Why don't World Bank projects safeguard women's rights?
But in recent years, their livelihoods have been undermined. Oil and gas pipelines have destroyed the delta’s fishing grounds and family incomes.
Ironically, some of these pipelines have been backed by the taxpayer-supported World Bank, whose mission is to eliminate extreme poverty. Despite promises to empower women, this project has had the opposite effect, and is just one example of bank activities that have had a negative impact on women. Gender Action, a watchdog that analysed the impact of World-Bank-financed pipelines in west African, Eurasian and central Asian countries, found that life for women was worse, not better, after the projects were completed.
While men were employed in pipeline construction, the pipelines eliminated women’s farming and fishing livelihoods. This made women more dependent on men. Some women were forced into prostitution. The number of sexually transmitted infections went up, trafficking and violence against women became more frequent, and the number of stillbirths increased – often caused by toxic pollution from inevitable pipeline leaks.
An effective World Bank gender policy could prevent these injustices and provide accountability to victims. The bank’s inspection panel investigates and recommends ways to prevent and redress harm to communities, but only if projects flout one or more of its operational policies that aim to “ensure projects are economically, financially, socially and environmentally sound”.