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IDB approves a new operational policy to promote gender equality in Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Strategic direct investments in gender equality and the empowerment of women
  • Enhanced gender mainstreaming in Bank operations

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) approved a new operational policy on gender equality in development that emphasizes gender mainstreaming and direct investment in strategic areas for gender equality and the empowerment of women. The policy also emphasizes gender issues that disproportionately affect men, boys, and women from different ethnic and racial groups.

The policy calls for proactive attention to gender issues across development sectors and throughout the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of IDB-financed operations. For instance, the Bank is developing guidelines to support the incorporation of gender into rural water and sanitation projects where women are primary beneficiaries because of their critical roles in the management of household and community water resources. Applying a gender perspective will improve the IDB’s development impact since gender inequality and poverty in the region have historically gone hand in hand.

Latin America and the Caribbean has made significant advances in gender equality, achieving gender parity in education and increased female labor force participation. However, many challenges remain.

Women still have higher unemployment rates, earn 10 percent to 30 percent less than men, and are overrepresented in informal and low-productivity jobs. Maternal mortality has declined on the whole across the region, but in many countries, and for indigenous women, it remains a serious concern. In fact, overall access to education and health services is lower for indigenous and Afro-descendant women than for other groups. Women’s access to leadership positions has increased, but major gaps remain at all levels: only 11 percent of managerial positions and 20 percent of legislative seats are held by women across this region.

Gender issues also impact males. Young men are disproportionately likely to be victims and perpetrators of homicides and too many boys leave school without graduating.

It is in this context of both positive advances and persistent challenges that the IDB approves its new gender policy, positioning itself to be a stronger partner for the region in this area of work.

The new policy also seeks to promote projects that define gender equality or women’s empowerment as their main objective. An example of such an operation currently in execution is a project with MiBanco in Peru where the IDB is lending $10,000,000 to expand access to financial services for women microentrepreneurs.

The policy will also introduce 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, through Bank instruments such as country strategies, financial operations, and knowledge and capacity building products.

In order to translate the policy into action, the IDB is now preparing the internal, bank-wide Gender Action Plan for Operations (GAP-O) that will contain specific actions to effectively jumpstart the implementation and monitoring of the policy for 2011–2012. The GAP-O is expected to be approved by the Bank’s management in January 2011.

“The new policy will further strengthen the IDB’s response to the goals and commitments of its Latin American and Caribbean member countries to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women in a comprehensive way,” said Andrew Morrison, chief of the IDB Gender and Diversity Unit.

The approval of the policy culminated a one-year process of consultations with governments, civil society organizations, gender specialists, academics and other stakeholders both outside and inside of the IDB. The policy is expected to enter into force in May 2011.

Click here for more information on Gender Equality in LAC and the IDB.