PROGRAMS & THEMES: Gender, IFIs and Gender-Based Violence

Worldwide, up to one in five women and one in 10 men report experiencing sexual abuse as children... Violence against women is associated with sexually transmitted infections such as HIV/AIDS, unintended pregnancies, [gynecological] problems, induced abortions, and adverse pregnancy outcomes, including miscarriage, low birth weight and fetal death."
- World Health Organization, 2009

One in three girls around the world will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. Many will be assaulted more than once. Gender-based violence (GBV) affects women and men, boys and girls around the world. Yet, International Financial Institutions (IFIs) hardly address GBV as a human rights issue or GBV against men and boys.

Although GBV is often considered to be the same as violence against women, GBV encompasses sexual violence against both men and women, boys and girls, and includes a broad range of human rights violations, including rape, domestic violence, human trafficking and forced pregnancy. Over the past decade, GBV has become an increasingly visible weapon of war and conflict.

Sometimes IFI rhetoric and research condemn GBV. However, there is a disconnect with IFI investments that mostly ignore GBV. Gender Action pressures the IFIs address GBV in their investments. Our initiatives include case studies and campaigns to end IFI exacerbation of GBV.

For example, our Boom Time Blues project revealed that the large uptick in the number of incidents of violence against women from the infusion of foreign workers was ignored by the World Bank and European Reconstruction Development Bank funded pipeline project. Boom Time Blues examined impacts of the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan Export Oil Pipeline (BTC pipeline) in Azerbaijan and Georgia, and the Sakhalin II oil and gas project on Sakhalin Island off the northern Russian coast.

Since the devastating earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, Gender Action has continuously monitored all World Bank and IDB investments in Haiti, analyzing them for the extent to which they address Haiti's rampant gender-based violence (GBV) in addition to broader gender impacts. Our late 2010 report "World Bank and Inter-American Bank (IDB): Haiti Post-Earthquake Track Record on Gender, Agriculture and Rural Development," revealed how IFI rural-focused grants ignore GBV. Further, our summer 2010 letter to President Obama motivated the World Bank to support a GBV project in Haiti.

Gender Action's relentless prodding the World Bank to improve its track record on Gender-Based Violence has moved the needle!
Gender Action research exposed that the Bank financed only three projects aimed at combatting GBV from 1947-2011. And Gender Action's and partners' field-based reports demonstrate that workers constructing Bank infrastructure investments such as oil and gas pipelines, highways and urban development projects sexually harass and violate females sometimes impregnating young girls.
In response to Gender Action advocacy, the Bank has financed over a dozen projects aimed at combatting GBV; promotes ending GBV in its 2015 gender strategy; and committed to establishing a Task Force to fight GBV in 2016.

BEYOND SHOCK. Charting the Landscape of Sexual Violence in Post-Quake Haiti: Progress, Challenges & Emerging Trends 2010-2012

Anne-christine d'Adesky, PotoFamn+Fi Coalition

'Beyond Shock. Charting the Landscape of Sexual violence in Post-Quake Haiti: Progress, Challenges & Emerging Trends 2010-2012' is a comprehensive report on progress made since Haiti's historic January 2010 earthquake in combating sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and providing services to survivors. It highlights groups, individuals, programs, and approaches that are making a difference and captures emergent trends in this landscape.

The report features Gender Action's work advocating for IFI funds to be urgently directed to Haitian women's needs. For example, Gender Action demonstrated that none of the World Bank's initial investments in post-earthquake Haiti addressed the country's growing epidemic of SGBV. In response, the World Bank announced a US $500,000 grant in 2011 which explicitly addresses GBV in Haiti. Read more about Gender Action's work on Haiti.

International Financial Institutions and Gender Based Violence: A Primer

While IFIs such as the World Bank promote gender equality and women's empowerment, this primer demonstrates that IFI policies and investments fail to address GBV as a human rights issue, ignore GBV among men and boys, and neglect to measure IFI impacts on GBV through investment monitoring and evaluation. See more.

Link: IFIs and Gender Based Violence

Gender Action's "IFIs and GBV" Link summarizes Gender Action's analysis of the extent to which IFIs address GBV in their policies and investments. GBV is a critical reproductive health issue that results from gender roles in every endeavor including extractive industry, infrastructure, transportation and public administration sectors in which IFIs spend the bulk of their multi-billion dollar investments. Gender Action has found that very few current IFI operations address GBV and they comprise a tiny fraction of IFI spending.

UPDATE: In May 2013, the World Bank approved its fourth GBV project in the Solomon Islands, in addition to projects in Haiti (2011), the Democratic Republic of Congo (2010) and Cote d'Ivoire (2010).

Case Studies


To commemorate International Women's Day 2012, Gender Action prepared this IFIs and Gender Based Violence Case Study that analyzes the extent to which World Bank and IDB shelter, sanitation and electricity investments address GBV in Haiti, as these projects have significant implications for Haiti's GBV epidemic. It also highlights an IDB-funded survey of GBV in Haiti, which took place before the earthquake, but we could not find any post-earthquake follow-up. While Gender Action applauds the World Bank's most recent investment to address GBV, our analysis demonstrates that neither the World Bank nor the IDB adequately address GBV within other critical post-earthquake investments. The case study underscores the urgent need for these institutions to fully implement their gender policies and explicitly address GBV across all sectors.

Democratic Republic of Congo

Our first IFI and GBV case study focuses on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where more than a decade of conflict has led to devastating rates of GBV. Violence is particularly rife in the country's mineral-rich eastern region, where militia groups use rape as a weapon to control the lucrative supply of tungsten, coltan, diamonds and gold. The case study therefore analyzes the extent to which the World Bank's two current DRC mining investments implement the World Bank's policy to identify and prevent potential harmful gender project impacts. Although the World Bank acknowledges that small-scale mining is "frequently associated with negative social impacts including...gender discrimination and violence," neither investment adequately addresses women and girls' increased vulnerability to GBV, including forced sex work and sexual assault. Gender Action's case study includes several recommendations for the World Bank to enhance its response to GBV in all of its investments, including in mining enterprises, as well as recommendations for civil society to encourage IFI investments to provide GBV prevention and direct health and social services for GBV survivors.

Gender-Based Violence in Post-Earthquake Haiti: The International Financial Institutions' Response

While Haiti is no stranger to GBV, the sudden spike in internally displaced persons (IDP) living in camps has dramatically heightened insecurity. Women and children in these camps are routinely subject to systemic rape, and rarely have access to medical care or justice after being assaulted. Download our analysis of IFI focus on GBV in Haiti and Gender Action's activities to raise awareness.

Advocacy Campaigns

Following the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Gender Action President Elaine Zuckerman spoke passionately at an anti-rape rally outside the International Monetary Fund (IMF), drawing attention to the "unavoidable parallels" between Strauss-Kahn's behavior and the institution's negative impact on women around the world, which Gender Action has spent years exposing.

See our Press Release: Strauss-Kahn Must Go Now - GA Says DSK Leadership "Untenable"

Letter to President Obama on IFIs, debt, and gender-based violence in Haiti
July 2010

Gender Action's letter urged President Obama to end gender-based violence and debt in Haiti through IFI intervention.

Within a month of sending our letter, which complemented Gender Action's debt removal campaign through our Jubilee Network Council membership, the IMF canceled most of Haiti's outstanding debt.

International Women’s Day Call: IFIs Must Stop Contributing to Violence Against Women

March 8th, 2007

Gender Action sponsored a call signed by 126 organizations and individuals around the world that condemned IFI investments for intensifying human displacement, trafficking in and violence against women, prostitution, sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS, sexual harassment, and GBV. The signatories insisted that as long as the IFIs continue operating, they must stop attaching harmful policy prescriptions to their loans and meaningfully strengthen their safeguards to protect women and members of vulnerable groups. The call also demanded that the IFIs without any gender policies or strategies—the International Monetary Fund, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and European Investment Bank—develop them, and that the IFIs with gender policies fully implement them.




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International Financial Institutions and Gender Based Violence: A Primer

Link: IFIs and Gender Based Violence

Gender-Based Violence in Post-Earthquake Haiti: The IFIs' Response

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Linking IFI-Watchers and Gender Justice Groups

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Gender, IFIs and the Global Food Crisis

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