Luxembourg, July 12, 2019

Gender Equality for Sustainable Infrastructure

Today at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), I look forward to a discussion on where the actual gaps are with respect to equality of access for men and women to the benefits of infrastructure; and what data needs to be collected to measure the gaps and the impact of measures taken to close the gaps.

Infrastructure often overlooks the fact that different segments of the population may have differing needs and may benefit unequally from infrastructure projects. Poor infrastructure practices that do not reflect principles of inclusiveness can create real barriers for segments of the population to effectively participate in the economy, resulting in suboptimal economic and social outcomes.

Women remain disproportionately affected by inadequate infrastructure. Although women and girls often use infrastructure differently, women are frequently marginalized during identification, design and implementation of infrastructure projects and services received. Lack of access to water and electricity results in women and girls spending significant amounts of time on domestic chores, diverting them from pursuing education and income generation. Poor urban planning such as inadequate street lighting or poorly maintained facilities can expose women to elevated risks of harassment and sexual violence.

Furthermore, women are often under-represented in the infrastructure sector labor force—they do not have equal access to well-paying jobs created by infrastructure investments.

The lack of gender-disaggregated data is a major impediment to informing infrastructure planning. For example, mobility surveys undertaken in transport projects rarely consider differences across gender and other demographic and socioeconomic characteristics (for example, age and income). Another area that lacks sex-disaggregated data is road safety.

Administrative data on road safety—which typically includes police and health facility records, vital registration and death certification as well as insurance data—is valuable from a gender point of view, if sex-disaggregated. However, they seldom are.

At the 2018 AIIB Annual Meeting held in Mumbai, Harvard professor Rohini Pande spoke about the invisible infrastructure that is needed to ensure that the physical infrastructure achieves its objectives. Invisible infrastructure is defined as the social and human systems that enable citizens to realize their capabilities and escape poverty. Rural roads, by themselves, may not bring jobs to a village. For many male villagers, the road will enable them to get on a bus, go to the town and find work there. However, the road may not suffice for a poor female villager, since social norms and safety concerns may prevent her from getting on the bus in the first place. Indeed, transport projects like this often do not consider door-to-door challenges women face.

When measuring actual access to infrastructure—specifically the gender gaps—there is a need to go beyond collecting quantitative data and usage of the asset. There is a need to understand what may be preventing usage and the reasons.

Today in Luxembourg, the discussion panel “Gender Equality for Sustainable Infrastructure” will provide an opportunity to discuss gender gaps in access to infrastructure, how they can be addressed and—very importantly—how the gaps can be measured. As one of the youngest multilateral development banks, we hope that we can learn from this panel the experience and lessons from representatives of two other international financial institutions, representatives from two national government agencies and a city (Vienna) on how infrastructure can be designed, constructed and operated to benefit both men and women.


Michaela Bergman

Principal Social Development Specialist, AIIB

More Blog Articles