In June 2016 OECD released a report that investigated funding for organizations and programs whose objectives target gender equality. The title for this report should speak volumes: ‘Tracking the Money for Women’s Economic Empowerment – Overall Donor Support Targeted for Gender Equality: Small’. It is only recently that budgets and finances have become more transparent. The data revealed by this new level of transparency does not bode well for programs and organizations that have a primary focus to achieve gender equality. Aid committed by Development Assistance Committee (DAC) members specifically for women’s economic empowerment reached $8.8 billion on average in 2013-14, a rise from the average in 2007-8, $5.2 billion. Unfortunately, only 24% of DAC member aid to the economic and productive sectors included targeted gender equality as a primary or secondary objective in 2013-14. Furthermore, aid targeting women’s economic empowerment as the principal objective accounts for only 2% of all aid going towards the economic and productive sectors, a percentage which has not changed for six years.
As seen above, 43% of the $8.8 billion DAC members committed for women’s economic empowerment went towards ‘Agriculture and Rural Development’. According to the OECD report, via the FAO “only 5% of women across 97 countries have access to agricultural and other training activities, and only 15% of agricultural extension agents are women”. Programs and actions that level the playing field for women to avail of agricultural extension services and markets should also be included in future programs. Gender parity is also critical when considering women’s access to owning and controlling land.
17% of the $8.8 billion given for women’s empowerment in the banking and business sector. A lot of this money is focused on microcredit opportunities. While microcredit is a useful tool for many women, the report claims there is lack of importance placed on gender equality in the formal banking, credit, and insurance industries and women should have access to the full range of credit and monetary services at their disposal.
This report highlights the extremely low levels of investment in programs and organizations that focus on the gender dimension of transportation, infrastructure, and the energy sector. Shifts in infrastructure and transportation will improve a woman’s access to markets, jobs, and other services like healthcare and education. Additionally, improving access to affordable energy sources can increase the time for paid work activities and and reduce time spent on unpaid work. An IDS report found that a woman’s benefit to electricity in her home freed up much more time for paid work activities because electricity helped reduce the time needed for domestic activities. The IDS report included a study in Indonesia that found an increase of 27% of rural, nonfarm income after electricity was introduced. The OECD report laments the reality that funding for energy programs so frequently does not include a gender dimension because women would benefit so much from affordable, sustainable energy.
There is a disparity between the call for inclusion of women for the success of the SDGs and numbers that suggest the opposite. If women are deemed important for the ultimate success of the SDGs, the money invested should reflect that importance.
Update 8.15.16: Three reports from the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) have been brought to our attention which corroborate and expand on the OECD report.