International Women’s Day: AfDB Puts Gender on the Front Burner
Tunis, 10 March 2008 – The African Development Bank (AfDB) Group has made tremendous progress on gender issues over the last three years and enhanced the status of women within the institution, in particular, and Africa in general.
The new "gender-compliant" culture began in 2006, with a Bank Group Presidential Directive on the protections of women against all forms of sexual harassment. The Directive also emphasized the need to protect all victims of sexual harassment and to respect their dignity.
Since 2006, and for the first time in its 44-year history, 33% of newly employed staff are women while two of the Vice Presidencies in the Bank Group are managed by women. In addition, the institution’s human resources strategy approved in 2007 focuses on staff diversity, especially with regard to gender.
These are some of the engaging data disclosed on Saturday in Tunis by the Bank Group, Vice President for Finance, Thierry de Longuemar, who represented the AfDB President, Donald Kaberuka, at the celebrations of the 2008 International Women’s Day.
"This year, the Bank commits to take further measures to enhance our impact in this regard. This would include increased sensitization and intensive training to ensure that we are all conversant and fully appreciate the concept of gender mainstreaming in all our operations," Mr. De Longuemar said.
For her part, Corporate Services Vice President, Arunma Oteh, highlighted a number of policy decisions and rules approved by the Bank Group toward improving the working condition of its female staff, in the belief that gender equality remained paramount in efforts aimed at achieving sustainable development in Africa.
"We recognize that we must walk or talk as donors seek the preferred channeled of funds for Africa’s development. It is for this reason that under the leadership of the President (Mr. Kaberuka), we have taken a variety of concrete actions to position the Bank as a role model in enhancing gender equality in the Bank," she said.
Apart from being in charge of two of the five vice presidencies in the Bank Group, the number of women in senior positions had risen two-fold from 11% to 21% of the institution’s staff complement in the past two years while the number of female resident representatives rose from zero to six, she said. For similar reasons, the Bank has revamped its young professionals program, making it possible to bring on board the highest number of young professionals ever, half of them women.
However, there are quite a number of challenges to be met. Vice Presidents de Longuemar and Oteh as well as Staff Council President, Maimouna Dabo-Diouf, noted that in spite of the considerable progress in improving women’s status, there were many challenges to be tackled, citing the high rate of birth- related deaths among African women, HIV/AIDS and the lack of education, among others.
Mrs. Dabo-Diouf called for the establishment of a kindergarten within the Bank to enable nursing mothers "establish a balance between their professional and family lives". She also urged management to consider allowing women who intend to have babies to travel on missions with their husbands on a few occasions considering the fact that potential mothers have only nine days in each month during which time they can become pregnant. She also appealed for the provision of education grants to support staff, who are mainly women to enable them educated their children.
The three-day celebrations which began on 6 March were held on the theme "Financing for Gender Equality". Activities included a workshop on Gender Resources and Results Tracking System, hosted by TE Vice President for Infrastructure, Private Sector and Regional Integration, Mandla Gantsho, and a seminar on financing for gender development. Congolese singer, Pierette Adams, was among guests who attended the event, which included a fashion parade.
Earlier, young professionals hosted 25 Tunisian girls in a "Take a Female Youth to Work Day" to familiarize them with Bank Group’s activities.