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BIPR | Gender-based Violence in Development Projects
Gender-based Violence in Development Projects

April 8, 2021 - 18:30

Imrana Jalal, The Inspection Panel, The World Bank

Event Recap

Imrana Jalal began her presentation by discussing the prevalence and impact of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) on development projects. She highlighted alarming facts including that 35% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence and a mere 7% of women and girls experiencing sexual assault report the incident to a formal source. This is largely due to survivors' fear that they will not be believed and that they will be punished for attempting to report the violence. Jalal explained that this not only has an extremely negative psychological impact on the victims of GBV, but also directly correlates with higher rates of HIV and sexually transmitted infections, can fuel a cycle of violence, and can cost countries up to 3.7% of their GDP due to the effects that GBV has on stifling development goals. She explained that GBV cases have become known in projects financed by several Multilateral Development Banks but also in projects supported by civil society organizations. In most cases, GBV violations had not been committed by staff of financial institutions nor CSOs but by foreign and migrant contractors or employees engaged under the projects. Jalal presented two projects (Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo) where complaints had been filed with the World Bank Inspection Panel and where detailed investigation were carried out and violations of World Bank policies were found.

In both cases, Jalal explained the difficulties of getting women to come forward as victims due to the adverse consequences that they feared they would face. Comprehensive investigations, conducted together with experienced experts on GBV issues, were necessary in order to establish what had happened. The investigations found that insufficient measures had been taken under the two World Bank projects to minimize the risk of GBV. Project design was not conducted using adequate expertise to establish measures which would prevent or reduce such risks. Risk assessments were inadequate and trustworthy grievance mechanisms not in place. However, Jalal highlighted that as a result of the World Bank Inspection Panel findings very significant changes were introduced to minimize the risk of recurrence of GBV in World Bank projects. In Uganda, the World Bank cancelled its funding of the road and infrastructure development project once it learned that GBV was occurring and, as a result, a Uganda road organization agreed take on the responsibility of producing change and stopping the GBV.

Jalal proceeded to stress the importance of starting with the assumption that women are telling the truth in GBV cases and then collecting evidence based on that assumption in order to create a safer space for women to come forward. When asked what mechanisms IFIs put in place to redress grievances once they have been identified, Jalal highlighted the necessity of maintaining a survivor-centered approach. This entails giving women resources to move from the location they faced violence, providing medical support and giving women support in prosecuting if they are interested in bringing their case to court.

On a closing note, when asked what she believed were some of the most salient gender-based measures that should be put in place for future development projects, Jalal mentioned ideas such as the importance of making sure the project has a GBV action plan, the IFI spending a concentrated time training and raising the awareness of women in places where the project is carried out and there being an effective grievance mechanism in place from the outset.

Event Materials:

Full Audio:

Gender-based Violence in Development Projects

hosted by Professor Arntraud Hartmann

Imrana Jalal
The Inspection Panel, The World Bank

Globally, 35 percent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, or sexual violence by a non-partner. This figure does not include sexual harassment. Gender-based violence (GBV) has also become a prominent issue in a number of development projects funded by international financial institutions (IFIs). GBV concerns seem to be particularly prominent in infrastructure projects where a temporary influx of often large numbers of male construction workers threatens the security of women and girls and the social fabric of a community. However, serious violations have also been highlighted in environmental projects where only a limited number of workers are involved. GBV has also been recorded in the operations of a wider range of international organisations, including the World Wildlife Fund, Oxfam International and the UN. Internal independent accountability mechanisms of IFIs, which assess complaints of people who allege that they have been harmed by development projects funded by IFIs, have recently dealt with GBV complaints. Several investigations conducted by these mechanisms found serious violations. This seminar will present two prominent cases investigated by the World Bank Inspection Panel. It will present findings of the investigations and discuss approaches IFIs and other agencies could take to mitigate risks of GBV in projects they fund.

A presentation of lessons learned from cases investigated by the Inspection Panel can also be found HERE.


Imrana Jalal is the Chair of the Inspection Panel of the World Bank.

A Fiji national, Jalal is a lawyer, gender specialist and development practitioner, with more than 30 years of experience across diverse geopolitical and multicultural environments in the private and public sectors.

As Principal Social Development Specialist (Gender and Development) for the Asian Development Bank from 2010-2017, Jalal gained intimate knowledge of multilateral development bank operations in various sectors and demonstrated her ability to engage and build rapport and trust with stakeholders on various complex issues.

A lawyer by profession, Jalal was a Commissioner from 1999-2001 on the initial Fiji Human Rights Commission, the first of its kind in the Pacific Island countries. She is the author of "Law for Pacific Women: A Legal Rights Handbook," architect of the Fiji Family Law Act 2003, and a founding member of the Fiji Women's Rights Movement. In 2006 she was elected a Commissioner on the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), which was established to protect the independence of judges and lawyers, and served on the Commission's Executive Board from 2011-2017. From 1995-2010, Jalal was Chief Technical Adviser at the Pacific Regional Rights Resource Team Office .

Jalal earned a Masters of Arts with a focus on Gender and Development from the University of Sydney, and an LLB and LLM (Hons.) in International Law from the University of Auckland.
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