Interview with Vice-President Mandla Gantsho-2009 International Women’s Day

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Gender equality is a necessary condition for sustainable development and requires all hands on deck to achieve,” Vice-President Mandla Gantsho said in his interview published on the AfDB website within the framework of the 2009 International Women’s Day celebration. The slogan adopted by the African Development Bank on this occasion is “Men and Women Together for Development”. 

Question - You have been heading the AfDB Gender Working Group (GWG) since May 2008. What are its mandate and main objectives?

VP Gantsho - The mandate of the Gender Working Group (GWG) was to come up with action plans aimed at promoting gender issues within the Bank, in Bank operations and in strengthening partnerships in Regional Member Countries (RMC) and at regional levels to achieve and mainstream gender equality.  The proposed actions aim at enabling the Bank translates its aspirations on gender equality into real commitments that produce results.

The GWG developed 3 action plans to be undertaken at the institutional level; the program and project levels, as well as at the RMC level. The action plans had the full support of President Donald Kaberuka and were endorsed by the Board.

The group was happy to see that, within a short time, many of the proposed actions were implemented. For instance, an independent organizational unit in charge of gender issues (OSUS) was created and elevated to report to a Vice President.  Staff rules have been amended in order to ensure the recruitment of spouses, based on principles of transparency, professional qualification, and avoidance of conflicts of interest. Efforts are now being made in order to ensure that all shortlists for staff interviews have an equal number of men and women candidates.  We are also finalizing implementation arrangements for the President’s African Woman Entrepreneur Award to recognize innovative women entrepreneurs and to promote women entrepreneur role models and encourage innovation in Africa.

Question - The Bank has long recognized that gender equality is a prerequisite for sustainable development in Africa. What are the achievements so far at the institutional, programme and project levels?

VP Gantsho - The adoption of the Bank’s Gender Policy has been a catalyst for taking gender issues into account in several policy papers adopted since 2001 such as:

The HIV/AIDS Strategy Paper (2001) highlights factors that exacerbate women’s susceptibility to HIV/AIDS such as poverty and early marriages.

Equally, the Environment Policy (2004) acknowledges that women have a vital role in environmental protection and management, and that their full participation and access to natural resources is essential to sustainable development.

Similarly, the Poverty Reduction Policy (2004) recognizes that men and women share the burden of poverty differently and that gender-based inequities in access to productive assets and information undermine the contribution of women to pro-poor growth in general and agricultural production in particular.

The Policy on Microfinance (2006) advocates a three-pronged approach to women empowerment encompassing: an understanding of the economic, social and cultural environment; technical and marketing training; and formation of strong groups for mutual support.

In Operations, a two-pronged approach characterizes the Bank’s interventions in its RMCs.  Its investments in RMCs seek to empower women and generate gender equality results within a wide range of projects (poverty, agriculture, infrastructure, education and health) that embrace a myriad of objectives. At the same time, some targeted projects focusing on sectors or issues that are central to the empowerment of women and girls are also implemented. 

To ensure effective gender mainstreaming at the programming and project levels, a number of tools have been put in place.  Below are some examples:

Country Strategy Papers (CSPs) – Results-Based Country Strategy Papers (CSPs), require concrete strategies for gender equality and women empowerment as identified in each country’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), gender policy or the gender national plan of action where these exist. 

Multi Sector Country Gender Profiles (MCGPs) have been developed for several countries, including Sierra Leone, Niger, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania, Namibia, Uganda and Lesotho.  MCGPs are designed to promote the identification of gender-related policy and programmatic interventions that are likely to have high payoffs for poverty reduction, economic growth, and sustainable development in a respective RMC.

Project cycle – Project design is required to articulate operational measures to promote gender equitable participation in and benefit from planned activities. Projects are required, for example, to define objectives related to gender, including in the logframe, and to indicate the need for gender disaggregated baseline data in cases where data is missing or inadequate. 

Gender guidelines and checklists were developed for infrastructure, higher education and health services sectors. These checklists are meant to be simple-to-use tools which assist task managers to address some of the pertinent gender mainstreaming issues in project and programme design, ensuring quality at entry and sustainability of Bank investments.  Gender mainstreaming checklists for the governance, rural water supply and sanitation, and agriculture sectors are expected shortly.

Focus on Results – Basic gender equality indicators for the Bank’s priority sectors will be completed shortly. These indicators would help task managers to ensure that the programme design focuses on results and gender responsive outcomes are mainstreamed at project and programme design stage with the accompanying monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.

Question - What is the way forward?

VP Gantsho - Overall, we must recognize that progress has been made in mainstreaming gender in the Bank. However, there is still a long way for this progress to be at a scale broad and deep enough, to achieve the objectives.

The real challenge for all of us is to continue operationalizing gender equality into the institutional structure, resources, working methods and approaches.  To achieve this objective, we have to do more to foster a gender equality culture, more accountability and results orientation at all levels as well as to enhance technical capacities, human and financial resources for effective gender mainstreaming.

Question - Do you have a special message to deliver to our audiences? 

VP Gantsho - I would like us all to remember that gender equality is a necessary condition for sustainable development and requires all hands on deck to achieve.

I would also like to thank all the colleagues – men and women – for their relentless efforts to ensure that equality and equity are achieved at all levels. I would particularly like to thank Bank Group President, Donald Kaberuka, for his commitment and tremendous support for gender equality in the Bank and in the institution’s operations.

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