a variety of lending and non-lending instruments to cater to the variety of development needs, including those relating to gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Secondly, the Bank will soon embark on developing an update of the gender plan of action (GPOA), which, among other things, will take into account the outcome of the ADF-11 replenishment negotiations, specifically: 

  • a review of the capacity and adequacy of Bank Group staffing in gender at both the  headquarters and in resident missions to provide hands-on support and assistance necessary to strengthen the Bank’s commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment as part of a wider review of  Bank skills and capacity;
  • a critical review of how gender profiles are being produced and used, including quality and relevance, and how analytical work can be strengthened in partnership with other joint analytical work at the country level;
  • an examination of the use of systems and mechanisms such as terms of reference for feasibility studies, and environmental and social impact procedures for prior review of gender issues in project design and how these can be to linked to the incentive system;
  • the issue of enhancing staff incentives, including the use of President’s Award for Change and Excellence;
  • measures to support capacity building for gender-disaggregated data collection and reporting at the Bank and regional member countries. 

Thirdly, recent developments also augur well for progress in this area. A quick review of  actions by various Bank complexes over the last three months indicate that they have positioned themselves to deliver more concretely on the gender agenda. The operations vice presidency has noted that limited capacity for gender mainstreaming is the key challenge to gender mainstreaming in operations and is developing a short-term implementation action plan (SIAP) entailing three strategic areas, namely, communication, dissemination and continuous training as measures to promote the achievement of ADF 11 gender mainstreaming objectives. The sector operations vice presidency has introduced a complex wide Knowledge Performance Indicator (KPI) related to gender for which each Manager and director should be held accountable for their performance related to gender mainstreaming in their operations.

The infrastructure, private sector and regional integration vice presidency has, for its part, underlined the great potential for infrastructure, particularly in the rural areas, to free up women’s time for more productive activities, enhance their productivity, promote economic growth and poverty reduction. It has therefore mandated that every development investment programme and project must answer the following questions: Who uses it? Which kind of infrastructure (asset or service) and for what purpose? Who benefits from it? Who pays for it? Who decides where, when, how and how much? Who maintains it?

The Bank Group’s Chief Economist’ Complex intends to play a major role in ensuring more and better gender statistics and indicators to improve the knowledge and database on women in order to facilitate the Bank analytical work on gender equality results.


Name: Laeticia Mukurasi Title: AfDB Gender Specialist
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