UK law puts gender on development agenda

In early 2014, we reported on the UK passing a law requiring development agencies to consider gender equality when funding foreign aid projects. Two years later, campaigners say the legislation is having a big impact

A study from The Great Initiative and Plan International, two of the non-profi ts that helped pass the International Development (Gender Equality) Act, found that almost two-thirds of foreign aid initiatives now take gender issues into account. The study found women and girls can reap signifi cant benefi ts even from projects that are not primarily focused on promoting gender equality.

For example, the UK is currently paying £9.4m to pave an 84-mile stretch of road in western Uganda in a bid to improve economic conditions for 870,000 people. To comply with the new law, planners identifi ed a number of ways to help women, most notably by setting aside a quarter of the jobs created by the project for female workers.

“It is envisaged that their visibility in road works would contribute to women’s empowerment as well as breaking the stereotype that road construction is a preserve of men,” said the planners.

In 2014, the UK committed almost £1.4bn to gender-focused projects, more than any other member of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee. Ethiopian girls were some of those who benefi ted, with 37,500 teenagers in the country supported to stay in school.