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Gender & Sustainable Development

The tools provide key entry points for integrating gender into infrastructure policy dialogue, questions for assessing gender concerns throughout the project cycle, and methods to develop effective gender plans and frameworks. Please click here for more information.


What is Gender?

Gender is about both women and
men, their socially defined roles,
responsibilities, and the power
and other relations between them.

Gender is not another word for women. Gender is about both women and men, their socially defined roles, responsibilities, and the power and other relations between them. Like race, ethnicity, and class, being male or female shapes individuals’ opportunities to participate in the economy and society. Looking at gender in the sustainable development sectors means assessing males’ and females’ different needs for and uses of the infrastructure, services and other benefits of each sector, as well as the different barriers to their access, mobility, and economic opportunities. This type of information provides the basis for selecting, designing, and implementing interventions that address needs and constraints and provide benefits to both women and men.

Why Focus on Gender and Sustainable Development?

Gender equality promotes development. Gender disparities are barriers to development imposing heavy costs on society in terms of reduced growth and lower poverty reduction. Conversely, addressing gender differences and reducing gender disparities through sustainable development projects and policies can also improve development effectiveness and sustainability.

Gender Equality as Smart Economics: A World Bank Group Gender Action Plan (GAP) FY2007-2011 was approved by the Board and launched at the annual meetings in September 2006. This Action Plan aims to advance women’s economic opportunities as a means to promote shared growth and Millennium Development Goal 3, promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. The GAP includes specific action commitments from the Sustainable Development Network (SDN) anchors for gender mainstreaming.

Village cell phone enterprises enable
thousands of poor women to earn
income and provide affordable
communications to poor communities.

The Sustainable Development Network has a significant role to play in enhancing women's empowerment. The Sustainable Development Network comprises of Agriculture and Rural Development, Energy, Transport, Water, Urban Development, Environment, Social Development, and Information and Communication technology. Both men and women have important but different roles in these areas and, as a result, different risks and benefits. Responsiveness to these differences is at the core of the social sustainability aspect of the "triple bottom line" that underscores Strategic Infrastructure Action Plan (SIAP). SDN manages 70 percent of the World Bank’s program. Thus it has a critical role to play in mainstreaming gender issues and empowering women in countries. Currently, SDN is working with Bank’s Gender Department on developing a transition plan for the post-Gender Action Plan period and in ensuring that the momentum generated is sustained.

Gender analysis is carried out in projects as an integral part of social analysis. Gender analysis asks questions about the differences between men's and women's activities, roles, and resources in order to identify their needs, constraints, and opportunities. Thus, gender analysis can help identify which sustainable development activities are needed by both men and women and how gender roles might affect project outcomes. Understanding the impact of gender on projects and programs of the World Bank is a central component of social analysis. And social analysis is pivotal to the Bank’s operational principles as guided by the social development strategy:

  • Inclusive institutions that promote equal access to opportunities, enabling everyone to contribute to social and economic progress and share in the rewards;
  • Cohesive societies that enable women and men to work together to address common needs, overcome constraints, consider diverse interests and resolve differences peacefully.
  • Accountable institutions that are transparent and respond to the public interest in an effective, efficient, and fair way

Social analysis includes gender as a key entry point for understanding social opportunities, constraints and risks associated with development efforts. Gender Responsive Social Analysis: A Guidance Note, developed in collaboration with PREM Gender, provides a framework for gender responsive social analysis and entry points for integrating gender responsive social analysis in the project cycle.

Contributions of Social Development in Gender and Sustainable Development

Access to electricity through the Lao
PDR Rural Electrification project
increases poor women's income earning

SDN Gender Group Secretariat
Social Development Department (SDV) is the gender focal point of the Sustainable Development Network (SDN) and houses the Secretariat for SDN Gender Group. Members of this group include gender focal points from the SDN Anchor Departments, with oversight from the chief economist of the SDN Vice Presidency.SDV, the secretariat for this Group, provides a platform for articulating and addressing the gender dimensions in SDN.

The objectives of the SDN Gender Group include:

  • Promoting gender integration and monitor progress of gender integration in SDN
  • Providing a forum for exchanging knowledge, experience and information on issues and methodologies
  • Capacity building on operational knowledge and skills for gender integration
  • Facilitating improved quality of operations and analytical work.

The SDV Gender team also supports and monitors the progress gender mainstreaming within sustainable development activities, in close collaboration with Gender Department.

Social Development Department also supports capacity building for Bank staff and government on gender integration into sustainable development policies, strategies, programs and projects. It provides technical support to task teams, and develops and disseminates knowledge products, resources, tools and best practices to integrate gender and social inclusion issues in strategies, programs and analytical work. The aim is to enhance the development effectiveness and sustainability of investments, with a focus on infrastructure (energy, ICT, mining, transport, water, urban development), climate change, environment, and social sustainability and safeguards .

Gender Dimensions of Infrastructure

Value Added by a Gender Integrated Approach
There is clear evidence that demand-driven, participatory, inclusive approaches to infrastructure that empower women as well as men lead to more efficient and sustainable projects and programs. Gender integrated approaches enhance productivity and income for families, and, more equitable access to reliable infrastructure services contributes to poverty reduction, growth, positive impacts on health and empowerment. These approaches increase access to markets; access to education, skills training and economic opportunities, business and other information and reduce the time required for domestic tasks. They can reduce maternal and child mortality by providing timely access to skilled health providers, potable water and improved sanitation.

Costs of Ignoring Gender and Infrastructure Issues
In most cases, poor infrastructure and lack of access constitute significant barriers that limit the economic empowerment and productivity as well as access to health, education and other services by the poor, particularly women. Women are more negatively impacted due to socio-cultural and economic factors, particularly time constraints caused by their heavy domestic workloads carrying fuel, water and other goods as well as the health impacts of indoor air pollution from the use of biofuels.

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