Gender Mainstreaming- A New Development Agenda Challenge for Japanese ODA

©Asian University for Women

©Asian University for Women


2019.08 Gender and Development Special 
Gender Mainstreaming- A New Development Agenda Challenge for Japanese ODA
『International Development Journal』 2019 August edition
Gender perspective on infrastructure

In June, 2019, the G20 Principles on Quality Infrastructure Investment were approved at a Meeting of the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors in Fukuoka. It stipulated that “particular consideration should be given to methods of promoting women’s empowerment through opportunities created by infrastructure investment.”


Until now, the interrelationship between infrastructure investment and women’s empowerment has not been discussed very much. However, with growing understanding in recent years that women’s empowerment is driving economic growth, the importance of a gender perspective in quality infrastructure investment has been recognized. Ms Atsuko Kamei, the Director of the office for Gender Equality and Poverty Reduction, Infrastructure and Peacebuilding Department at Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), said, “We have entered a new era.”


In response to these changes in development trends, donors and international organizations in each country are promoting organizational reform and gender mainstreaming in projects.  The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) also says that it has developed a gender action plan for all projects. Gender is no longer one of the “considerations” of the project, but an important factor that must be taken into account.


Numerical targets in JICA’s mid-term plan

Although JICA started its move toward gender mainstreaming about 20 years ago, it has not progressed as far as expected. However, in the mid-term plan for FY2017-2021, a numerical target was set to increase the ratio of projects that incorporate a certain amount of gender-related measures to at least 40% on a value basis. “The fact that the numerical targets were set in the medium-term plan indicates that the organization has a strong awareness of the issues,” said Kamei.


The Office for Promotion of Gender Equality and Poverty Reduction checks projects under all schemes, such as ODA loans, technical cooperation and private partnerships, in addition to implementing projects mainly for gender equality. It also provides feedback and advice based on gender perspectives. However, they don’t have any enforcement powers. “Even if we say that construction companies should hire a certain number of women when doing construction work, they have their own resource issues, so we leave it up to the discretion of department in charge,” said Kamei.


Under these circumstances, projects incorporating a gender perspective are gradually increasing, mainly in agriculture and disaster prevention. Ms Kamei said, “I want to focus on gender mainstreaming in the infrastructure field for the time being based on the Japanese government policy of promoting high quality infrastructure.” She gives the example of the Delhi Metro which has a variety of initiatives including installing women-only carriages, monitoring cameras and employing female crews and conductors. Similar projects are being considered in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Also, within the ODA loan project currently underway in Sri Lanka to develop an LRT system for urban transport systems. Preparation of gender action plans and on-site gender training are being promoted.


Women as a vehicle for change

In order to promote gender mainstreaming, it is necessary to clarify local gender issues and incorporate activities that contribute to solving these issues into the plan from the project formation stage. At such times, there is a need to determine whether there are any influences in various processes, such as identifying needs and grasping / analyzing the status of achievements / impacts, based on the gender norms unconsciously held by the government officials and implementers of the partner country. Care must also be taken to ensure that projects are planned and implemented more fairly.


However, one thing that tends to fall into such situations is thinking, “We should consider some women as beneficiaries.” Instead, gender equality can be seen by treating women as vehicles for change and aiming to develop skills and change to social norms so that women can demonstrate their abilities. It is difficult to make such changes dramatically in countries such as the Islamic states where traditional role norms are rooted. However, as in the case of Egypt’s Improving Small-scale FarmersMarket-Oriented Agriculture Project (ISMAP)”, a change of the relationship between men and women can be created.


To achieve such gender main streaming of all projects, Ms Kamei believes that it is desirable for each business unit to take the initiative. However, there are many issues to be addressed, such as improving the gender literacy of JICA, as a whole, as well as expanding the Gender Equality and Poverty Reduction Promotion Office from the current four-person system.


Development consultants’ perspectives

Development consultants are also moving, with the Engineering and Consulting Firms Association (ECFA) conducting gender training with JICA. However, many consultants are worried that they don’t know what to do. “It is difficult to implement a project with consideration for gender without budgetary measures or specific descriptions in the specifications and instructions.”


In addition, there are voices calling for JICA staff to increase their gender awareness and knowledge and to expand their gender experts. Until now, there have been few projects in Japan’s ODA that gender experts can participate in, even if they are studying gender in particular, and the brain drain of gender experts often occurs. How do you develop and secure human resources in the future? That may need to be considered by JICA and the development business community, as a whole. In this sense, IC Net Co., Ltd. is working to strengthen its employees and has received orders for various gender projects, not only from Japan’s ODA but also from the World Bank and Japan’s ministries.


In promoting JICA’s gender mainstreaming, there are examples of projects that have not been proposed as gender projects but that have been successful as part of such projects. It is also necessary to make these outcomes more visible. If gender-specific statistics are collected and analyzed at the time of evaluation for all activities, such as the proportion of men and women who participate in the training, even those who are not gender-aware will become so.


Included into SDGs 

While promoting gender mainstreaming in various areas, it is important to tackle issues arising from gender inequality. Although JICA promotes gender mainstreaming, the proportion of projects focusing on gender equality has not increased much. Compared with other donors, the OECD/DAC countries average is 3.8% and Japan is only 0.6%.


In addition to treating it as a cross-cutting issue, it is necessary to support gender issues as one of the development issues as well as in infrastructure and agriculture. In the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), gender equality was set out in Goal 5. In the previous discussion, there were some negative opinions, “it is not necessary to set Goal 5 because all the goals should be gender perspectives.” But gender interests and commitments around the world will change significantly, depending on whether it is included into the 17 goals.


However, none of these SDGs mention LGBT (one of the words for sexual minority, acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender). In the world, as there are lawful countries for same-sex marriages and, on the other hand, countries that outlaw same-sex relationships, so it could not be included in the common goal.


If Japan’s development cooperation is concerned about gender, it may be also necessary to look at LGBT in the future. As the development trend moves toward gender mainstreaming, it is time for Japan to take a step in this wave as a new challenge. (Saki Kawata)


ジェンダー主流化:日本の援助の新たな強みに 本腰入れる時期


インフラ投資と女性のエンパワーメント。これまで相互の関連性はあまりないと思われてきた。だが近年、女性のエンパワーメントは経済成長を牽引するという理解が広まる中、質の高いインフラ投資においてもジェンダー視点を入れることの重要性が認識されたのである。「一つの新しい時代に入った」と、国際協力機構(JICA)社会基盤・平和構築部 ジェンダー平等・貧困削減推進室の亀井温子室長は感じている。























開発の潮流がジェンダーへと向かっていく中、日本は新たな強みとして本腰を入れてこの波に乗っていく時ではないだろうか。(川田 沙姫)


『国際開発ジャーナル』 2019年8月号掲載記事
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