The Asia and Pacific region has made impressive strides over the last decade on narrowing gender gaps in education, health, employment and political participation. Today there are more girls in primary and secondary schools, more girls participating in tertiary education, fewer women dying in childbirth, more women in wage employment outside agriculture and more women in national parliaments and decision making bodies. But, the progress and achievements are not spread widely and evenly across the entire region.
Disparities remain in many areas. Many women are still denied access to basic services and essential assets such as land, and excluded from decision-making. In some countries and among some groups, women still suffer from entrenched gender discrimination and exclusion that diminishes their life expectancy, education prospects, access to clean water, sanitation, and employment, and exposes them to gender-based violence.
Empowering women economically and socially and giving them `voice’ is crucial for achieving ADB’s goals of poverty reduction and inclusive development.
“Equality for women is much more than only an ethical issue. A society that leaves girls and women out of the development process is one that will never reach its full potential,” – Rajat Nag, Managing Director General of ADB.
ADB’s Strategy 2020 highlights gender equity as one of five drivers of change for promoting and achieving inclusive and sustainable growth, reducing poverty, improving living standards and achieving the MDGs.
Gender equality and women's empowerment is essential to meet the Millennium Development Goals, as recognized by governments at the September 2010 MDG Summit who collectively affirmed that “progress for women is progress for all.”
ADB’s 1998 Policy on Gender and Development identifies gender mainstreaming as the key strategy and approach for promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment across all sectors. A dual approach is adopted that includes both gender mainstreaming and targeted approaches to reduce glaring gender disparities.
ADB has adopted corporate gender targets to be met by 2012: 40% of all operations and 50% of those financed by ADF resources will address gender equality objectives. In 2010, ADB’s annual performance exceeded the 2012 gender target; with 42% overall and 53% of ADF financed projects categorized as “gender mainstreaming”.
ADB projects to improve the lives of women and girls in the region have included support for education, health, basic infrastructure and financial services. ADB projects that directly support gender issues span across both the social and economic sectors.
Even in some of our middle-income countries such as Indonesia and Philippines we are tackling the remaining “pockets of disadvantage” in access to education and health in remote and disadvantaged areas and; supporting conditional cash transfer programs to tackle the demand side issues in education and health.
To ensure gender equality objectives are realized, ADB has adopted the project gender action plan (GAPs) as a mainstreaming tool to ensure concrete strategies and actions are designed into projects to deliver gender equality outcomes. GAPs include clear targets, quotas, gender design features and quantifiable performance indicators to ensure women’s participation and benefits. Key aspects of the GAP are incorporated into project assurances to encourage buy-in from executing agencies and other project partners.
ADB has also developed Gender and Development Plans of Action as guide and roadmap for translating the GAD Policy into concrete actions and programs. The plan of Action prioritizes 3 areas of action: country strategy partnership and projects; GAD capacity development and policy support and organizational effectiveness.
Country gender assessments (CGAs) are prepared to feed the development of country partnership strategies and programs. CGAs are also used by governments as strategic planning documents.
ADB regularly conducts gender assessments of projects under implementation to assess progress on implementation of the gender and development policy.
ADB engages in policy dialogue in countries and in the region to encourage and support gender-responsive policy and law reforms. Examples include gender equality laws, temporary special measures for women’s representation in local government bodies and community-based organizations, and joint titling by husbands and wives when land is allocated.
ADB collaborates at the project level with many UN agencies, development partners, and nongovernment organizations in different countries to improve gender equality results.
The External Forum on Gender and Development established in 2001 promotes dialogue between ADB and external experts and advocates on gender and development issues.
ADB has been active in various gender knowledge networks , such as the UN regional thematic working group on gender, Multilateral Development Banks Working Group on Gender, and GenderNet under the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
ADB supports gender equity through knowledge products such as country gender assessments, gender mainstreaming tool kits, a guide to mainstream anti-trafficking concerns into projects and research and studies on human trafficking, and gender-responsive HIV prevention programs in infrastructure projects. ADB’s community of practice on gender meets regularly through knowledge seminars and events to share experiences on gender-related activities and learn from cutting-edge research.
“ADB is firmly committed to promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment through our operations. We believe that ADB has a responsibility to set a positive example for the region in tackling gender inequality,” said Ursula Schaefer-Preuss, ADB’s Vice President of Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development.
In 1998-2002, ADB developed its first institutional gender action program to address gender in recruitment and staffing. Through ADB’s Our People Strategy women now comprise 28% of professional staff and ADB is currently redoubling efforts to achieve 35% overall representation.