Seminar – Gender and Infrastructure: Exploring the Nexus

26 September 2011 | Minutes

Notes of meeting, Washington DC, September 23

Sponsors:  Roger Morier and Robert Bisset, Sustainable Development Network – World Bank Group

Panellists: Haifa Abu Ghazaleh  (Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Jordan), Michelle Bachelet  (Executive Director, UN Women, United Nations), Gunilla Carlsson (Minister, International Development Cooperation, Sweden), Jane Weru (Executive Director and Founding Member, Akiba Mashinani Trust, Kenya)

Topic:  Infrastructure is a critical component in economic growth and poverty reduction.  So are policies to promote gender inclusion in policy making and implementation. Yet the issues surrounding the intersection of gender and infrastructure are not often examined.  This session used real-world examples to explore how gender and infrastructure impact each other for the benefit of both, and development in general.

Key questions addressed included: What is the symbiotic relationship between gender and infrastructure? How can the international development community take this agenda further for better development outcomes? How is gender main-streaming currently taking place in the work of sustainable development at the World Bank, particularly in the wake of the World Development Report 2012 on gender equality and the IDA 16 targets?

Michelle Bachelet

When I first asked someone at a public works about their gender work, they looked at me like I was crazy. If we could provide clean energy to women, they would have time freed up. Infrastructure is important because for instance if you put facilities for boys and girls, parents are in refugee camps, it is important where water and sanitation is placed to keep women safe. If you build a road, will it give rural women producers better market access and make them more comfortable sending girls to schools? Too often women are not being included in design of projects and deciding what type of infrastructure they want and where. If women are included and have ownership over a project they will take care of it.

If women are not in positions of power decisions are made that don’t benefit women. But we should also acknowledge that not all women are gender sensitive. We also can’t leave all gender issues to a gender affairs person. We need finance ministers and others to bring up and support this. Women do not just speak about gender- we have ideas on many issues. For example, I was a health minister. But no one thought of me as a possible president until I was in charge of the military.

Haifa Abu Ghazaleh

Most infrastructure projects all over the world are gender blind. But when we look closely women benefit in some specific ways but are also impacted as well. These projects must be looked at from a gender perspective from the first moment.

Gunilla Carlsson

Need to spur growth to combat poverty. Water and sanitation is not just about the needs of a family but makes life easier for women and gives them more dignity when they have good sanitation. Information and communications technology- new innovations are enabling women to participate more politically and economically.

Jane Weru

Infrastructure is key especially when it comes to the urban poor. In many areas you have water controlled by a male cartel and they charge 4 or 5 times the normal price and it is a barrier to women. We must look at putting in infrastructure and the governance of it. Who benefits? Is it the woman or the cartel running it? We have to target infrastructure that really makes a difference to households. It is not straight forward, many live in squatter communities and it is complicated to do things like laying pipes.

The issue of land tenure goes together with infrastructure. In Kenya we are working with the World Bank on a relocation action plan. We have had to interact with every household. We discovered that the railroad line was the main way in and out of the area and people walked on it. Thousands of houses have been set up along the railroad lines