I wish to thank the World Bank and the organizers of this forum for the opportunity to share with you some of my thoughts on the Bank's Policy on gender.
We are informed that the Bank's policy is "to reduce gender disparities and enhance women's participation in the economic development of their countries by integrating gender considerations in its country assistance program." To this end, the Bank assists its member countries to design policies and programs to ensure that development efforts are directed to attain impacts that are equitably beneficial for both men and women.
In the Philippines, the World Bank has a number of projects that enhance women's participation in economic development. In my department, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the biggest foreign-assisted project is the Early Childhood Development Project which promotes day care, preschool, nutrition and health services for children below six years old. The mother is also a beneficiary of this project because her parenting obligations are made less burdensome and she can thus participate more meaningfully in income-enhancing activities as well as in the upbringing of her child. My department is also the lead government agency designated to oversee a program facilitated by the World Bank for out-of-school youth. This program is still in its initial stages but hopefully it will benefit young women who are victims of a culture where, if not all the members of the family can afford to be sent to school, the sons will have the preferential option. It will hopefully also benefit victims of sexual abuse who stop schooling because of social stigma. In the Department of Health, there is also a large project on maternal health.
In the Department of Agriculture, there is a women's component in the project to promote equitable rural growth. The March 1999 Bank report on that project likewise contains a gender perspective. In its section on the role of women, it recognizes that the status of women in the Philippines is higher than in many other developing countries, although it points out weaknesses in programs directed to women's health needs and other programs.
The World Bank strategy for implementing its gender policy is based on four principles:
Mainstreaming, which means that the Bank is committed to analyzing the likely effects of proposed actions on women and men in all analytical and project work rather than addressing issues that affect women through women-only projects.
Sectoral focus on expanding girls' education, improving women's health, increasing women's participation in the labor force, expanding women's options in agriculture, and providing financial services to women. 3. Focus on countries with the greatest gap between men and women. 4. Country Strategy, which means that plans for dealing with gender issues are included in country assistance strategy (CAS) papers.
In 1995 the Fourth International Conference on Women in Beijing encouraged agencies such as the World Bank to do more about gender. The Beijing Declaration's platform for action on women and poverty called on multilateral financial and development institutions, including the World Bank, to seek to mobilize new and additional resources with a view to targeting women living in poverty.
During the Beijing Conference, World Bank President James Wolfensohn received a petition urging the Bank to take four sets of initiatives to respond to the proposed Platform of Action:
Promote the participation of grassroots women's groups in economic policy. The Bank reports that it has responded to this petition by using participatory methods for gender analysis in sector studies and project design, as in projects in Morocco, Sri Lanka, and Baku.
Institutionalize a gender perspective in the design and implementation of projects. The Bank says that it has responded to this by containing gender-specific actions in the majority of its operations in population, health, nutrition, education, and agriculture.
Increase Bank lending for basic education, health and credit programs benefitting women. The Bank's response, according to its first progress report on implementing its gender policies, is that over the past decade its lending for population, health and nutrition, and education has increased steadily.
Increase the number of women in senior management. In response, the World Bank group's target of increasing the proportion of women in senior management by at least 1 percent annually has been met on the average.
In its 1999 Annual Report the World Bank reiterates its unequivocal commitment to gender-inclusive and gender-equitable development. It reports efforts to integrate gender into the Country Assistance Strategy, such as in Senegal and Bangladesh, and to strengthen the intellectual underpinnings for Bank work on gender such as the preparation of a policy research report on gender and development.
Is the World Bank policy on gender appropriate? The answer seems to be: On the whole, yes, but not completely so.
The next question we are being asked to answer is: If not, why not? Why is the World Bank policy not completely appropriate?
One reason is that contrary to its commitment of analyzing the likely effects of proposed actions on women in all analytical and project work, the majority of projects approved by the Bank do not include any reference to "women" or "gender" in its Board documentation. In its World Development Report for 1999/2000, there is no report on gender disparities and women's participation in the economic development of their countries.
A second reason is that the Bank's reluctance to address issues that affect women through women-only projects is contrary to the Beijing Declaration which called on the Bank to seek to mobilize new and additional resources with a view to targeting women living in poverty.
A third reason is that while the Bank's lending for population, health and nutrition, and education has increased steadily, it has not responded as consistently to the Beijing Conference's petition to increase Bank lending for credit programs benefiting women.
A fourth reason is that while the World Bank group's target of increasing the proportion of women in senior management has been met on the average, in its March 1999 report on promoting equitable rural growth in the Philippines the Bank itself concludes that women's access to agricultural extension, technology, and training is limited because the programs are preponderantly staffed by men and targeted by men.
The third question we are being asked to answer is: What guidance do we have for the Bank? The answer flows from the inappropriateness in Bank policy, or at its inappropriate implementation, as I have just enumerated.
First, comply with the Bank commitment of analyzing the likely effects of proposed actions on women in all analytical and project work.
Second, comply with the Beijing Declaration which called on the Bank to seek to mobilize new and additional resources with a view to targeting women living in poverty, even if these are through women-only projects. Apart from the provision of improved health, education, and other social services for women, a development strategy should include formulation and implementation of targeted training programs for women; promoting gender awareness among agencies involved in development programs and projects; and concerted efforts to expand women's leadership role in institutions.
Third, increase Bank lending for credit programs benefiting women. When I was Senator, I sponsored a law, authored by a fellow Senator who is now the Philippine Ambassador to the United States, mandating government financial institutions to provide preferential credit for women in micro-enterprises. I hope that the Bank can consider giving budgetary support for the implementation of this law because it will enhance women's participation in economic development.
Fourth, in increasing the proportion of women in senior management, include program management.
No less than the 1997 Bank report on mainstreaming gender in World Bank lending concluded that while there was clear indication of progress, there was a need for further improvement and for more projects and country assistance to systematically address gender issues. Hopefully the comments and recommendations expressed in this roundtable will help improve the Bank's gender policy.
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