Gender Mainstreaming at the African Development Bank: Issues and Challenges
FRIDAY FILES – September 1
By Mégane Ghorbani
AWID: ADB's Gender Division has existed since 2010. Why was a special gender unit created three years later?
Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi (GFM): At one of the biggest meetings at the African Development Fund, the need for a special envoy on gender was proposed because normal diplomacy was not working as well as expected. The goal of this special unit came from the need to ensure that the African Development Bank was working on gender and making it more visible. Secondly, the special unit was meant to improve and expand the coordination of the portfolio across the Bank. We are currently looking at creating a coordination platform, to mainstream gender across the operations of the Bank, and establishing what resources are required to do so. Third, we are developing guiding priorities relating to gender.
AWID: What are the main issues you are facing in your role as Special Envoy on Gender?
GFM: Firstly, I am the gender spokesperson for the African Development Bank. Second, I must develop a coordination platform. Thirdly, I am expected to undertake advocacy work with the Bank's member countries. Fourth, I pay attention to internal affairs at the Bank; that is, how the Bank is structured, and I try in this way to help change the internal culture of the Bank. Finally, I work on specific questions related to gender, such as women in fragile states or women and governance.
AWID: An approach paper on gender was developed in 2001. Is the 2014-2018 gender strategy a continuation of it?
GFM: There was indeed an approach document on gender, but the first gender strategy was adopted on January 21st, 2014. We have worked to ensure the strategy followed from the approach document. It was a lot of work, because in addition to this approach document on gender, there was a gender action plan, which was crucial in terms of giving an outside view of the Bank's work. The external strategy is therefore composed of three pillars: women's legal status and property rights, women's economic empowerment, and women's knowledge management and capacity building. However, our approach is not solely focused on external advocacy. The major difference resides in the fact that this strategic plan is both internal and external in its approach, and includes work on the internal architecture of the Bank.
The main question we must answer is the following: Is the Bank really an employer of choice for women? In other words, is it an environment that enables women who have children to continue working, and that supports juggling a career with being a mother and wife? These strategies come particularly from lessons learned and experience. The biggest challenge I see is to employ this wider approach in order to impact specific projects at the Bank.
AWID: Which process enabled the adoption of this strategy?
GFM: The strategy involved different people in the Bank, and when I arrived, I worked in collaboration with those who had worked on the strategy’s first draft. That being said, the first version did not contain an internal component, and we saw this could be problematic. We also identified specific flagship projects, because we knew that we were working in an environment where gender was not considered a priority. I wouldn't go so far as to say gender issues were perceived in a hostile manner, but they were not part of the organizational culture. Hence, the consultations were mainly aligned with this strategy.
AWID: One of your internal strategies consists of increasing the number of female employees at ADB. What is your target and what tangible improvements have been achieved in 2014?
GFM: For the time being, the President has specifically targeted management positions as a whole. Currently, there are 38% women employees, which is a fairly good figure. But we must look at the break down of the type of employees and look at the number of women at different levels. We would like management positions to be composed of at least 30% women. In 2002, the suggested target by the African Union for all African institutions was 50% of women in management positions. The ADB still has a long way to go before meeting that target.
We need to look at how women are being recruited, paying close attention to recruitment panels and shortlists of candidates. If a shortlist does not contain at least two women, it must be redrawn. We are working with the human resources department on this initiative, as well as analyzing practices to understand how best to solve this problem. We are also looking at approaches and thinking of possibilities to make ADB child-friendly. One request is the need for a childcare facilities and lactation rooms for babies. So we are looking at changing the environment to make it more enabling for women to participate effectively.
AWID: What strategies do you have for implementing internal and external gender strategies?
GFM: Our first strategy is changing the culture. I think that we need people to adopt a new mindset so that gender becomes almost second nature; that it becomes a lens through which people look when embarking on a project. This should not be seen as a burden, but as a way to infuse our thinking with new ideas. Our second strategy lies in the resources utilized, human and financial resources are a big challenge.
AWID: How do you face these challenges?
GFM: We hold discussions and try to come up with innovative ways to mainstream gender by involving all employees and not just gender specialists. We have also launched our “champions” initiative consisting of appointing gender champions throughout ADB. We would like to see these champions intervene in staff strategies. We have also established flagship initiatives. Furthermore, we take non-financial resources into account and influence the recognition people receive. Finally, the Vice-President often speaks on gender to staff, which allows for more effective gender mainstreaming.
AWID: Is there a monitoring and evaluation process in place?
GFM: The Bank carefully monitors operations and gathers gender equality data in all sectors of operations and at the country level. The goal is to measure progress with the number of projects integrating gender, as well as with gender equality results. The results framework specifies activities, results and performance indicators, and tracks project results at the country level and in different sectors. These results are merged across all sectors in order to measure progress achieved for each of the three pillars of our gender strategy.
AWID: How do you wish to influence African and international actors?
GFM: I think that a direct influence should not be our goal, but rather that ADB should focus on influencing the African Union and implementing programs collaboratively. Forming and maintaining strategic partnerships within and outside Africa is a fundamental element of gender mainstreaming within development policies. As such, ongoing partnerships are strengthened and new partnerships will accelerate starting in 2015. These will focus on the following: advocacy and policy dialogue, knowledge management and communication, capacity building, civil-society engagement, Africa-wide agenda and global gender agenda.
AWID: Are women's rights NGOs a part of ADB development projects? What is the proportion of female versus male beneficiaries? Are there special policies to ensure equal participation and financing of women and men?
GFM: We don't specifically work with women's NGOs, but some civil-society projects within the gender division ensure we have an impact. To mark the 50
[i] The African Development Bank Group is the first African financial institution. Established in 1964, it is made up of the African Development Bank, the African Development Fund and the Nigeria Trust Fund. Its shareholders consist of 53 African countries (regional members) and 25 European countries (non-regional members). Its authorized capital at December 31st, 2013 is 66.98 billion units of account. Its mission is to promote sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction in Africa.