By Devaki Divan
CALLING FOR interventions to ensure gendered policy-making by international finance institutions, various women groups gathered at the People’s Convention on Infrastructure Financing on Thursday to discuss how these institutions and their functioning can be made gender inclusive.
The People’s Convention is a counter to the third annual meeting of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to be held in Mumbai on June 24 and 25. Hosted by the Working Group on International Financial Institutions, the convention brings together over 100 civil society groups working on issues of international financing for infrastructure projects, impact of such projects on the local development agenda and alternatives for a more equitable development agenda.
At a discussion on the ‘Gender Impact of International Finance Institution projects’, Ritu Dewan, vice-president of the Indian Society of Labour Economics and Director of the Economics Department at the University of Mumbai, said: “In Mumbai, for example 67 per cent of women walk to work. You might be wondering how roads can be gendered, but the frequency of usage, distance of travel, mode of transport etc, purpose of the trip are all factors to be included.”
She listed displacement, sexual harassment, poor quality of roads and security as various symptoms of the need for more inclusive policy-making in infrastructure planning, and spoke on the need to need to promote self-help groups.
Divita Shandilya, a member of the BRICS Feminist Watch, shared her research on gender policies adopted by several regional and multilateral banks including the AIIB and the World Bank. She also spoke on the lack of opportunities for women within banking, and how they are often hired at banks to work mainly at the lower levels.
Panelist Chinara Aitbaeva, an activist from Kyrgyzstan, drew attention to the alarmingly low figure of 10 per cent of international finance institution-funded projects that are directed specifically at women. She spoke of the lack of initiative within governments to ensure gender equality at the work place.