In addition to its support for project work and policy dialogue, the EBRD’s Gender team also commissions research and takes an active part in the international debate on the promotion of gender equality.
In 2014 we commissioned a report, Enhancing Women’s Economic Empowerment in the EBRD’s Operations through Voice, Agency and Participation, examining the influence of legal pluralism and social norms in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey. The report’s main objective is to provide recommendations on designing project interventions at the Bank that are more reflective and responsive to women’s strategic and practical needs, while contributing overall to the enhancement of women’s voice, agency and participation in social and economic life within the specific contexts of these countries.
These five countries were selected, not only because of shared cultural similarities and Islamic heritage, but also because they co-exist in a region with the lowest women’s labour force participation and economic activity in the world. This is despite high levels of literacy and advances in health, and is what the World Bank has termed the “MENA paradox”. As our study shows, social norms, institutional barriers and discrimination embedded in plural legal frameworks are behind this paradox. As a result, women’s access to economic opportunities that might otherwise raise their voice and influence in society is particularly hindered in this region. The study was designed to align with the inclusive growth paradigm: equal access to opportunities for all members of society, taking into account their specific needs.
Initial findings and analysis were presented to various stakeholders in 2014, including the Multilateral Development Banks Working Group on Gender, the Development Finance Institutions Meeting of Social Experts, the UK Department for International Development (DFID), and internal departments at the Bank. The full publication is expected to be available in early 2015.