IFI governance


The role of the World Bank in combatting economic gender inequality in conflict-affected countries

8 October 2021 | Minutes

Gender equality has been hit hard by Covid-19. The pandemic deepened pre-existing gender inequalities as well as conflict and insecurity. Despite this, women in conflict-affected contexts continue to find innovative ways to advance economic gender equality. They need support. Covid-19 response must include a gender lens and consult with women.

  • Moderator: Petra Tötterman Andorff, Secretary General, The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation
  • Panelist 1: Rula Asad, Executive Director, Syrian Female Journalist Network
  • Panelist 2: Sofija Vrbaski, Project Coordinator Western Balkans, The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation
  • Panelist 3: Dr Hana Brixi, Global Gender Director, World Bank
  • Panelist 4: Xavier Devitor, Advisor for the Fragility, Conflict and Violence Group at the World Bank

Petra Tötterman Andorff – Introduction

Covid-19 has increased pre-existing inequalities. In conflict-affected areas women are facing even more inequality

Countless women in the world have little control over resources, access to services and labour rights.

In this context macroeconomic efforts play a more important role than ever.

IFIS are investing in post covid recovery but packages need a strong gender focus.

New publication “Challenging the norm – global stories of women’s economic empowerment”. Includes interviews with women from western Balkans, Middle East, Africa… all of them affected and faced discrimination in multiple forms. The report gives many recommendations for change, 2 mentioned here:

  1. Governments should include a gender perspective in economic decision making
  2. “IMF act like you want us to win” Women organisations are crucial, they need long-term funding to build programs and engage in direct relationship with policymakers.

Rula Asad

How are we trying to combat patriarchy?

  • Trying to activate the role of media against injustice and gender inequality
  • Improve representation of women in the media
  • Create an environment that provides women journalists with opportunities


  • Lack of awareness within media about sexual misconduct, such as harassment
  • Single journalist women are undermined – access to labour market limited (because of having or not family, why do you need the money, are you going to leave for a safer country?). For example, women are asked while on maternity leave for tasks
  • Exclusion of women in leadership positions
  • Worse contracts than men

Trying to improve women’s discourse within the media sector but also trying to provide protection and health care as these are areas in conflict.

It’s really important to support more NGOs as they work directly with affected groups. Need flexible funds for civil society.

Sofija Vrbaski

Women’s economic empowerment is an umbrella, so many contents and thematic areas.

Advocacy has become important for transformative change.

Very little communication between CSOs and governments. CSOs are filling the gap where governments are failing.

During the pandemic, advocacy become a tool to make sure we’re not going backwards.

Highlights a key study on women workers in grocery shops – which were also at the centre of the pandemic. Found lots of labour violations.

Dr Hana Brixi

Discussed the barriers faced by women on economic power and how WB works on this in collaboration with CSOs on the design of programs:

Barriers to access to work: Social norms, prevalence of women working at home and care.

Currently challenges are greater than ever: Covid impact has caused a disproportionate impact on women, especially in economic opportunities.

The Bank is in full agreement that CSOs, women’s groups, etc. need to work together and tailor concrete actions.

2 works:

  1. Multisectoral approach: usually lays on research data and examples
  2. In country programs to support girls education and empowerment

The Covid context is reversing decades in women empowerment and rights. Gender analysis has been used for projects design, vaccines programs trying to access specific groups.

Behavioural change is key for the social transformation needed to change women empowerment – by engaging men and community influencers

Xavier Devitor

It’s very difficult in FCV – first to address the drivers of fragility and mitigate them.

We make assessment in country and then the findings are translated into reports

How could we do more?

We need help from women’s organisations and CSOs to understand issues in every country and what to do or don’t. Conversations need to take place at community levels

Need to support leadership from women’s organisations and continue to build evidence together

Questions & Answers

Q: On the question – How can we do more together (from Victor)?

Rula Asad

By including these organisations in decision making and programs developments. They need recognition to their efforts. These groups are doing in FCV countries

Q: (from Rwanda advocate) Gender budgeting in Rwanda intro: building the nation after genocide women was key. Policies and laws were not enough. Women in decision making were needed – women responsive budgeting in 2003 to tackle gender inequalities. There’s still a long way although improvements have been achieved. How’s the WB supporting women in budgeting programs?

Hana Brixi

How critical is to include women in also disaster management. This has been seen in latest reports on disaster management.

IDA20 new commitment that WB will pursue: to close the gap between men and women.

Q: (from Western Balkans advocate) The Bank could do more in the ground financially and politically.


  • WB needs to consult CSO more.
  • WB has said they don’t fund CSO directly, only experts. They should find the ways to fund CSO as experts. They should push govern to institutionalise CSO budgeting especially after Covid.

How feasible is for the WB to create additional mechanisms for funding CSOs and women’s rights organisations groups?

Hana Brixi

On consultation with CSOs: how to expand it and make it efficient, it would be worth to explore for the future.

On contracting experts: for a specific product it is possible. For a financing mechanism, I cannot think on a special mechanism at least for now.

Xavier Devitor

Working with orgs with feet on the ground.

3 sources of financing: IBRD, IDA, trust funds – to finance CSOs need to list a number of specific points or deliverables the CSO will help to achieve. Other way is for financial billaterals to convince them to fund CSOs to work with bank. The funding is very limited to those instruments

Q: disability is restricting access to education

Hana Brixi

WB social inclusion projects are addressed to incorporate inclusion and safety for children in school. IDA20 new commitment: development of a human capital theme to include children with disabilities in opportunities and include them in programs that support development.

Q: (Luiz Vieira, BWP) Ability of the new gender strategy to look at the impact of macroeconomic policy on women and girls in FCV. How has the Bank in the new FCV strategy been able to do ex- ante analysis on the impact of macro policies in women and girls?

Xavier Devitor

It’s not a black or white response. Measures on who wins, who losses. We are working closely with IMF trying to prepare an FCV strategy and how to best think of macroeconomic policies in these settings.

Hana Brixi

70% of budget operations had an analysis of gender impact

Close remarks

Rula Asad

We need to collaborate. It’s hard to work through governments but need more open channels for conversation. Communities are the ones who need support and help. Intersectional lens are even more useful in such fragile contexts.


On behalf of Kvinna till Kvinna I will recommend to always involve women’s rights organisations, especially on budgeting. We need to find ways to monitor results in line with SDG5.

Hana Brixi

I would really like to follow this conversation and explore possible platforms to make these conversations ongoing and how to make it in the physical context

On influencing government, I would like to take it further and make it more explicit.

Petra Tötterman Andorff

Women’s orgs are underfunded even though they contribute in so many ways. Challenge we need to address and the WBG plays an important role on this and has capacity to push for this.