Gender Action Inspires a Movement
Gender Action, established in 2002 is the world’s first and lead organization holding the world’s largest development banks (also known as International Financial Institutions or IFIs) accountable for gender impacts of their investments across sectors. Over the years, Gender Action has developed the foundations for a global movement that is coming to fruition: Women’s, LGBTI and other human and environment rights groups around the world are increasingly partnering with Gender Action in advocacy that pushes IFIs such as the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and new Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, to promote gender equal justice and rights of women, men and sexual minorities. Examples of groups which have been partnering with Gender Action to achieve these goals are the Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action (GAGGA), BRICS Feminist Watch, the Bank Information Center, the Bretton Woods Project, CEE-Hope Nigeria, the National Association for Women’s Action in Development Uganda, the NGO Forum on the ADB (Asian Development Bank), Both ENDS, WoMin (African Women Unite Against Destructive Resource Extraction) and many other organizations.
This new Guide to Women’s Rights and Environmental Justice Advocacy on International Financial Institutions is a joint Gender Action, Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action (GAGGA), and Both ENDS publication. The Guide is a tool for women’s rights and other groups’ advocacy on the IFIs to ensure IFIs uphold and do not undermine rights to clean water, food and a healthy and safe environment.
Gender Action’s newest report on Haiti, Gender Justice Scorecard: IFIs in Haiti, covering investments from 2013-17, represents our first World Bank (and IDB) project analysis that consistently mainstreams sexual minorities/LGBTI folk throughout. Every project in our random sample analyzed and scored according to ten indicators considers the extent to which the Bank addressed sexual minorities and LGBTI folk. Other report findings are that the projects analyzed did slightly less to promote gender justice and rights than did those analyzed in the report’s predecessor, Building Back by Half? Gender Issues in IFI Investments in Post-Earthquake Haiti, covering 2010-2013: The new report’s 2013-17 projects mostly fail to provide measures to prevent Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV); create gender equal access to and gender-disaggregated data for project consultations and benefits; and approach gender from a human rights perspective. Some projects may cause forced resettlement and price increases for basic services such as education, electricity, and water, which will disproportionately harm women and sexual minorities. The report presents a series of conclusions and recommendations addressing these and other issues.
Our Gender Scorecard and Analysis of AIIB Projects: A Documentary Review, finds of the first 24 AIIB approved projects, the majority, 15 (62.5%) of projects ranked weakly for gender sensitivity. Only 3 out of the 24 (12.5 %) ranked strongly and 6 (25%) moderately for gender sensitivity. The analysis is based strictly of documentary analysis. However, on-the-ground case studies reveal documentary gender promises are not being met during implementation. This feedback indicates that a greater proportion of projects than this scorecard suggests could actually have harmful gender impacts.
Sexual Assaults in the World Bank
Elaine Zuckerman wrote a letter to the World Bank Ombudsman in December 2017 describing her experiences being sexually assaulted by two male World Bank officials in the early 1980s. Like other women who did not feel safe coming forward in the past during this era of reckoning and accountability she spoke up about previous sexual assaults by supervisors and colleagues. Her letter closed with the thought, “Now is the ideal moment to examine, spotlight and redress past and present sexual violations in the Bank so that all staff have the safe workplace they deserve!” Read Elaine’s letter here.
AIIB and NDB
Gender Action has been leading advocacy on the gender impacts of the world’s newest rapidly-growing development banks: the New Development Bank (NDB) and Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) that launched in early 2016. Their establishment reflects a power shift in the international system from the developed industrialized world towards emerging market economies.
The NDB, created by the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), contains 43% of the world’s population, and includes three of the world’s largest economies measured by GDP -- China (2nd), India (7th) and Brazil (9th). While its initial loans are to BRICS countries the NDB plans to lend to other developing countries. The AIIB, which is edging toward 100 member countries, lends to countries across Asia and other regions. Both development banks loans support infrastructure projects, especially energy in the NDB’s case.
Gender Action advocacy on the NDB and AIIB is pushing them to initially: (1) Create and implement strong mandatory gender policies (2) Train all staff to routinely implement gender policies in all operations (3) Hire senior gender experts to lead these processes.
Gender Action advocacy on the NDB is conducted through BRICS Feminist Watch (BFW), an alliance formed in 2016 to collectively promote gender-inclusive development in NDB policies and operations. BFW provides Gender Action with a strong platform to conduct advocacy. In 2017 and 2018 Gender Action joined other BFW members in meetings with the NDB President and other managers in Shanghai to advocate our above agenda. Gender Action has also attended meetings at the AIIB every year since 2016.
Late in 2018 the World Bank began implementing its new Environmental and Social Framework (ESF). The ESF weakens the Bank’s current environmental and social safeguards. Gender, women, men, girls, and boys are almost invisible in the ESF despite Gender Action campaigning to make gender a priority of the new ESF standards. Together with partner organizations Gender Action submitted detailed suggestions on how the Bank’s new voluntary ESF Guidance Notes for borrower countries should address gender issues.
Gender Action’s campaign media strategy is exemplified in this Guardian article: "Why don't World Bank projects safeguard women's rights?"
A companion ESF presidential directive contains non-discrimination requirements which support LGBTI aspirations.
Recently, Gender Action conducted a long overdue Gender Analysis of the IFC’s 2012 Performance Standards on Environmental and Social Sustainability which remain current. The IFC, the private sector financing arm of the World Bank Group, is playing an increasingly prominent role in Group operations. The IFC boasts that its Performance Standards set the benchmark for other IFIs including on gender-sensitivity. But Gender Action’s analysis found that the Performance Standards hardly address women’s rights and gender justice issues.
In this article Elaine Zuckerman explores harmful gender and environmental issues that likely mining activity in Haiti would generate. Women, who primarily steward Haiti’s land, forests, water and eco-systems that sustain their households could lose access to natural resources and livelihoods and suffer sexual violence triggered by potential mining. The Haiti Advocacy Working Group, which Gender Action co-founded and whose Gender and Human Rights Task Force is chaired by Elaine Zuckerman, published the article.
Gender Action participated in the 2017 Haiti Advocacy Working Group (HAWG) climate change delegation to Haiti that investigated Hurricane Matthew’s devastation of Haiti’s breadbasket in the South. HAWG follow-up advocacy led the Global Environmental Facility and other donors to grant $26 million to help rebuild productive agriculture following Hurricane Matthew’s destruction.
Gender Action and CEE-Hope Nigeria profile Bank project evictee Bimbo Oshobe, a mother of four whose life was upturned when a Bank-financed project bulldozed her slum several years ago. Residents were evicted without consultation, warning or compensation, and left homeless in crowded, dangerous Lagos. Years later the “urban renewal” project has not delivered its promise to upgrade the slum. Bimbo has slept outdoors and in makeshift shelters since the project flattened her home and soda-drink business, her source of livelihood. Other evictees became utterly destitute: A few died from malnutrition. Some women and girls have been raped and others turned to sex work to survive. Bimbo’s homelessness transformed her into an activist. Read her story here: World Bank Project Evictee Becomes Women’s Rights Activist - Bimbo Oshobe .
Gender Action provides a
vital and user friendly toolkit for civil society groups to incorporate gender perspectives into their work on the IFIs or any other projects. All sections contain electronic hyperlinks to a vast array of available gender resources. Click on an underlined word to be directed to the specific tool you need!
Gender Toolkit for International Finance Watchers in English.
« Boîte à outils sur le genre pour observateurs des Institutions Financières Internationales » est désormais disponible en français.
Herramientas de Género para Observadores Financieros Internacionales también està disponible en Español.
Gender Action is often asked: Which International Financial Institution (IFI) has the strongest gender policy and/or strategy?
To answer this question, this paper compares and ranks IFI gender policies and/or strategies based on IFIs' published information.
Make a Difference!
"Working with Gender Action...has been enriching, inspiring and even exhilarating. Gender Action is one of the few gender-focused organizations still around today whose works and words reverberate in the 'high places' (World Bank, IMF, etc.) telling them about injustices they perpetrate directly or otherwise, in the remotest regions of the world, and get these wrongs righted several times. What other cause can be more impactful than bringing relief to several thousands of people - men, women, children, in far away regions? Gender Action has worked over the years to ensure environmental, human and health rights for some of the most oppressed and discriminated people from Asia to the most remote communities in Africa, ensuing gender equity, speaking up for silenced women. Their gender-specific work has been monumental."
— Betty Abah, Friends of the Earth Nigeria
"Gender Action is a truly valued resource. Its unique in-depth International Financial Institution - IFI gender monitoring and detailed reports, based on economic expertise, illuminate often invisible information on IFI gender impacts on women and empower women's advocacy for gender inclusiveness in policy, investments, and leadership."
— Lois A. Herman, Coordinator WUNRN, Women's UN Report Network
"The striking thing about Gender Action, knowing the history of the organisation and the small number of staff, is its high quality outputs. The Gender Toolkit for International Finance Watchers, for instance, which was launched in 2008, has become the main resource for civil society on the issue. A quick google search using the words IFIs, gender, and impact will return hundreds, if not more, of entries all citing or carrying the Gender Toolkit. The list of Gender Action reports and publications shows high productivity, as well as high quality
— Imad Sabi, Oxfam Novib, The Hague, The Netherlands
"Many women's groups research, work, and advocate for women internationally. They focus on specific issues such as health status, reproductive rights, education, microenterprise, etc. However, Gender Action is the only organization to grasp the big picture behind all of these specific issues: funding from international financial institutions. Nobody else is able to assess the impact of World Bank loans and IMF practices on civil society in less developed nations, particularly on "the woman on the street" in Haiti or Kenya or Guatemala."
— Susan Scanlan, Chair, National Council of Women's Organizations
"Congratulations and thank you
for the tremendous progress Gender Action has made in terms
of advocacy, research output and communications."
— Cynthia Howson, Instructor, Political Economy
of African Development, University of Puget Sound, USA
"Bravo for Gender Action's super work!"
— Marguerite Mendell, Principal, School of Community
and Public Affairs, Concordia University, Canada
"Gender Action and Elaine have worked tirelessly over
the last few years to shine a spotlight on how IFI projects
and policies have gender-differentiated impacts, with some
of the worst impacts falling on women."
— Liane Schalatek, Deputy Director, Heinrich Boell
"Gender Action is taking on the biggest and most complex
players at the international level and getting them to change.
If any organization will succeed in this challenge, it is
Gender Action because of its strong leadership."
— Bill Drayton, Gender Action seed funder, philanthropist
"In my view, Gender
Action has produced the most incisive and practical analysis
of Poverty Reduction Strategies and gender to date. Combined
with Elaine's extensive experience in lobbying the IFIs, Gender
Action's work represents an exciting and substantial addition
to advocacy in this area, and a big step forward in lobbying
around gender and the IFIs."
— Max Lawson, Oxfam Great Britain Policy Advisor
"Gender Action's work is becoming highly recognized and
highly valued — both inside and outside the World Bank."
— Roxanne Scott, Former Gender Expert, the World
"Gender Action has helped to spearhead and enable the efforts of actors committed to gender justice to change the policies and behaviors of the IFIs."
— Robert Fox, Executive Director, Oxfam Canada