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November 18, 2020




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COVID-19 has created many challenges for women, threatening to widen preexisting gender gaps worldwide, especially in economic empowerment. Lockdowns and school closures have led to increased care-related tasks, disproportionately impacting women who often bear the bulk of caregiving responsibilities. It has also put women’s rights over assets at risk. In previous epidemics, widows and orphans often lost property due to laws or social norms that do not recognize their rights to land or inheritance, a problem many still face today.

The law can offer protections and access to opportunities for women. But data shows that, on average, women have just three-fourths of the legal rights afforded to men. For example, it is estimated that 40% of economies limit women’s ability to own and manage assets. Ownership over land serves as a foundation for security, shelter, income, and livelihoods. It is especially critical for women living in rural areas, many of whom depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.

In this session, panelists from the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Bank discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on women, and explore the national and institutional approaches that have been taken to address its effects on women’s rights and economic empowerment, and the role of the law in these responses.

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    Sara Mbago-Bhunu

    Director of East and Southern Africa Division, International Fund for Agricultural Development

    Sara Mbago-Bhunu is the Director of IFAD's East and Southern Africa Division. Ms. Mbago-Bhunu's experience in the agriculture sector spans more than 20 years, having worked on agriculture policy and sector reviews, value chain development, access to agricultural finance, social enterprise models, and the promotion of SMEs in peri-urban and rural areas. She has also led teams in other development organizations in the design of development projects and capacity-building programmes. Previously, Mbago-Bhunu worked as a Senior Agricultural Economist at the World Bank and served as Country Director for the SNV-Netherlands Development Organisation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


    Joan Grogan

    Head of Finance and Impact Investments Unit, International Fund for Agricultural Development

    Joan Grogan has 15 years of experience advising on complex legal and finance matters, and is now Head of the Finance Unit in the legal division of the International Fund for Agricultural Development. She advises on IFAD’s treasury and investment management activities, as well as on reform of the financial architecture and IFAD’s impact investment work. Ms. Grogan recently led the legal structuring of a ground-breaking impact investment fund (the ABC Fund) focusing on rural women agri-entrepreneurs in the developing world.


    Victoria Stanley

    Senior Land Administration Specialist, World Bank

    Victoria Stanley is a Senior Land Administration Specialist at the World Bank. Ms. Stanley has worked in the Bank’s Africa, Europe and Central Asia, and Latin America and Caribbean regions on land administration, land management, and land governance and policy. She is currently serving as the Gender Focal Point for the Global Practice on Urban, Resilience and Land and has worked extensively on women’s land rights issues. She also has experience in the areas of rural and municipal development, gender issues, information technology, public service delivery, institutional reform, and strategic planning and budgeting.


    Olena Mykhalchenko

    Legal Analyst, Women, Business and the Law, World Bank

    Olena Mykhalchenko conducts research on labor and employment law for the World Bank Group’s Women, Business and the Law project. She has done extensive work in the field of labor law, gender equality and non-discrimination in new technologies, and has more than eight years of experience in nonprofit, public, and private sectors. Her prior experiences include working with the International Bar Association, International Law Commission, and United Nations Association of the National Capital Area. She earned her B.A. and LL.M in Law at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv (Ukraine), and an LL.M at the George Washington University Law School as a Fulbright and Thomas Buergenthal scholarships awardee.


    Monica Restrepo (Moderator)

    Chief Counsel, Legal Vice Presidency, World Bank

    As Chief Counsel of East Asia and Pacific, South Asia and Structured Finance at the World Bank's Legal Vice Presidency, Monica provides expertise in project finance, structured finance, credit enhancement, and public-private financing arrangements for World Bank operations, including guarantee operations aimed to mobilize private capital. She also leads the Empowering Women by Balancing the Law initiative, which engages with pilot countries to identify, address, and revise existing laws that impede women's voice and agency. Before joining the Bank, Monica worked at private law firms in Colombia and Washington, D.C. She holds a law degree from Universidad de los Andes and a Masters in Law from Georgetown University.


  • DATE: November 18, 2020
  • TIME: 3:00 - 4:00 PM ET
  • ACCESS: Public