We recognise that equality of opportunity for women and men contributes to the efficient use of all resources and is a fundamental aspect of a modern, well-functioning market economy. We are committed to addressing gender inequalities in the economies of the countries where we invest through our investments and other activities.
The Strategic Gender Initiative, which was approved in 2013, sets out how we promote women’s socio-economic empowerment, equality of opportunity and participation in the labour market. In particular, we will focus on supporting access to employment and skills, access to finance and access to services to ensure that both women and men benefit equally from the Bank’s investments.
The Initiative draws on the experience of the three-year Gender Action Plan under which we identified and introduced gender considerations in 15 projects in a variety of sectors, from natural resources to financial institutions. In keeping with the SGI’s requirements, our approach has widened since April 2013. As well as assessing the direct impact of projects on women in order to mitigate any adverse effects, we now consider how our investments can play a systemic role in promoting economic opportunities for both women and men.
A newly-created gender team performs this task by screening all EBRD projects in their preparatory phase. We consequently signed five investments with either a gender focus or component in 2013. These included two projects in Turkey providing dedicated credit lines for women, a natural resources project in Egypt and a retail property project in Jordan that has a wider impact on employment prospects.
We are using donor-supported technical cooperation programmes to help our clients implement best practices in equal opportunities, whether it is in the agribusiness sector in Egypt and Serbia, in public transport in Turkey, in urban transport in Kazakhstan, in power and energy in Russia or in extractive industries in Egypt. We are also promoting women’s access to finance in Turkey and Tajikistan. Donor funds are also used for research on international best practices in financial products for women; the impact of institutions and laws on women’s ability to participate in the economy; operational strategies to improve the gender impact of clean technology funds in EBRD investments; and detailed gender profiles in some of the countries where the Bank works.
The work of the gender team benefits significantly from the support of donors. In 2013 donor contributions included a €1.5 million grant for the Gender Advisory Services Programme and a €300,000 grant from the Climate Investment Fund.
In addition to its support for project work, the gender team engages in policy dialogue, commissions research and takes an active part in the international debate on the promotion of gender equality. In 2013 the team commissioned a report on legal barriers to women’s access to credit in Morocco and the Kyrgyz Republic. This found that legal provisions – such as restrictions on inheritance rights for women in Morocco and the presumption of shared property ownership for married Kyrgyz women – limit the ability of female entrepreneurs in these countries to accumulate the collateral they need to obtain loans.
The report inspired the Bridging the Gap conference at the EBRD’s London headquarters in September. The non-governmental organisation, Women for Women International, co-hosted the event which brought together around 150 representatives from the World Bank, the International Labour Organisation, private enterprise and civil society. We will use the report and the conference findings to structure relevant investments in a way that ensures fair and equitable access to finance, services and employment.