AfDB at the Forefront in Promoting Women’s Empowerment

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The African Development Bank (AfDB) has been at the forefront in promoting women’s empowerment and gender equality, both in African countries and inside the institution. “Equality in access to education, training and science and technology, the theme of this year’s celebration of International Women’s Day, is a cornerstone of economic growth and development and is likely to have positive impacts on poverty reduction and economic growth on the continent,” AfDB President, Donald Kaberuka, said in a statement delivered by the Bank’s Chief Operating Officer, Nkosana Moyo, during the celebration of one hundred years of International Women’s Day in Tunis, Tunisia.

According to the AfDB President, “African women shoulder the larger share of work burdens, and have limited access to labor and time saving technology, but the design and development of technology remains largely male-biased and does not sufficiently focus on the needs of women to support them in their multiple roles, both in production and reproduction, and in reducing the drudgery of many of the work processes traditionally assigned to them.”

The event was celebrated at the AfDB headquarters in Tunis with a panel discussion moderated by the AfDB Secretary General, Cecilia Akintomide, on Challenges and Successes of Promoting Girl’s Education in Africa; Women in Science and Technology; Promoting Girls and Women in Education and Employment; and Gender Balance in the AfDB Today.

The Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) Vice Chairperson, Aicha Bah-Diallo, highlighted the relevance of desegregated data in identifying and correcting gender gap in education, as well as teachers’ training on girls’ related issues. Meanwhile, Zohra Ben Lakhdar, professor of Physics at the University of Tunis, shared her experience as a girl-child from an underprivileged background who succeeded in a male dominated area, as a researcher in Physics.

As one of the key panelists, UNESCO Assistant Director-General, Lalla Ben Barka, stressed that girl’s education is not only the business of the education ministry, but of all major actors in the society. She also said that while quantity in education has been achieved in terms of girls’ enrolment in primary education, quality is not necessarily increasing. Girls enrolment compared to boys now stands at 90 girls per 100 boys in Africa and a number of African countries are expected to reach parity by 2015, meeting one target of the Millennium Development Goal for gender equality. According to Mrs. Ben Barka, development experts should study more about African culture in order to better understand the African society and propose more adequate gender policies and strategies. She congratulated the AfDB for its performance in Africa, stressing that it is on the right path.

AfDB Poverty Reduction and Social Protection Manager, Ginette Nzau-Muteta and AfDB Principal Diversity Officer, Emily Mutela also presented AfDB’s perspective on education in fragile states and women at work place.   

Over the years, the Bank has contributed considerably towards improving both access and quality education at all levels through construction and equipment of classrooms and science labs. Bank financing has also increased girls’ access to education through a number of measures. Bank projects financed in-service training for teachers to make them better equipped to treat both boys and girls fairly; education projects routinely construct separate ablution and boarding facilities for girls and female students. The suitability of education materials have been reviewed in a number of projects.

In order to increase the ratio of girls in science and technology and in non-traditional technical and vocational training, the AfDB financed the revision of curricula to make them more girl-friendly, the production of gender-sensitive information materials on science and technology careers, scholarships, bridging courses and mentorship programs for girls willing to study non-traditional subjects.

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