Between 2007 and 2010, the World Bank Group Action Plan “Gender Equality as Smart Economics” (GAP) worked to advance women’s economic empowerment by redefining the way the Bank does business in the economic sectors. The GAP represented a commitment by the World Bank to intensify gender equality, focusing on labor, land and agriculture, private sector development and finance, and infrastructure markets. This fourth and final annual progress report summarizes its main accomplishments, in addition to discussing lessons learned and the remaining challenges to further gender-informing the Bank’s operations.
In 2007, the Bank's track record in implementing policies to promote gender equality was mixed, and performance was particularly weak in the economic sectors. The logical answer was an Action Plan that more fully utilized the Bank’s comparative advantage in these sectors and in analytical work. The GAP targeted operations, rather than organizational change and processes; was evidence-based and oriented to measuring results, and used incentives to generate demand for gender-informed policies and operations. Its two main objectives were: (i) to change the way the Bank does business by enhancing awareness of gender issues in economic sector operations, and (ii) to influence the gender and development discourse.
Externally, it contributed to placing women's economic empowerment squarely on the international development agenda, galvanizing donor and member countries to action, as reflected by the GAP’s capacity to mobilize resources. By December 2010, financial support for the plan amounted to US$ 70.0 million in pledges—an additional US$ 45.5 million above the original four-year budget of US$ 24.5 million. By that date, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Italy, the Nike Foundation, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom had pledged a total of US$ 56.0 million to the GAP.
Internally, Bank operations became significantly more gender-informed since the launch of the GAP, particularly in the economic sectors. A renewed commitment of Bank senior management to gender equality as a strategic development priority was made in tandem with the plan’s implementation and helps to explain the Bank’s improved performance on gender mainstreaming.
Through US$52.2 million allocated to over 270 initiatives in more than 78 countries, the GAP influenced the Bank’s analytical and operational work in the economic sectors. The Action Plan’s largely demand-driven allocation mechanisms and reliance on incentives revealed a strong internal demand for work on women’s economic empowerment. It also helped to broaden the base for gender-informing the Bank’s policies and operations. In addition to providing Bank staff with hands-on experience of addressing gender concerns in their analytical and operational work, it showed how modest amounts of funding can leverage change in operations. Through competitive grant allocations, US$ 4.1 million in small grants helped enhance gender integration in 75 Bank operations. Combined loans for these operations amount to US$ 8.6 billion. And finally, GAP awards were accompanied by a strong “matching funds” contribution from Bank budgets, with little evidence of crowding-out or substitution effects.
GAP-supported evaluations have informed government scale-up of pilot interventions in several countries, including Liberia, Morocco and Tunisia. GAP research is also providing new knowledge for evidence-based policy making. For instance, research on the impacts of economic crises find that women are primary ‘adjusters’: women are more likely to be shed by firms in the case of Indonesia; in Cambodia they are more likely to join the labor force to compensate for loss of household income.
While the GAP focused on influencing Bank operations and the gender and development discourse, results on the ground already reflect an expansion of women’s economic opportunities in client countries. Examples include the 12.9 million women that gained land rights due to joint titling in Ethiopia, the 2,500 women entrepreneurs who accessed US$86 million in loans thanks to IFC’s support, and the US$ 120 million that will be channeled through innovative product lines to provide financial services to women entrepreneurs in Egypt.
Overall, a new way of integrating gender issues into Bank business has emerged. This new way: (i) seeks to expand girls’ and women’s economic empowerment; (ii) incorporates gender issues into the “hard” sectors that had stubbornly resisted mainstreaming in the past; (iii) embeds gender analysis into core diagnostics; and (iv) invests in the development of a rigorous evidence base and pilot experiments to inform operations.
Changes at the operational level have been accompanied by Bank commitments to gender equality, as illustrated by the six new gender commitments made by President Zoellick in 2008, the selection of gender equality as a “Special Theme” of the IDA16 replenishment, and the decision, for the first time in history, to focus the World Development Report 2012 on gender equality and development.
While progress has been made, looking ahead, further work is needed to leverage new and unprecedented opportunities to promote gender equality–at the Bank and in client countries. The main challenges include: applying the lessons learned from the GAP; scaling up girls-and women-specific initiatives, such as the Adolescent Girls Initiative (AGI); increasing the cadre of the Bank’s senior and mid-level managers and country teams committed to the Bank's gender agenda; fully embedding gender analysis in the Bank's knowledge agenda and country-level core diagnostics; and leveraging the 2012 WDR and the IDA16 Gender Special Theme to raise demand for gender-informed development activities in client countries.
Steps have been taken to respond to these challenges. A three year “Transition Plan” to strengthen the implementation of the Bank's gender policy was presented to the Board in June 2010. The Plan draws on the lessons of the GAP and seeks to apply these to mainstream gender in Bank operations (2011 -2013). The findings of the final independent evaluation of the GAP will further inform efforts to mainstream and scale up successful approaches and initiatives.
Read about GAP Initiatives