The World Bank has been criticised for being “two-faced” in its gender approach. Commenting on the recent Bank policy research report Engendering Development Through Gender Equality in Rights, Resources and Voice, Laura Frade, Latin America regional coordinator of Women’s Eyes on the World Bank, says it does not go far enough in analysing the impact of structural adjustment policies on women. Nevertheless, it is an advance in terms of the Bank’s understanding of gender and development, she claims.
The evidence in the report makes a compelling case for the state to intervene in promoting gender equality in all sectors of society. It shows that improving rural women’s access to productive resources like education, land and fertiliser could increase agricultural productivity by as much as one fifth. It also shows that where the influence of women in public life is greater, the level of corruption is lower.
Its three-part strategy includes
- reforming social, legal and economic institutions;
- fostering economic development to strengthen incentives for more equal distribution of resources;
- taking active policy measures to redress persistent gender inequalities in command over resources and political voice.
“We have seen many things on paper, but we will see little change without real political will. Bank staff at all levels need to have the conviction that gender analysis should inform all their strategies and programmes or little will change on the ground”, cautioned Ngone Tine Diop, manager of the economic and gender programmes CODESRIA, the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa.
Although recognising that such policies are not binding on the Bank a new report for the UK-based Gender and Development Network of non-governmental organisations acknowledges that the report will be a useful advocacy resource.