Strategy 2030

The Gender Equality Imperative

Accelerating Progress in Gender Equality

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated gender inequalities in developing Asia. Through gender equity and mainstreaming measures in development projects and programs, ADB and its financing partners protected gender equality gains while facing the challenges brought about by the global health crisis.

  • In 2020, some 166 of ADB’s 180 cofinanced projects have embedded gender equality designs.
  • COVID-19 response operations were major contributors to ADB’s strong gender performance in 2020.
  • To help accelerate long-term progress in gender equality, ADB will continue to use technical assistance, pilot projects, and knowledge work to address SDG5’s transformative gender agenda.

ADB is committed to promoting gender equality in at least 75% of all projects and programs, focused on

  • women’s economic empowerment
  • gender equality in human development
  • gender equality in decision-making and leadership
  • reduced time poverty of women
  • women’s resilience to external shocks

COVID-19 and Gender Equality Issues

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated gender inequalities and women’s vulnerabilities while bringing additional new challenges.

Globally, 70% of healthcare workers are women, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates. Other essential frontline workers, such as grocery cashiers, bank tellers, and food services personnel, are also mostly women.

Meanwhile, lockdowns have resulted in more complex domestic situations. In most of developing Asia, where gender stereotypes and roles are still deeply entrenched, women in the homes carry double the burden. Working mothers have a greater role in their children’s education, as schools shut down and online learning became the new normal for many students. Many women who lost their jobs and other sources of income spend more time on unpaid care work at home. With evidence of a higher incidence of gender violence, women’s access to emergency assistance has been greatly impacted by the pandemic.

For ADB and its financing partners, it is imperative to address long-term and emerging gender inequalities brought by the pandemic while ensuring that gender equality gains do not slide. In 2020, 1661 of ADB’s 180 cofinanced projects have embedded gender equality measures. The Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction financed 34 of these projects.

Check out the 2020 cofinanced projects tagged against the operational priority Accelerating Progress in Gender Equality.

Gender-Sensitive Responses to the Pandemic

COVID-19 response operations were major contributors to ADB’s strong gender performance in 2020. All 10 cofinanced COVID-19 Pandemic Response Option operations and all 38 COVID-19 cofinanced projects included targeted gender-responsive social assistance, economic stimulus, and health measures. They also addressed intersecting inequalities of women, such as age, disability, ethnicity, and class.

Gender-responsive social assistance included policy actions such as cash and other transfers to individuals—especially to pregnant women, widows,and women with disabilities—and households (cash in women’s hands) or in-kind transfers such as food. Other actions included female-targeted job creation through public works; support to women-owned or women-led micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises through concessional lending and tax exemption or deferrals; and employee wage subsidies. Also considered in the pandemic response were support to health workers in the form of insurance coverage and transportation, cash incentives, and proper-fit personal protective equipment; support to women affected by violence; and to ensure uninterrupted reproductive health services. Health operations included support such as gender-sensitive treatment areas.

In Viet Nam, under the Women Accelerating Vibrant Enterprises in Southeast Asia and the Pacific or WAVES Program cofinanced with the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative, a project is supporting at least 500 women-owned or women-led small and medium-sized enterprises to overcome the pandemic through loan restructuring and loan holidays, complemented by a specialized business counseling program.

Pushing for Gender Equality in a Post-Pandemic World

On the non-COVID-19 front, around 140 cofinanced projects have embedded gender equity and mainstreaming measures to help push for the gender equality agenda. For instance, a grant of $735,000 from the Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund under the Urban Financing Partnership Facility will expand ADB’s support to developing members in promoting the transformative gender agenda by further strengthening the capacity of women leaders to become effective in urban decision-making, improving financial literacy and business skills. It will also build stakeholders’ awareness on financial instruments for women’s economic resilience to external shocks, including climate disasters. On a broader note, the capacity of local government units in their decision-making for women and gender-responsive urban planning and climate-resilient urban development will be enhanced.

To drive the acceleration of long-term progress in gender equality, ADB will continue to use technical assistance, pilot projects, and knowledge work to address the transformative gender agenda of Sustainable Development Goal 5, which has become ever more important in the context of gender-responsive COVID-19 response and recovery. This includes initiatives to support women’s economic empowerment and entrepreneurship, combat gender-based violence, address the care economy, promote women’s leadership, and employ climate change and disaster risk measures that meet the needs of women and girls.


Kiribati: South Tarawa Renewable Energy

The project will finance climate-resilient solar photovoltaic generation, a battery energy storage system, and support institutional capacity building. The latter includes the development of an inclusive and gender-sensitive renewable energy–enabling framework while addressing barriers to private sector investment. New Zealand and the Strategic Climate Fund are cofinancing the project.

Indonesia: Building Inclusive Social Assistance

Indonesia’s Ministry of Social Affairs will expand its Family Hope Program (PKH), a conditional cash transfer program, through a technical assistance financed by the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction and the High-Level Technology Fund. The PKH pays benefits to mothers and aims to reduce poverty and inequality through increased access to and consumption of basic services.

Thailand: Climate Change Adaptation in Agriculture for Enhanced Recovery and Sustainability of Highlands

The Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction financed this technical assistance to reduce vulnerability and enhance adaptive capacity of highland communities and ecosystems to climate change. The project will also demonstrate gender-responsive and climate-smart agricultural practices.

Pakistan: Karachi Bus Rapid Transit Red Line Project

The project will deliver a more sustainable, reliable, safe, and gender- and environment-friendly transportation system in the dense and rapidly growing city of Karachi. The Agence Française de Développement, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and the Green Climate Fund are cofinancing the project.

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