Foreign aid for gender equality: the challenge for donors.

Author:Nanivazo, Malokele

The first gender equality workshop under UNU-WIDER'S ReCom--Research and Communication in Foreign Aid project was held on 12-13 July 2012 in Helsinki; gender equality being one of the project's five themes. The goal of the workshop was to identify key focus areas in terms of what works, what could work, what is transferable, and what is scalable in foreign aid for the promotion of gender equality.

This is the first of a two-part WIDERAngle article exploring the research gaps which were identified during the workshop. Here we will look at priorities and challenges for donors with respect to promoting gender equality. The second part of this article will then explore some of the key areas that need to be covered in order to increase the evidence base on the relationship between foreign aid and gender equality.

Challenges of incorporating gender into organizational structures

A key challenge for donors is to ensure that gender is, and remains, a development priority in an era of 'priority overload' in development policy, and globalization. Gender is often a cross-cutting theme in development programmes, to be mainstreamed among a range of others including environment, human rights, and/or HIV/ AIDS. This can result in gender being 'mainstreamed out'. The danger is that gender equality will be subsumed into wider discussions about inequality reduction in order to reduce priority overload, so negating the importance of gender issues and the specific approaches required to promote gender equality. What systems need to be in place within development agencies to ensure that particular outcomes of gender equality can be achieved? And more generally, is gender mainstreaming an effective approach for prioritizing gender concerns? Another concern is that development agency staff might not have enough time to focus on gender activities alongside their other responsibilities. Using consultants can be one approach to gaining gender expertise. However, it is estimated that less than one per cent of World Bank staff and consultants are gender experts.

Women's rights and/or women as tools for economic growth

The current approach of international financial institutions tends to be a focus on women, and gender equality, as tools for economic development. They use efficiency arguments as the rationale for achieving gender equality, rather than recognising and acknowledging that women have the rights. One exception to this is the Inter-American Development Bank...

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