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AfDB Gender agenda: leaving no one behind


Addressing African Development Bank (AfDB) staff members at a Town Hall meeting on February 11, 2014 in Tunis, the AfDB Special Envoy on Gender, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, quoted the Minister of Economic Infrastructure of Côte d’Ivoire, Patrick Achi, as saying: “It is for us first that gender equality is a crucial issue. We are not putting gender at the heart of our development strategies just to please development institutions or donors. It is in our own 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.”

By doing so, the Special Envoy was just re-emphasizing that “Equality for Women is Progress for all”, as the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day indicates. And her own appointment in September 2013 by AfDB President Donald Kaberuka as Special Envoy on Gender is a clear indication that gender is at the heart of the AfDB’s operations in countries. The role of her office is to provide strategic leadership to the institution on gender equality and undertake advocacy with regional member countries, and in national and international fora.  

Talking about the importance of the gender issue for the institution, she assured the audience: “If anyone thought that we are doing it because we are pandering to an external agenda, let me assure you that we are doing it because it is necessary. It is about our lives, it is about our daughters, it is about our sons as well. This gender strategy is not about leaving anyone behind. It is not just about women,” she added.

From women to gender

The AfDB has promoted gender equality in its operations for more than two decades, moving from a focus on women, to gender (both women and men) mainstreaming. In 2001 it adopted a Gender Policy, confirming a gender approach that was then operationalized in two consecutive gender action plans. The AfDB worked to optimize its efficiency and outreach in this area through various institutional changes, including the number and placement of gender specialists and units dedicated to promoting gender equality.

Initiatives such as the Gender Working Group, established by President Kaberuka in 2009, advise on ways to strengthen gender mainstreaming in the Bank and in member countries. The President’s Prize for Good Practice in Gender Mainstreaming has also affirmed the AfDB’s commitment to promoting gender equality in Africa. In 2010, the AfDB created a gender division that opened new opportunities to institutionalize gender mainstreaming and promote gender equality in the Bank and in Regional Member Countries.

These efforts have had notable results. For instance, from 2011 to 2012, the percentage of newly approved projects, rated as having mainstreamed gender in a satisfactory manner, increased from 38% to 67%.

Furthermore in 2012, the AfDB won the U.S. Treasury Award for its commitment to gender equality, inclusion, and fragile states for a project in Côte d’Ivoire which holistically addresses the effects of gender-based violence.

Legal status and property rights

The AfDB’s Ten Year Strategy 2013–2022 (TYS) reaffirms its commitment to gender equality as essential for economic progress and sustainable development. Under the TYS, the AfDB will employ existing as well as innovative tools, processes and approaches to effectively mainstream gender in the priority areas of infrastructure, governance, skills and technology, regional integration and private sector development.

Drawing on the lessons learnt, the AfDB will double its efforts to promote women’s economic empowerment, strengthen their legal status and property rights, and improve knowledge management and capacity building. It also seeks to strengthen internal capacity, including increased cross-sector coordination to optimize synergies for scaling up gender-related results.

To implement this commitment to gender equality, the AfDB developed in February 2014 a gender strategy to guide its efforts to effectively integrate gender equality into its operations and promote gender equality in Africa. The Gender Strategy: Investing in Gender Equality for Africa’s Transformation (2014–2018)”, envisions an Africa where African women and girls, have easy access to knowledge; where women’s skills and innovations are optimized, their capacities contribute to greater economic opportunities, and where they fully participate in decision-making processes.

The gender strategy identifies three mutually reinforcing pillars to tackle the underlying causes of gender inequality:

  • women’s legal status and property rights;
  • women’s economic empowerment; and
  • capacity development and knowledge management.

Advancing progress in each of these pillars will be interfused in the AfDB’s core operational areas and areas of special emphasis, identified in the Ten Year Strategy.

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