Closing the Gender Gap

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.

Watch how this film weaves a connection between the importance of workplace equality and the crucial role women play in building a strong society and economy.

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.

Promoting gender equity

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.

ADB's 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 set corporate gender targets to be met by 2016: 45% of all operations and 55% of those financed by ADF resources will address gender equality objectives. In 2013, ADB’s annual performance exceeded the 2016 gender target; with 55% overall and 59% of ADF financed operations categorized as "gender mainstreaming".

A new Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment Operational Plan, 2013-2020 (Gender Plan) was approved in 2013. The new plan provides the roadmap for guiding ADB operations and recognizes that more needs to be done to reduce gender gaps and disparities across the region.

The Plan calls for increased emphasis on improving implementation and monitoring for the delivery of better gender equality results. While gender mainstreaming across all operations will remain the priority approach, direct investments in women and girls will be pursued in areas such as: (i) girls secondary education and completion (ii) vocational and technical skills training for female youth; (iii) access to productive assets, labor saving technology, employment, and income earning opportunities; (iv) business development services for women entrepreneurs; (v) financial services and access to credit; (vi) policy and legal reforms to tackle issues of gender-based violence and anti-trafficking, and; (vii) giving women voice in decision-making in formal and informal institutions.

"ADB is firmly committed to promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. We believe that ADB has a responsibility to set a positive example for the region in reducing gender disparities and supporting women's empowerment," said Bindu Lohani, ADB’s Vice President of Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development.

Investing in gender equality

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.

  • In some of our poorest borrowing countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, Cambodia and Lao PDR, ADB has built schools in remote and rural areas to improve and expand access, provided scholarship to poor girls and trained female teachers to support girls’ school retention rates.  
  • In Papua New Guinea, Cambodia and Timor-Leste, ADB is providing rural water supply and sanitation to reduce women and girls work burdens.
  • In Vietnam, ADB is helping ethnic minority girls in 20 of the most disadvantaged districts by building schools with boarding facilities and teacher housing, providing scholarships and training ethnic minority teachers.
  • Girls’ skills development is being pursued through increasing support for technical and vocational education In Lao PDR and Cambodia to assist girls make the transition from school to work and enhance their chances of better employment outcomes.
  • In Uzbekistan and Nepal, we are providing financial and business services to help women start and expand their business enterprises.
  • In Bangladesh, ADB has supported women’s economic empowerment through constructing and reserving spaces for women vendors in rural markets; providing employment opportunities for destitute women in road construction and maintenance; helping women farmers to diversify into cash crops that yield higher incomes, and; building the capacity of locally-elected women leaders to give them “voice” in decision-making in local governance institutions.

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.

Gender mainstreaming tools

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.

Partnerships

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.

Sharing knowledge

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.

Gender equality within ADB

ADB also pursues and supports gender equality within the institution. Females make up nearly 35% of international staff and 27% of senior staff. A new Diversity and Inclusion Framework was adopted in 2013 to ensure a more gender balanced, diverse and inclusive work place.