How can World Bank better meet the needs of women in fragile and conflict-affected states?

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  • The Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) of the World Bank Group published an evaluation of World Bank Group’s Assistance to Low-Income Fragile and Conflict-Affected States (FCS). 
  • Given that conflict may disproportionately affect women, the report addresses the effects of conflict-related violence against women and economic empowerment projects for them during reconstruction.
  • The report provides recommendations on designing strategies and projects with potential remedies for more immediate, as well as long-standing, violence and discrimination against women.


You can read the full evaluation report here.

Conflict and its aftermath affect women and men differently. Situations of violence, which cause the destruction of homes, livelihoods and infrastructure, and separation from male relatives, considerably affect women’s socio-economic condition and personal safety.1 Since the violent armed conflicts in 1990s, the instances of women being deliberately targeted to humiliate, intimidate, punish, and forcibly displace members of a community or ethnic group have gained international attention. Sexual and gender-based violence may persist in post-conflict settings before judicial and law enforcement systems are rebuilt. Furthermore, due to displacement, disruption of household economies and an increase in female-headed households, many FCS see generations of women having to step into the workforce.

Women are important actors in post-conflict settings, both for their families, communities and the post-conflict reconstruction activities. Given the increase in female-headed households where women may engage in economic activity out of necessity, the 2011 and 2012 World Bank’s World Development Reports on conflict states, “involving women in security, justice, and economic empowerment programs can deliver results and support longer-term institutional change”. The needs and concerns of women, therefore, need to be taken into account in setting reconstruction priorities. However, to date, the representation of women in peace and reconstruction processes has bee very low.2

Women do not represent a homogenous group. Their needs and vulnerabilities vary across the cultural and social context of their country, religious identities, age, education and marital status, to name a few. Understanding these circumstances is essential in order for reconstruction and development agendas to respond adequately to women’s needs, and to strengthen their abilities most effectively.

The IEG report recognises that the FCS capacity to address the post-conflict needs of female victims and survivors can be limited. Institutions tasked with mainstreaming gender concerns – such as ministries of gender or women’s development – experience severe budgetary and staffing constraints, and are often sidelined by other institutions. The report highlights the need for external assistance for gender issues, which can raise the visibility and help set a clear agenda for government. It provides a number of recommendations for engaging with governments in order to plug gender considerations in national strategies and budgets. Parliaments have a central role to play in formulating and approving the latter, making sure that people’s interests are given a central role. In this respect, women's political participation is crucial for representing the needs and interests of women in post-conflict settings.

Here are some of the reports main takeaways:

  • National strategies and projects – such as, for example, skills training, reparations, and access to finance – can be better-devised and mainstream gender concerns better, when based on robust country assessments. This should take into account factors such as the increase in the number of female-headed households.
  • Disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) and reparations programs, which facilitate a smoother social and economic transition in a postwar society, should be gender sensitive, rather than focusing entirely on ex-combatants.
  • Assessing the outcomes of development assistance in FCS should take into account broad-based economic and social empowerment of women. The challenge is that interventions that seek to improve women's legal and social status take time to yield results and are difficult to track over short term.
  • Health and education projects in FCS should not only respond to gender concerns but also address the special needs of those who continue to suffer from economic and social marginalisation, physical disabilities or psychosocial and post-traumatic disorders.

To read more on the report’s main takeaways see the IEG insight.

For a blog post on World Bank IEG insights on natural resources in FCS see here.

For more resources on Parliaments and Gender Equality, see our Gender section on Agora Portal.

1 European Union Institute for Security Studies (2014), “Women & Armed Conflicts and the issue of Sexual Violence”

2 World Bank (2012) “World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development”