Gender Equality and MDG
Gender equality is fundamental for achieving economic growth and poverty reduction in Africa. It is essential for reaching the Millennium Development Goals as well. Most African countries are signatories to international and regional commitments to gender equality promoting more equally allocated work, education, resources, and control.
Yet, for most women, access to and control over income, productive assets and decision-making power remains elusive, even as they contribute the lion’s share of productive and reproductive labor. Better primary education enrolments and health care services have been undercut in many cases by the HIV/AIDS pandemic; conflicts and fragilities on the continent have exposed women increasingly to gender-based violence, and climate change is weakening the ability of rural populations to subsist. Many women and children are working harder to grow food and collect water and firewood.
Redressing gender inequality must empower women and men. Economic empowerment requires that more women receive secondary and tertiary educations, that they be trained in science and technology to enhance their chances of finding jobs. Access to credit is essential: the availability of micro-credit has encouraged small-scale income-generation, but graduating to small and medium-sized entrepreneurship remains fraught with problems. Many poor rural men are also subjected to social pressure to drop out of school to work before having acquired sufficient skills; some, like women, also face difficulties in accessing credit.
Gender inequalities, which are deeply entrenched in cultural attitudes, values and practices, become institutionalized in laws, regulations and policies. Gender inequalities are neither natural nor static; practices and laws evolve. As women’s roles change, therefore, men and boys must define new and better-adjusted roles, and need support to do so.
Achieving gender equality benefits girls and boys, women and men. When boys and girls are encouraged to stay in school and achieve, family incomes have a better chance of increasing, fertility rates go down, and healthier behaviors take hold. When men and women share responsibilities for decision-making, family budgets benefit all family members. The redress of gender inequalities is a precondition for sustainable growth in Africa. It requires the commitment of all.
The African Development Bank has long recognized gender equality as fundamental for sustainable development. In 1990, the Bank created a ‘Women in Development Unit’. As it became clear that to reduce poverty, gender needed to be mainstreamed in all Bank operations, a Gender Policy and Action Plan were later adopted to ensure a systemic approach to integrating gender equality goals into Bank work and in Regional Member Countries. More gender specialists have joined Bank operations teams.
In 2008, the Gender, Climate Change and Sustainable Development Unit was created to support Task Managers to integrate gender equality considerations effectively into their projects, using, among other tools, Gender Checklists and Country Gender Profiles.
Today, gender equality and women’s economic empowerment are central to the Bank's vision and strategies. Achieving these goals would ensure a sustained poverty reduction in the continent.