Africa and Gender Equality

April 21, 2010

Women’s empowerment is the focus of Bank projects and programs aimed at helping countries achieve middle-income status.

April 21, 2010— With the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals looming, the World Bank has boosted its support for projects, programs, research and other assistance that incorporate gender concerns into the economic arena -- in infrastructure, access to credit and finance, and agriculture.

Studies have shown that if women have the same advantages as men in agriculture, for instance, productivity would increase by as much as 20 percent in several African countries.

Countries have created gender ministries and begun the process of “mainstreaming gender” into infrastructure development, but much more needs to be done, say development experts.

“We will continue to make every effort to help women improve and increase their role in the economy, not only because it is good for women but also for development and economic growth,” explained Otaviano Canuto, World Bank Vice President for Poverty Reduction and Economic Management.

Here we highlight two efforts that are in the vanguard of empowering women in Africa.

Water and Women in Kenya

In Kenya, the Bank Group’s Gender Action Plan (GAP)—Gender Equality as Smart Economics – helped fund training in March for Water and Irrigation Ministry staff charged with ensuring women have a voice in water sector development.

Their mission: to ease the water collection burden on women and make them better equipped to fully participate economically, while bringing water closer to the 15 million Kenyans on the fringe of water services.

Women Become Landholders in Ethiopia

In Ethiopia, the Bank is continuing a government program to certify land-holders – furthering an effort that has raised the economic and social status of women.

Wives, divorcees and widows can now hold property, and pass it on to daughters and sons. Their land certificates are seen by many to be “as precious as a child,” and have given women new confidence in a society where they have traditionally taken a back seat.