COMMUNITY OF PRACTICE FOR FINANCE MINISTERS ON GENDER EQUALITY:
TECHNICAL-LEVEL SESSION ON HOW TO GET RESULTS
APRIL 14, 2016
The fourth meeting of the Community of Practice (CoP) for Finance Ministers on Gender Equality was convened at the World Bank Group (WBG) on Thursday, April 14, 2016, at the time of the WBG and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Spring Meetings in Washington, DC.
This half-day session targeted finance ministry officials at the technical-level to discuss concrete policy options that have proven effective in closing economic opportunity gaps between men and women. Representatives from 14 countries participated, including six returning members (Bangladesh, Morocco, Paraguay, Peru, Sweden and Timor-Leste), and eight first-time members (Antigua and Barbuda, Ecuador, Egypt, Indonesia, Mexico, Moldova, Serbia, and Togo). Donor partners from the Netherlands and Norway joined the meeting as observers.
Kyle Peters, WBG Senior Vice President of Operations, opened and chaired the meeting, sitting in for Jim Yong Kim, WBG President and CoP Co-chair. The meeting also welcomed Purna Sen, UN Women Policy Director, sitting in for UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (CoP co-Chair). Caren Grown, WBG Senior Director of Gender, chaired the second part of the meeting and closed it.
Several current and former finance ministers delivered opening remarks and participated in the discussion during the meeting’s first session, including Santiago Peña Palacios, Minister of Finance for Paraguay, Amr El-Garhy, Minister of Finance for Egypt, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Former Minister of Finance for Nigeria, Mohammed Boussaid, Minister of Economy and Finance for Morocco, and Muhammad Abdul Mannan, State Minister for Finance and Planning for Bangladesh.
Members engaged in a dynamic discussion of how to leverage finance ministry tools, most notably the budget, to achieve real-world results. This dialogue was grounded in evidence presented by the WBG Gender Innovation Labs, and in individual countries’ experiences.
- The gathered ministers’ opening remarks focused on their individual countries’ experiences, but also hit upon common themes, including the importance of women in leadership roles, both in the public and private sectors, and the need for women to access financial services and products in order for economies to achieve inclusive growth. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Minister of Finance for Nigeria, presented a concrete and powerful example of how to use the budget to advance gender equality.
- The WBG Gender Innovation Labs’ first series of presentations focused on road-tested ways to stimulate women’s labor force participation.
- Studies on job training programs in Jordan, Liberia, and Nepal, showed the importance of tailoring these program to both the structure of the local labor markets and the specific constraints of job seekers, such as adolescent girls.
- In Nicaragua, the Lab looked at a rural roads rehabilitation project as a potential driver of women’s employment, and recommended adding targeted measures to tap into existing economic potential in public works projects.
- A study in Turkey delved into the insufficient provision of childcare, which is cited as one of the main barriers for women to enter the workforce, both there and around the world. The Lab is piloting policy options to promote affordable, accessible, quality childcare as a way to stimulate women’s labor force participation and will report back on the most promising solutions.
- The second series of Lab presentations tackled specific ways to close gender gaps in business.
- The Lab identified a scalable, replicable model that has been proven to assist both male- and female-owned businesses to formalize, and also showed that, to be effective, this should be combined with complementary interventions, such as providing information sessions from banks.
- Because women tend to have lower access to assets than men, they have more limited collateral, which can hinder their ability to get a loan in many parts of the world. The Lab presented an innovative and promising study in Ethiopia that is testing the use psychometric screening, which evidence suggests is highly correlated with repayment behavior, to be used in place of collateral.
- Finally, the Lab discussed the results of the You WiN! program in Nigeria that Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala introduced in the opening session. By targeting young women entrepreneurs and awarding grants using an anonymous, merit-based system, the program was able to help promising entrepreneurs increase productivity and earnings, boost innovation, and create thousands of new jobs.
- Diana Vega, Financial Advisor at the Ministry of Finance for Paraguay, and Tatjana Jovanovic, Assistant Minister of the Ministry for Construction, Transport and Infrastructure for Serbia, both spoke in detail about challenges and opportunities faced by women entrepreneurs in their countries.
- Throughout the session, the discussion centered on how to move from advocacy to action, and how to be most effective in achieving practical results on the ground. The budget came up repeatedly as the most powerful instrument finance ministries have to promote gender equality. Mohammed Boussaid, Minister of Economy and Finance for Morocco, Eugen Cozmulici, Head of International Cooperation Directorate at the Ministry of Finance for Moldova, and Tatjana Jovanovic, Assistant Minister of the Ministry for Construction, Transport and Infrastructure for Serbia, all spoke about the budget’s importance in their own country’s work to close gender gaps.
- Epifanio Martins, Senior Economic Policy Officer at the Ministry of Finance from Timor-Leste, ignited a conversation on how to ensure that employment generation programs, such as those discussed, benefit not only urban communities, but rural ones, as well. The conversation circled back to the study on the roads rehabilitation project in rural Nicaragua, and the different ways in which governments interact with citizens in rural areas.
- The roads rehabilitation project also led to a lively debate on the relationship between women’s agency and sectoral segregation in the workforce. Participants agreed that women should be free to make choices about whether or not to engage in paid work and, if so, what work to do. Markus Goldstein, WBG Economist, pointed out how societal ideas of what constitutes appropriate work for women can both complicate and restrict their choices, as well as lead to economically suboptimal outcomes.
- Mr. Hadiyanto, Secretary General at the Ministry of Finance for Indonesia, sparked a rich discussion on the importance of local context in achieving results, and in particular countries’ legal and regulatory environments. The group agreed that a "one size fits all" approach is inherently flawed, as clearly evidence by the various job training studies, and discussed both common and country-specific opportunities and challenges.
- Caren Grown, WBG Senior Director of Gender, called on CoP members to continue to make use of multilateral institutions, such as the WBG, to support their gender equality agenda, and to use the full panoply of resources that the institution can offer. In addition to providing financial support, the WBG can also offer cutting-edge knowledge and expertise, and Dr. Grown encouraged members to use WBG resources, such as information from the Gender Innovation Labs, Women, Business, and the Law Database, and Findex. Based on the lively discussion around regulatory environments, she suggested this as an area for future engagement of the CoP. In addition, Dr. Grown recommended the CoP explore the role of technology in creating economic opportunities for women.