Today, the world celebrates International Women’s Day as a tribute to the contribution women make to every aspect of life, but also as a reminder of continuing inequality and discrimination as well as a persistent gender pay gap.
The EBRD has launched major initiatives and created a policy framework to address these issues, which are a major challenge in many of the economies where the Bank invests.
In 2015, the Bank adopted a Strategy for the Promotion of Gender Equality . The policy sets out a framework to encourage advancement of equal opportunities for women and men in all its activities, in both public and private sectors.
This was followed by the adoption of the first EBRD Economic Inclusion Strategy in May 2017, reflecting the Bank’s pioneering work to widen access to economic opportunities to many under-served groups of society, including women, young people and regional populations.
These strategies are put into action through EBRD investments. “Deeds not words” was the famous slogan of the suffragette movement. This has also always been the EBRD’s focus.
One example is the Bank’s Women in Business programme which combines support for access to finance with practical advice on how to start and run a business in a wide area of topics. Launched in 2014, to date the programme has delivered more than €400 million in loans to some 115 projects across 17 countries, benefiting 35,000 women entrepreneurs.
We also partner with donors, including the European Union, Luxembourg, Sweden, Italy and others, to support thousands of women-led businesses across the regions. Thanks to donor contributions, we work with local banks to offer dedicated financing and tailored advice to help women entrepreneurs access the finance they need to invest and grow.
The Bank helped Kozeta Gina, a transport mechanic engineer, to develop an innovative online learning platform and to access finance, helping her business stay ahead of the competition in Albania.
Inga and Elen Manukyan, the owners of LOOM Weaving, an Armenian brand of knitwear clothes with a traditional touch, received EBRD support to expand their business networks, enhance their financial management and expand their outreach to new geographies through a new marketing strategy.
With the EBRD’s help, Okhtein Mounaz, an Egyptian accessories brand created by sisters Mounaz and Aya Abdel Raouf, defined their business plan and goals as they work towards their business expansion.
We also work on policy dialogue and capacity building to promote gender equality through initiatives addressing legal and regulatory bottlenecks for women’s participation in the economy.
Legislation restricting women’s access to certain tasks and jobs is present in multiple EBRD countries of operations. In Egypt, for example, women cannot work night shifts whereas in some countries of the former Soviet Union, women are not legally authorised to work underground or perform tasks that involve working with hazardous materials or lifting heavy weights. These restrictions limit women’s access to such fast growing sectors of the economy as mining, metallurgy, construction and transport.
One of the EBRD’s initiatives in this area has been supporting the governments of Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic to reduce legal barriers to women’s participation in the labour force. In the Kyrgyz Republic, the EBRD works closely with the government to support legal reform by amending the list of approximately 400 jobs and tasks that are currently prohibited to women under Resolution 158.
The EBRD signed 29 projects with a gender focus or component in 2017.