Bank Gender Performance Criticised

15 January 1998

The NGO network Women’s Eyes on the World Bank has produced a report examining the Bank’s efforts to bring its lending practices into line with the steps agreed at the 1995 World Conference on Women.

Gender Equity and the World Bank Group: a Post-Beijing Assessment, argues that:

  • “gender equity enjoys a higher profile within the institution than in the past. Useful initiatives include the formation of a Gender Sector Board to oversee research, policy and operations in this area, and Gender Action Plans for each region”.

Yet it finds that the Bank’s operations suffer from the following weaknesses:

  • the lack of a conceptual framework and rationale for incorporating gender equity into Bank operations.
  • genuine participation of women is still rare in project design and implementation, and “virtually non-existent” in economic and sectoral reform and private sector support;
  • “very limited use” of gender analysis in Country Assistance Strategies and the Economic and Sector Work which feeds into them.
  • “project documents which merely mention women can be considered to be ‘gender related'”.

The Bank has also responded inadequately to criticism of its structural adjustment programmes, which often transfer social and public costs of reform onto women. The Bank’s 1996 Gender Progress Report admits that very little quantitative data is available on how economic reform impacts on men and women differently, and the 1997 assessment of how to mainstream gender approaches did not mention structural adjustment.

The External Gender Consultative Group of 14 NGO representatives has had just one meeting per year with the Bank, and has obtained little information and no funding.

The report concludes with recommendations to tackle the above.

The Report is available (US$5.00, free to Southern groups) from: Lydia Williams, Oxfam USA, Oxfam America, 1511 K Street, NW, #640, Washington, DC 20005, USA,

Latin America contact: Laura Rubio Frade, Alternativas Decapacitacion Y Desarrollo, Comunitario A.C., Aptdo No. 46, CP 33200, Chihuahua, MEXICO,

Tel/fax +52 145 600 78,