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IDB President Salutes International Women’s Day

On the International Women’s Day centennial, we celebrate the advances of women in Latin America and the Caribbean as they exercise their rights and contribute to making our societies more equal. This emblematic date is also an occasion to take stock of our institutional efforts to support the women of the region. 

The Inter-American Development Bank has made important strides in the last year to redouble its support for gender equality in the region. The IDB recently approved its new Operational Policy on Gender Equality in Development, positioning itself to be a stronger partner for its member countries to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women in a comprehensive way. 

The new policy calls for vigorous efforts to mainstream gender in projects and analytical work, as well as for direct investment in projects that promote gender equality and the empowerment of women. The policy also introduces gender safeguards to help identify potential adverse impacts and risks of exclusion based on gender in the early stages of project preparation, in a way similar to environmental and other social safeguards already incorporated into Bank projects. In addition, the policy establishes monitoring indicators to track institutional progress in its implementation. The new gender policy will go into effect in May along with a Gender Action Plan for Operations (GAP) that will guide the implementation and monitoring of the policy. 

A recent example of IDB investments to support women is a $35 million loan to expand access to basic health and nutrition services, refurnish and build new health posts, and train health care providers on maternal and child health problems commonly found in poor and rural areas in Guatemala. Also supporting mother-infant health is a $55,000 million loan to consolidate Bono 10,000, the Honduran conditional cash transfer program that addresses the intergenerational transmission of poverty. 

Other examples include a project with Mibanco in Peru where the IDB is lending $10 million to expand access to financial services for women microentrepreneurs and a $300,000 grant to strengthen the leadership capacity of women political leaders through the Women’s Parliament in Paraguay–a program that trains new generations of women political leaders from all political parties.  

As the IDB promotes gender equality in the region, it is also concerned with enhancing gender equality within the Bank. As a part of its Ninth General Capital Increase that will allow the Bank to significantly expand its lending to the region, the Bank made a commitment to increase women’s presence among senior professional and executives, with the goal of reaching 40% women by 2015. 

In closing, I want to celebrate the creation of UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women led by Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile and a true Latin American and global champion for women and girls. It is indeed an exciting time to work towards gender equality in Latin America and the Caribbean.

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