Gender and Financing for Development

In this issue: 

As the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD3) begins next week in Addis Ababa, the area of financing for development is high on global agendas. In this issue we outline the relevance and importance of gender equality to debates around development financing, and highlight some key resources on the topic. 

July 2015
Issue number: 

The Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD3) will bring together high level political representatives, non-governmental organisations and business sector stakeholders. It will result in an inter-governmentally negotiated and agreed outcome document, which will make an important contribution to the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda, including at the major UN summit in September.

Discussions at the conference will focus on the draft outcome document, which sets out how governments aim to follow up on existing commitments to financing development and take new measures to reinvigorate and strengthen development financing. 

The document states that achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls is essential to achieve equitable sustainable growth and development. It also states that gender mainstreaming is needed in the formulation and implementation of all financial, economic, and social policies. However, gender equality advocates argue that the document does not go far enough, and that FfD3 must not focus only on the allocation of resources to finance gender equality objectives. Rather, it should consider the broader macroeconomic climate, and the ways this climate impacts on and exacerbates gender inequalities. 

Often assumed to be a ‘gender neutral’ arena, economic policies in fact have significant potential to worsen or improve gender inequalities. All over the world, women and men tend to have different economic roles and responsibilities, as well as different access to productive resources. In most cases, women tend to be at a disadvantage. For example, women are usually expected to take on the bulk of caring for their families. This means that they have the double burden of carrying out both paid and unpaid work. In financing for development, there are some key areas to consider in regard to gender equality:

  • Overseas development aid (ODA)

    Even though aid in support of gender equality and women’s rights has increased in recent years, it tends to be concentrated in the health and education sectors. Greater investment on gender is needed in the productive and economic sectors, and more broadly, in all of the priority areas for the proposed post-2015 framework. There are especially large financing gaps in sexual and reproductive health, peace and security and ending violence against women and girls. 
  • Domestic finance

    Better mobilisation of domestic resources can help to tackle gender inequalities. There are a number of options for collecting and spending public money in more gender equitable ways. These include prioritising public spending on areas with high returns for equality; using gender responsive budgeting approaches to plan, implement and monitor fiscal policies; and designing revenue systems informed by careful analysis and assessment of the gendered impacts of direct and indirect taxes. However, it is important to remember that national governments may have limited capacity to raise and spend revenue and to decide how their deficit/surplus is managed, due to global economic trends and international rules and structures outside of their control. So while improving collection and use of domestic finances is paramount, other policy changes at the international level need to be considered too.   
  • Non-traditional/new sources of finance

    New development actors, from the private sector, philanthropic funders, countries with emerging economies (BRICS: Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa) and members of the OECD and EU who are not members of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC), are playing an increasingly important role in financing for development. While many of these new donors and investors support gender equality, it is important to ensure that funds from these sources can generate sustainable change for the poorest women and girls, and do not worsen inequalities or increase women’s unpaid care burden.  

A key alliance advocating for gender equality, women’s empowerment and human rights within the financing for development agenda is the Women’s Working Group on Financing for Development (WWG on FfD). You can find out more about the work of the group and how to get involved here and you can learn more about the history of feminist engagement with the financing for development agenda, along with a range of topical resources, in this AWID special focus section

You can find out more about the Third International Conference on financing for Development here  and follow developments on Twitter using the hashtag #ffd3.

Supporting Resources: 

The following is a selection of key resources related to the topic of gender and Financing for Development recently added to the BRIDGE global resources database.  

You can search for more resources on the BRIDGE website, including French and Spanish ones.

The gender dimensions of expenditure and revenue policy and systems

This briefing from BRIDGE discusses the gender dimensions of both the design and implementation of fiscal policies with the aim of identifying approaches that are likely to advance equality between different groups of women and men. It examines how public money can be collected and used in more gender equitable ways.

Making Financing for Development Work for Gender Equality: What is needed at Addis and beyond

This briefing from the Gender and Development Network in the UK argues that while FfD3 must focus on the quantity of financial resources available to finance gender equality objectives, it must also look at the gender impact of current macroeconomic and financial policies and practices.

From Commitment to Action: Financing gender equality and women’s rights in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals

This brief provides an overview of OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) members’ aid to gender equality since the MDGs and identifies priorities for financing gender equality in the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda.

Policy recommendations: financing for development

This short briefing contains recommendations on financing for development from representatives of African women's rights organisations, trade unions and civil society organisations. It calls for models of financing underpinned by principles of economic and social justice with a gender responsive approach.

Progress of the World's Women 2015-2016: Transforming economies, realising rights

This comprehensive report focuses on the economic and social dimensions of gender equality, including the right of all women to a good job, with fair pay and safe working conditions, to an adequate pension in older age, to health care and to safe water, without discrimination based on factors such as socioeconomic status, geographic location and race or ethnicity.

Política fiscal y equidad de género en Bolivia

This document summarises the main results of a study on fiscal policy and gender carried out by UN Women in Bolivia in 2013, aiming at understanding the main gender implications of the country’s current fiscal system.

Répertoire des donateurs finançant en Afrique francophone

This directory, developed by ROFAF (Réseau des Organisations Féminines de l’Afrique Francophone) in collaboration with Oxfam Novib, features all the donor organisations that finance projects in Francophone Africa.
In the news: 



The year 2015 signals the end of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) era and the creation of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A new Key Issues Guide, written by BRIDGE for the Eldis website, provides an overview of some of the key debates and approaches in measuring change in gender equality. 


BRIDGE has published a new blog by Alexandra Spieldoch and Alyson Brody on gender and food security. 


The first event held by the by the newly formed Institute of Development Studies (IDS) Gender and Sexuality Cluster (which includes BRIDGE) had the dual purpose of officially launching the cluster and of providing a space or critical moment for transformative thinking and debate. Key questions included:

  • Can we talk about gender equality without talking sex and sexuality? /Can we talk about sex and sexuality in development without talking about gender?
  • So we’ve exposed gender myths and stereotypes; what’s next?
  • Can ‘Men and Masculinities’ become useful without becoming co-opted?  
  • What does ‘intersectionality mean in practice? 
  • To what extent are we being co-opted in the work we do on gender and sexuality, and how can we resist these pressures?

You can listen to the event’s podcast here