Report from Gender Equality results meeting.

Author:Williamson, Roger
 
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The Danish State Secretary for Development Policy Charlotte Slente, welcomed the participants and contributors to the meeting and stressed the centrality of gender equality to Danish development policy. She indicated that the understanding of gender equality includes redistribution of resources between women and men, sexual and reproductive rights, a woman's right to control her own body and determine her own sexuality, land rights and access to financial services.

A video greeting from the Nobel laureate in economics, Amartya Sen, summarized his thinking on the artificiality of unequal treatment of women. He argued that this needs be corrected through enlightenment and agency. Education and employment are key for women increasing their voice and agency. It is not only a matter of eradication of poverty--there is no automatic improvement in the status of girls and women as a result of economic growth. The example of Kerala was raised where we can see consistently better outcomes with regards to equality and development than in richer states as a result of social attitudes and deliberate policies.

Caren Grown provided an introductory overview of the topic of gender in foreign aid, referring to the importance of the statement by Amartya Sen and his track record in calling attention many years ago to the missing millions of women. She quoted the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon (8 March 2008) who posited "investing in women is not only the right thing to do. It is the smart thing to do. I am deeply convinced that, in women, the world has at its disposal, the most significant and yet largely untapped potential for development and peace."

Caren Grown argued that one should not only rely on such an instrumental case to defend investment in gender equality--but should stress that women's rights are human rights. Yet, it is often the instrumental case which moves donors. She called attention to two important recent reports from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Bank.

As long ago as 1992, Larry Summers had made the case that girls' education was the best return on investment which can be made among development options. There is a virtuous circle of more girls in school, reduced fertility, and more women in the labour force. Even the World Bank now admits that growth will not eliminate gender inequities.

Women spend on average two hours a day more than men on unpaid work. Unpaid care includes childcare, care for the elderly, food preparation and cooking, and gathering fuel. There needs to be a twin track of 1) gender mainstreaming and 2) particular emphasis on women's empowerment. Areas of work such as health, education and microfinance lend themselves to this approach and significant progress has been made. Agriculture and governance have not had the same degree of attention from a gender perspective, except in fragile states. Poor women need bundled services. Less poor women require assistance and support for entrepreneurship, and also job information and vocational training. Women's work is often more vulnerable than men's. They also need childcare and other support services. As well as the mainstreaming approach, it is important that stand alone approaches and scaling up are used. Prevention of gender-based violence is perhaps the most urgent and obvious example.

Introduction to gender and foreign aid--flows, allocation, big picture outcomes

Leonce Ndikumana centred his presentation on aid effectiveness. There is both a difficulty with quantity (inadequate volume of aid) and quality (allocational inefficiency). Increasing agricultural productivity is a key development challenge--and highly relevant to women in poor countries. Additionality is...

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