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Female participation vital to success of sustainable development projects

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 7th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

According to the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, women are responsible for half of all of the world's food production. Women also continue to bear most of the responsibilities at home, from caring for children to providing meals. Participation from women therefore, is vital to the success of sustainable development projects - however, many remain marginalized throughout the world.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - As United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro once said, "Women hold the keys to unlocking the barriers to sustainable development."

Women continue to play essential roles in the global economy, agriculture and development. Despite this, genuine gender-inclusion in investment projects often fails to walk the talk.

Issues facing future sustainable development remain gender inequality, climate change, natural resource degradation and the global recession, Melanne Verveer, U.S. Department of State ambassador-at-large for global women's issues says.

"No effort to advance sustainable development will succeed that does not take into account half of the world's population," she says. "Women have long been promoting solutions to sustainable development challenges. They've been promoting climate change adaptation and mitigation, protecting biodiversity and vital ecosystems, securing water access, and combating indoor air pollution."

In spite of this, the World Bank and other international financial institutions continue to make gender-insensitive decisions, Elaine Zuckerman, the head of Gender Action says.

"A lot of people propose gender equality, women's rights, women's empowerment, but then when you look at what is [budgeted], where the funds go, there is a huge disconnect. I think it's critical to translate the rhetoric into investments... A lot of IFI staff don't still, but those who do often speak in a vacuum," Zuckerman says.

International financial institutions still view gender as a "soft issue", Elizabeth Arend, program coordinator for Gender Action says.

In 2011, while the World Bank's World Development Report (WDR) highlighted gender issues, the Bank's budget for "social development, gender and inclusion" investments decreased to 908 million dollars from 952 million in 2010. The Bank's spending in this thematic category represents less than two percent of its 2011 budget, Arend noted.

"It is not enough to have a handful of 'gender experts' in an institution like the World Bank, nor is it permissible to address gender in a single paragraph within a 160-page project appraisal document. IFIs must understand that every component of every project in every sector has gender implications, and that marginalizing gender issues fundamentally undermines the effectiveness and sustainability of IFI investments," Arend says.

Many IFI projects fail to address gender inequalities that prevent women and girls from participating and benefiting from project activities, experts say. And women tend to disproportionately suffer when gender inequalities are not included in development project designs, as exemplified by the World Bank-financed West African and Chad-Cameroon pipelines project.

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