4. Financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls

There is a need to increase the quantity and quality of financial resources available for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in partner countries. Financial resources, while not an end goal, are a necessary foundation. Sufficient financing is a prerequisite for ensuring capacity to develop relevant policies and strategies for gender equality, to undertake gender analysis, to set up partnerships and implement development programmes with the necessary technical expertise, and to undertake monitoring, evaluations, learning and ensure accountability.

Development Assistance Committee (DAC) members’ official development assistance (ODA) is an essential external financing resource for especially for low-income and fragile countries. DAC members can also leverage their ODA to mobilise other types of development and commercial finance for gender equality. In addition, they can increase funding by targeting their “other” official flows towards gender equality – including financing that does not qualify as ODA and that is typically provided through development finance institutions.

The shares and amounts of bilateral ODA for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls by DAC members have been increasing consistently. The rise can be attributed mainly to bilateral aid integrating gender equality as one explicit, although not the principal, objective of development projects or programmes. This is a positive trend, because integrating gender equality objectives in programming across sectors is an essential component of achieving gender equality and sustainable development.

However, both dedicated aid (scoring 2 on the gender marker) and integrated aid (scoring 1 on the gender marker) are needed for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. This broadly mirrors the twin-track programming approach of mainstreamed and dedicated support for gender equality set out in Chapter 2. Aid dedicated to gender equality as the principal (dedicated) objective has remained consistently at around 4% to 5% of bilateral allocable aid.

DAC members should pursue financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls through the twin-track approach, by aiming to increase the shares of ODA that integrate and is dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

Because dedicated funding for gender equality is limited, such funding can focus on programming that helps to address the root causes of gender equality and achieve transformative change for gender equality, in regions and countries that are familiar to the DAC member and where the member has an added value.

When reporting development finance to the OECD, DAC members assess the extent to which their bilateral ODA addresses gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls by applying the DAC gender equality policy marker at the planning phase of development activities. A project or programme should be classified as contributing to gender equality if it is “intended to advance gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls or reduce discrimination and inequalities based on sex” (OECD, 2020[1]) (Box 4.1). As contexts evolve and programmes may need to be adapted, the marker score can be adjusted as relevant in the coming reporting to the OECD.

The OECD collects such data and makes it publicly available on the OECD.Stat website. (OECD, 2022[2]) The gender marker is an integral part of the OECD Creditor Reporting System (CRS), along with other policy markers. DAC members also report each project/programme’s sector/thematic area, channel of delivery, country focus, type of financial flow, etc., and are expected to provide descriptions of each project or programme.1 The gender marker is the only common monitoring and accountability tool for DAC members to track aid in support of their commitments to gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.2 It is designed to monitor inputs rather than outputs.

The data collected through the marker allow for comparison and not only help identify gaps between policy commitments and financial allocations, but incentivise efforts to close those gaps. The marker has also provided an opportunity for awareness-raising and policy discussions around gender equality amongst staff in DAC member institutions, going beyond the technical aspects of the tool. The marker has helped increase attention to and accountability for gender finance. Data is consistently used in DAC peer reviews and by a range of researchers and advocates, and it is published annually (OECD, 2021[3]).

The marker can also help increase awareness, understanding and commitment in looking for opportunities to address gender equality in different portfolios. Internal training opportunities and exchanges about the marker allow for policy discussions and complement the technical application of the marker. Some DAC members also use the marker and its scores as a basis in policy discussions on gender equality with partner governments (European Commission, 2020[4]).

The simple division in three of the gender marker scores allows for a relatively easy application. However, some DAC members note difficulties in determining the score of projects/programmes. Other DAC members find the gender marker too blunt a tool and have adapted its use for a more granular approach. Some use a four-point scale to respond to internal needs and translate these into the three scores of the DAC in reporting to the OECD. Some DAC members note that certain programmes with a gender lens or a low level of gender mainstreaming fall into the “not targeted” (score 0) category when reporting to the OECD, giving a false impression that these programmes are not gender-sensitive at all.

DAC members need to ensure that staff understand and correctly apply the DAC gender equality policy marker scores at the design stage of all programmes, and provide tools and training for staff as needed.

As is the case for all of the DAC policy markers, some inconsistencies in reporting against the gender marker can be observed. To respond to this, the OECD-DAC Network on Gender Equality (GENDERNET) prepared guidance on using the marker and also recommended “minimum criteria” (OECD, 2016[5]). These GENDERNET criteria are recommended rather than mandatory and are subject to inconsistent application by DAC members. An OECD review of the gender marker showed incongruences between the value of the marker and the title and description of the projects and found that development finance providers do not coherently report similar activities with similar scores. The review recommended steps to improve reporting quality, including establishing guidance on how to treat similar types of aid activities, adopting regular quality check mechanisms, and continuing learning and exchange (OECD DAC Working Party on Development Finance Statistics, 2020[6]).

In addition to the DAC gender equality policy marker, the OECD CRS tracks aid to two areas relating directly to gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, captured in “purpose codes”: aid to feminist, women-led and women’s rights organisations and movements, and institutions, and aid for ending gender-based violence. Aid reported against one of these “purpose codes” is by default given score 2 (principal) against the gender marker (OECD, n.d.[7]). DAC members should make efforts to report their programmes correctly against these codes.

For the majority of DAC members, programme managers apply the score of the gender marker. It is positive that gender equality experts help to ensure the quality of reporting against the gender marker.3 It is equally important that statistical units and reporters in DAC member institutions be familiar with the gender marker and are able to liaise with programme managers and gender advisers as needed and relevant, to ensure quality control and correct reporting to the OECD.

DAC members should aim to increase both the quality and the level of detail of descriptive programme information provided when reporting aid statistics against the gender marker to support accountability and transparency. As the DAC GENDERNET, members can also review the Handbook on the DAC gender equality policy marker.

Several DAC members have set quantitative targets for their ODA for gender equality, and some are considering establishing targets. 4 Most DAC members that have set financial targets state that these not only help guarantee more aid for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls but also incentivise and raise awareness in their organisation by setting the stage for constructive discussions across teams. The targets can also to some extent help ensure long-term policy steering, despite shifting political priorities. In some cases, financial targets have allowed for honest discussions with management and lead to definition of more realistic targets, including adjusting targets by sector/department. However, any financial targets need accompanying measures, including leadership commitment, human resources and expertise, as well as a clear understanding of the criteria for the DAC gender equality policy marker.

Potential challenges of establishing financial targets include the risk of “gender-washing”, since organisations may simulate working on gender equality in order to ensure funding from the DAC member. Targets for gender equality may also be perceived as setting up competition with other cross-cutting issues and sectors. It may also be difficult to identify the “right” financial targets in each sector, and targets may risk becoming a “ceiling” rather than an incentive. The DAC as a community has not so far discussed setting a common target for bilateral aid that integrates or is dedicated to gender equality.

Most DAC members channel most of their total aid for gender equality through multilateral organisations and/or established civil society organisations based in DAC member countries. These organisations tend to have the advantage of economies of scale, with systems and processes that are equipped to handle large amounts of resources and to respond to DAC members’ reporting requirements (OECD, 2020[8]; OECD, 2020[9]). A very limited amount of funding is channelled directly to local women’s rights organisations based in partner countries. A couple of DAC members provide large amounts of aid to programmes integrating gender equality implemented by partner governments, but in general, financial support directly to partner governments is limited. Support for gender equality through the private sector is relatively limited but increasing.

Aid for gender equality is spread over various sectors, with the largest volumes consistently committed in the governance sector. Other sectors that receive high volumes of aid with gender equality objectives are education, health and reproductive health, and economic infrastructure and services. These financial allocations seem to correspond roughly with DAC members’ policy priorities for gender (see Section 1.2). Two sectors that stand out as having consistently low shares of aid addressing gender equality are energy and humanitarian aid (OECD, 2016[10]). This is noteworthy, given the strong policy focus on gender equality in humanitarian aid in particular.

DAC members should ensure that aid allocations for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls align with policy priorities, and their global and regional commitments.

The Total Official Support for Sustainable Development (TOSSD) statistical framework has been developed to present a global picture of resources in support of the 2030 Agenda. TOSSD stakeholders go beyond DAC members, and the aim is to obtain reporting from all development actors, including South-South co-operation (SSC) providers. TOSSD aims to keep the reporting form simple, so that it is accessible to new reporters.

TOSSD measures financing from the recipient perspective and includes partner countries’ receipts of ODA, Other Official Flows (official development finance beyond ODA), triangular and South-South co-operation, and private finance mobilised by official efforts – as long as they comply with the definition of sustainable development. Expenditures at global and regional levels for international public goods are also considered in TOSSD. When reporting on TOSSD, the reporters identify which SDGs their financing is targeting, including SDG5. Up to 10 SDGs can be reported on a single TOSSD activity. TOSSD does not specify whether the programme is dedicated to gender equality (principal) or mainstreamed (significant).

The past few years have seen an overall increase in development finance beyond ODA and also an increased interest in finance other than ODA that addresses gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Capital markets are crucial sources of long-term funding to help close the SDG financing gaps and mobilise capital for sustainable development. The Addis Ababa Action Agenda, adopted at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in 2015, aligns all domestic and international resource flows, policies and international agreements with economic, social and environmental priorities.

Development finance institutions and banks, private investors, commercial actors and private philanthropy are intensifying investments with a “gender lens”, recognising that gender-lens investing (GLI) is smart investing that can both help increase return on investments and contribute to leaving no one behind in developing countries. GLI is defined by many as integrating a gender equality into the financial analysis and decision making processes of an investment. Other more holistic definitions refer to deliberately incorporating a gender analysis into a financial analysis to achieve better outcomes (VERIS Wealth Partners, 2018[11]). Most definitions and criteria for GLI revolve around investing in women-owned or women-led enterprises, investing in enterprises that promote equal opportunities in the workplace (in staffing, management, boardroom representation, and along their supply chains), and/or investing in enterprises that offer products or services that substantially improve the lives of women and girls (GIIN, n.d.[12]).

Many DAC members engage with different types of private actors and use financing tools beyond ODA for gender equality, including by partnering with commercial actors and/or private philanthropy, and setting up blended finance vehicles with development banks and development finance institutions (DFIs).5 Financing approaches range from prioritising commercial return to prioritising social return (OECD, 2020[13]) (Infographic 4.1).

While funding beyond ODA cannot replace aid, and ODA will remain a key tool for funding gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, DAC members can partner with a range of actors and mobilise additional funding for gender equality using their ODA, their expertise on gender equality and policy dialogue as leverage.

There is scope for better integration of gender equality throughout the cycle of the investment from planning, to implementation, reporting and lessons learned.

DAC members can support or leverage various types of dedicated investments in gender equality, gender-lens investing and the integration of gender equality objectives in development and climate investments. Gender-smart climate finance is relatively new, but it is growing fast as more investors apply a gender lens to their investments, and as evidence for the business case increases (2X Collaborative, 2021[14]). At the very least, all financing, including foreign direct investments and climate finance, should apply safeguards and should not have a negative impact on gender equality.

DAC members can adopt a variety of approaches to leverage additional funding beyond ODA for gender equality, including by:

  • partnering financially with private actors at all levels

  • providing guidance and financial incentives for financial actors to work on gender equality

  • providing technical support on gender equality for actors in partner countries.

These approaches, presented in more detail below, are interlinked and overlap.

DAC members and private actors can complement each other and create important synergies to address gender inequalities by combining the private sector’s financial resources and innovation capacity with DAC members’ resources, expertise and ability. DAC members can set up, contribute to or leverage innovative structures, funds and instruments dedicated to gender equality and involve different types of partners, including commercial actors and private investors. Private philanthropy also plays an increasingly important role in the development finance landscape.

Blended finance is an important partnership approach to funding the implementation of the SDGs, with clear potential to drive gender equality goals. Blended finance is defined as the “strategic use of development finance for the mobilisation of additional finance towards sustainable development in developing countries”. Here, “additional finance” refers to commercial finance directly mobilised by development finance interventions in a blended finance structure, which would not otherwise be directed towards development-related investments (OECD, 2020[1]).

Blended finance can use a multitude of financial instruments to achieve both development and commercial goals, including grants, guarantees, technical assistance, credit lines or bonds (see below for “gender bonds”), equity investments and debt instruments. It can be used across a range of sectors critical for achieving gender equality. Investors often associate investments in partner countries with an unfavourable risk-return relationship. An effective blended finance transaction should structure and/or calibrate financial instruments to address investors’ concerns about the risk-return profile of investment opportunities in developing countries. DAC members are already engaging in blended finance, although they are at varying stages in terms of the range of instruments used and how blending is carried out (OECD, Forthcoming 2021[15]).

In 2020, the OECD conducted a survey of 198 blended finance funds and facilities how their activities aligned with the SDGs, and to what extent they integrated or were dedicated to gender equality – aligned with the DAC gender equality policy marker methodology. Two-thirds (66%) of the assets under management of blended finance vehicles captured in the OECD survey were reported as either integrating or dedicated to gender equality. However, only 1% of assets under management were specifically dedicated to gender equality, indicating considerable potential to scale up blended finance dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Of blended finance vehicles dedicated to gender equality in the OECD survey, the key rationale cited for dedicating these vehicles to gender equality was the high potential for return enhancement. Vehicles dedicated to gender equality were mainly used in agriculture, education, and banking and financial services, and grants were the dominant financial instrument.6 Vehicles dedicated to gender equality reported no challenges to their approach to gender equality. However, vehicles integrating gender equality as a mainstreamed objective noted resource constraints linked to gender equality, and lack of awareness and availability of data on the issue, as obstacles to integrating gender equality (OECD, Forthcoming 2021[15]).

As investors of blended finance, DAC members should assert their influence and ensure that gender equality is addressed, in line with their policy commitment to gender equality. When working with private sector partners, DAC members can ensure investments are managed appropriately for gender equality and development impact.

Multilateral and regional development banks and development finance institutions play a critical role in blending by deploying instruments and structuring mechanisms to mobilise the private sector.7 Multilateral development banks provide large shares of private sector investments through private sector operations. However, a wider range of diverse actors is engaging in blended finance, from foundations and philanthropic investors, to commercial actors, including institutional investors, commercial banks, private equity and venture capital funds, hedge funds, as well as corporations and SMEs (OECD, Forthcoming 2021[15]). Many DAC member ministries and agencies already collaborate with banks and development finance institutions (DFI). Bilateral DFIs are usually majority-owned by the national government and source their capital from development funds or benefit from government guarantees, enabling them to raise money on international capital markets and provide financing on competitive terms (OECD, 2021[16]).

Several examples show how DAC governments have provided impetus for a stronger focus on gender equality by their bilateral DFI, including by:

  • defining gender equality as a policy objective when participating in blended finance vehicles

  • granting loans with the explicit objective of investing in projects that promote gender equality

  • issuing policy directives requesting that new investments explore the role of women and impact on gender equality.

DAC members undertake similar partnerships with multilateral DFIs and development banks.

In partnering with business, commercial investments can be used to support gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in two broad ways: through investment in companies offering services or products that significantly benefit women, such as dedicated loans or affordable maternal health care, and also through investment in companies led by women, or companies that support women employees and/or women’s leadership through internal actions and policies (FSD Africa and UN Women, 2020[17]).

Initiatives such as the “2X Challenge”, founded by the DFIs of the G7 member countries,8 and the “DFI Gender Finance Collaborative”9 has provided significant impetus for DFIs to develop shared financing principles, definitions and methodologies for providing women in developing country markets with improved access to support, leadership opportunities, finance, and products and services that enhance economic participation and access.

A bond is an instrument that represents a loan made by an investor (“purchaser”) to a borrower (“issuer”). Development impact bonds (DIBs) finance development programmes with funding from private investors, who earn a return if the programme is successful. Green, social and sustainability bonds have gained traction over the past few years in developed markets, given their potential to bridge the SDG financing gap. Their use is limited in developing countries. Bonds allow issuers to diversify their sources of funding and provide an alternative to conventional financing, which can often be more expensive (OECD, 2021[18]).

DAC members can make use of bonds to help create incentives and channel private capital towards gender equality goals.

“Gender bonds” can be broadly defined as bonds that support the advancement, empowerment and equality of women, although no official definition exists, and credible reference standards are lacking (FSD Africa and UN Women, 2020[17]). So far, the number of investors in gender bonds has been limited.

Despite the modest size of the gender bond market globally, there is reason for optimism (Gouett, 2021[19]). Issuers can identify gender equality as the sole objective of a bond, or alongside other objectives in a broader social bond, or alongside green objectives in a sustainability bond. Gender bonds have been issued by financial institutions to fund ongoing loan portfolios that are intended for women entrepreneurs. Gender bonds could, however, also be issued by a public sector issuer that intends to direct all the proceeds towards a country’s national strategy or action plan for gender equality (ICMA, UN Women, IFC, 2021[20]). Education may be another sector of interest for gender bonds (Osborne and Gustafsson-Wright, 2020[21]).

Opportunities exist for DAC members to provide incentives such as guarantees for gender bonds, and also to provide incentives for a gender equality focus of bonds in other thematic areas, including green bonds.

DAC members can provide guidance and technical assistance for investors and financing actors to integrate gender equality throughout development and climate investments, and at the very least, “do no harm” to gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. This can imply undertaking research and providing support for commercial actors and private investors who may not have access to gender equality expertise.

This work can be facilitated by the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs), which offer businesses guidance on how to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in the workplace, marketplace and community. Established by UN Global Compact and UN Women, the WEPs are informed by international labour and human rights standards and grounded in the recognition that businesses have a stake in, and a responsibility for, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. The principles focus on: High-Level Corporate Leadership; Treat All Women and Men Fairly at Work without Discrimination; Employee Health, Well-Being and Safety; Education and Training for Career Advancement; Enterprise Development, Supply Chain and Marketing Practices; Community Initiatives and Advocacy; and Measurement and Reporting (UN Global Compact and UN Women, 2021[23]).

Guidance and support in financing for gender equality also involves encouraging transparency and accountability through financial and results reporting. DAC members can engage with investors on the types of gender equality objectives the investments are aiming to achieve, and they can identify opportunities for supporting transformative change to achieve gender equality.

DAC members can provide specific incentives for investors and financing actors to integrate gender equality throughout development and climate investments, such as offering loans with the explicit objective of investing in projects that promote gender equality.

The 2X Collaborative is an industry body that evolved out of the 2X Challenge and DFI Gender Finance Collaborative. Bringing together the entire spectrum of investors to promote gender-lens investing, it may prove helpful for capacity building amongst investors. The group facilitates peer learning across communities, to train and expand gender-lens investing practices to a wider group of commercial investors, including DFIs, Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs), pension funds, asset managers, fund managers, financial institutions, public development banks and corporate institutions.

It is possible to monitor the level of development finance for gender equality by applying the DAC gender equality policy marker to financial flows beyond ODA.

DAC members should aim to screen all their “other official flows” (OOF) against the marker and report these data to the OECD where feasible.10

It is positive that a number of private foundations and some development banks and DFIs already use the marker. Members of the 2X Challenge – a group of DFIs founded by the DFIs members of the G7 – are aligning their gender-lens investing criteria11 to those of the DAC gender marker. While reporting on the extent to which these “other” finance flows, beyond ODA, address gender equality remains a voluntary exercise, reporting will help increase the ability to both find existing gaps in financing, and create a more holistic picture of the financing landscape with regard to gender equality (OECD, 2021[24]).

Recent evidence indicates that there is little standardisation of reporting among the major DFIs in terms of project rationale, funding instrument or environmental, social and governance safeguards category (Publish What You Fund, 2021[25]). Likewise, evidence highlights that “transparency on impact performance, including targets and results” remains one of the most significant challenges in the impact investing field (GIIN, 2020[26]). There can be some difficulty linked to collecting data and measuring gender equality results in the context of finance “beyond ODA”, due to the nature and structure of these funds. However, higher levels of transparency are fundamental to ensuring that development actors and their private sector partners provide the levels of accountability necessary for development partners, and improving overall development and gender equality results through sharing and learning from previous investments.

Guarantees are financial instruments similar to an insurance policy, which provide financial compensation for the financier if the borrower is not able to pay back. This makes financing of the development projects less risky for investors (Sida, 2020[28]). DAC members might for example propose higher guarantee coverage – taking on more of the risk – when investing in companies that support women or offer services and products that benefit women.

According to OECD data on private finance raised for development, guarantees have raised the largest amount of private finance in recent years. They are rarely used, however, in blended finance vehicles dedicated to or integrating gender equality, indicating potential for scaling up (OECD, Forthcoming 2021[15]).

DAC members can play an instrumental role in supporting partner country businesses and governments in mobilising finance for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls and in becoming “investment ready”.

The private sector in developing countries is a source of employment and growth, with potential for positive effects on the situation for women. However, it can also risk undermining the potential for greater gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Given the high level of uncertainty and risk associated with developing markets, it is often challenging for entrepreneurs in general, and women entrepreneurs in particular, to access credit or investments (Sida, 2021[29]).

DAC members can play a role in supporting capacity building and mentoring of the private sector in partner countries:

  • for businesses overall to help them meet some or several of the most common gender-lens investing criteria/standards, including but not limited to the share of women in the workforce and the quality of women’s jobs, the share of women in senior management, and human resource and harassment policies

  • for women entrepreneurs and women-led businesses and projects in developing countries to strengthen their financial viability and practices, as well as their lending capacity to help them become “investment ready”.12

DAC members can also play a role in supporting partner country governments and markets in mobilising finance, including by:

  • improving investment environments, including by helping to build capacity of local financial institutions and develop capital markets, to better benefit women. If partner governments are to issue gender bonds and attract private finance, for example, an adequate regulatory framework is needed. Partner governments overall have yet to participate in the gender bond market

  • working with ministries of finance and economy to increase governments’ capacity in gender-responsive public financial management and budgeting. This includes expanded use of ex ante gender-impact assessments, gender budget tagging, gender budget statements and gender budget audits.


[14] 2X Collaborative (2021), The Gender-Smart Climate Finance Guide, https://www.2xcollaborative.org/what-is-gender-smart-finance-investing.

[27] DfID (2020), Work and Opportunities for Women, DfID, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/869561/Programme-Overview-March2020.pdf (accessed on 26 April 2022).

[4] European Commission (2020), Evaluation of the EU’s external action support to gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment (2010-2018) Final Report, https://ec.europa.eu/international-partnerships/system/files/gender-evaluation-2020-final-report-volume-1_en.pdf.

[17] FSD Africa and UN Women (2020), Viability of Gender Bonds in SSA: A Landscape Analysis and Feasibility Assessment, https://www.fsdafrica.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/20-09-22-Gender-Bonds-Report_AK.pdf (accessed on 18 May 2021).

[26] GIIN (2020), “2020 Annual Impact Investor Survey”, Global Impact Investing Network, https://thegiin.org/research/publication/impinv-survey-2020.

[12] GIIN (n.d.), Gender Lens Investing Overview, Global Impact Investing Network, https://thegiin.org/gender-lens-investing-initiative#:~:text=Gender%20Lens%20Investing%20Overview,and%20better%20inform%20investment%20decisions. (accessed on 27 May 2021).

[19] Gouett, M. (2021), Furthering Gender Equality Through Gender Bonds, Malaysian Finance Sustainable Initiative and Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office, https://www.iisd.org/system/files/2021-03/equality-gender-bonds.pdf (accessed on 27 May 2021).

[20] ICMA, UN Women, IFC (2021), Bonds to Bridge the Gender Gap: A Practitioner’s Guide to Using Sustainable Debt for Gender Equality, https://www.ifc.org/wps/wcm/connect/05aca7eb-6e85-4296-8b27-f8c75c7107d4/Bonds+to+Bridge+the+Gender+Gap.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CVID=nQl1OB1.

[2] OECD (2022), Creditor Reporting System (CRS), OECD International Development Statistics (database), https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=crs1 (accessed on 28 April 2022).

[3] OECD (2021), Development finance for gender equality and women’s empowerment, https://www.oecd.org/dac/financing-sustainable-development/development-finance-topics/development-finance-for-gender-equality-and-women-s-empowerment.htm.

[24] OECD (2021), Development finance for gender equality and women’s empowerment: A 2021 snapshot, OECD Development Assistance Committee, http://www.oecd.org/development/gender-development/Development-finance-for-gender-equality-2021.pdf.

[16] OECD (2021), Development finance institutions and private sector development, https://www.oecd.org/development/development-finance-institutions-private-sector-development.htm.

[18] OECD (2021), Scaling up green, social, sustainability and sustainability-linked bonds issuances in developing countries, https://www.oecd.org/dac/financing-sustainable-development/blended-finance-principles/documents/scaling-up-green-social-sustainability-sustainability-linked-bond-issuances-developing-countries.pdf.

[1] OECD (2020), DAC Converged Statistical Reporting Directives, https://www.oecd.org/dac/financing-sustainable-development/development-finance-standards/.

[9] OECD (2020), Development Assistance Committee Members and Civil Society, The Development Dimension, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/51eb6df1-en.

[8] OECD (2020), Multilateral Development Finance 2020, https://doi.org/10.1787/e61fdf00-en.

[13] OECD (2020), “Putting finance to work for gender equality and women’s empowerment: The way forward”, OECD Development Policy Papers, No. 25, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/f0fa4d91-en.

[30] OECD (2020), Twentieth Anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325: Financing gender equality and women’s empowerment in fragile contexts, OECD Development Assistance Committee, https://www.oecd.org/development/gender-development/OECD-Gendernet-Financing-UNSCR.pdf.

[10] OECD (2016), 2015 OECD Recommendation of the Council on Gender Equality in Public Life, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264252820-en.

[5] OECD (2016), Handbook on the OECD-DAC Gender Equality Policy Marker, OECD Publishing, https://www.oecd.org/dac/gender-development/Handbook-OECD-DAC-Gender-Equality-Policy-Marker.pdf.

[15] OECD (Forthcoming 2021), Blended Finance for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment.

[7] OECD (n.d.), DAC and CRS code lists, https://www.oecd.org/dac/financing-sustainable-development/development-finance-standards/dacandcrscodelists.htm.

[6] OECD DAC Working Party on Development Finance Statistics (2020), Assessing the policy objectives of development co-operation activities: Review of the reporting status, use and relevance of Rio and policy markers, OECD Development Assistance Committee, https://www.oecd.org/officialdocuments/publicdisplaydocumentpdf/?cote=DCD/DAC/STAT(2020)27&docLanguage=En.

[21] Osborne, S. and E. Gustafsson-Wright (2020), Brookings, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/education-plus-development/2020/12/17/the-worlds-largest-education-impact-bond-delivers-on-results-midway-through-the-program/.

[25] Publish What You Fund (2021), ESG and Accountability to Communities, Publish What You Fund, The Global Campaign for Aid and Development Transparency, https://www.publishwhatyoufund.org/projects/dfi-transparency-initiative/3-esg-accountability-to-communities/.

[29] Sida (2021), Challenge Funds, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, https://www.sida.se/en/for-partners/private-sector/challenge-funds (accessed on 27 May 2021).

[28] Sida (2020), Sida’s guarantee instrument, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, https://www.sida.se/en/for-partners/private-sector/sidas-guarantee-instrument (accessed on 20 May 2021).

[23] UN Global Compact and UN Women (2021), Women’s Empowerment Principles - A Snapshot of 350 Companies in G7 Countries, http://www.weps.org.

[11] VERIS Wealth Partners (2018), Gender Lens Investing: Bending the Act of Finance for Women and Girls, https://www.veriswp.com/research/gli-bending-arc-of-finance-women (accessed on 20 May 2021).

[22] We-Fi (2020), We persist rebuild empower finance 2020 Annual report, http://www.we-fi.org (accessed on 21 April 2022).

For all data on ODA and bilateral allocable aid for gender equality, see the OECD DAC Creditor Reporting System database: https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=crs1.

Handbook on the OECD-DAC Gender Equality Policy Marker, OECD 2016, https://www.oecd.org/dac/gender-development/Handbook-OECD-DAC-Gender equality -Policy-Marker.pdf.

While there is no dedicated “women’s economic empowerment” sector in the OECD CRS system, the OECD has traditionally monitored aid integrating gender equality objectives in the economic and productive sectors as a proxy measure for aid to women’s economic empowerment, picking up on a range of areas from agriculture and transport to business and banking. Similarly, aid for “women, peace and security” is monitored through the shares of aid integrating gender equality in fragile contexts, and/or the share of aid integrating gender equality in the sector of conflict, peace and security (OECD, 2020[30]) (see: https://www.oecd.org/dac/financing-sustainable-development/development-finance-topics/development-finance-for-gender-equality-and-women-s-empowerment.htm).

The code “Women’s rights organisations and feminist movements” (CRS purpose code 15170) tracks “Support for feminist, women-led and women’s rights organisations and movements, and institutions (governmental and non-governmental) at all levels to enhance their effectiveness, influence and sustainability (activities and core funding). These organisations exist to bring about transformative change for gender equality and/or the rights of women and girls in partner countries. Their activities include agenda-setting, advocacy, policy dialogue, capacity development, awareness raising and prevention, service provision, conflict prevention and peacebuilding, research, organising, and alliance and network building.” As with all financing data reported to the CRS, it is possible to cross-reference the data reported under this code with CRS “channel codes”, in order to identify how much aid is provided by DAC members directly to local grassroots organisations and feminist movements in partner countries, without any intermediaries. This definition of the code was applied by DAC members starting from 2020 on 2019 flows.

The code “Ending violence against women and girls” (purpose code 15180) tracks “Support to programmes designed to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls/gender-based violence. This encompasses a broad range of forms of physical, sexual and psychological violence, including but not limited to: intimate partner violence (domestic violence); sexual violence; female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C); child, early and forced marriage; acid throwing; honour killings; and trafficking of women and girls. Prevention activities may include efforts to empower women and girls; change attitudes, norms and behaviour; adopt and enact legal reforms; and strengthen implementation of laws and policies on ending gender-based violence, including through strengthening institutional capacity. Interventions to respond to violence against women and girls/gender-based violence may include expanding access to services including legal assistance, psychosocial counselling and health care; training personnel to respond more effectively to the needs of survivors; and ensuring investigation, prosecution and punishment of perpetrators of violence”. This code was applied by DAC members starting from 2017 on 2016 flows, allowing for accountability to deliver on and achieve SDG5 targets 5.2, “eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls”, and 5.3, including “eliminating all harmful practices such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation”.

DAC members are increasingly aiming to address inequalities that intersect with gender (see Section 1.3) and there is some scope to monitor aid aimed to reduce these inequalities. The CRS includes a DAC policy marker focused on the inclusion and empowerment of persons with disabilities. This marker has the same scoring system as the gender equality policy marker, distinguishing between programmes/projects that have disability inclusion as the dedicated or “principal” objective (score 2), and programmes/projects with an integrated or “significant” objective (score 1). It is possible to cross the disability inclusion marker with the gender equality marker in order to identify aid that addresses the intersecting inequalities of gender and disability.

The CRS sector code focused on “Human rights” (CRS purpose code 15160) tracks aid for “Human rights programming targeting specific groups, e.g. children, persons with disabilities, migrants, ethnic, religious, linguistic and sexual minorities, indigenous people and those suffering from caste discrimination”. Applying the gender marker to programmes/projects reported under this code makes it possible to identify aid that addresses the intersecting inequalities of gender and disadvantaged groups, such as ethnic and sexual minorities (OECD, n.d.[7]).

In addition, the purpose code “Emergency Response – Basic Health Care Services in Emergencies” (CRS purpose code 72011) includes the provision of basic health services, mental health, and sexual and reproductive health.

For more information about development finance instruments, see: https://www.oecd.org/dac/financing-sustainable-development.

A map of the Gender Finance Ecosystem, sponsored by the Tara Health Foundation and led by Catalyst at Large, can be found here: https://nexial.co/maps/gf.

Gender Lens Investing: Bending the Arc of Finance for Women & Girls: https://www.veriswp.com/thoughtleadership/gli-bending-arc-of-finance-women/.

The Women’s Empowerment Principles: https://weps-gapanalysis.org.

Gender-lens investing criteria as defined by the DFIs in the 2X Challenge: https://www.2xchallenge.org/criteria.

Resources on funding the concessionary part of a blended capital vehicle:

About gender bonds in sub-Saharan Africa, see: https://www.fsdafrica.org/publication/viability-of-gender-bonds-in-sub-saharan-africa and watch the webinar here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqrXfvTI8Iw.


← 1. See the DAC and CRS code list: https://www.oecd.org/dac/financing-sustainable-development/development-finance-standards/dacandcrscodelists.htm.

← 2. Reporting on the DAC gender marker is possible, but voluntary, for non-DAC development finance providers and for non-ODA financial flows. The DAC marker is used beyond the DAC. For example, the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) uses the methodology of the DAC marker in its data collection.

← 3. Twelve of the 21 survey respondents noted that a gender expert is involved in verifying or providing quality control of the DAC gender equality policy marker scoring process, either at the design or review phase. This is more than in the 2013 GENDERNET study, when gender equality experts were involved in applying or reviewing scores in only one-third of responding DAC members.

← 4. DAC members that had financial targets for gender equality at the time of the GENDERNET survey were: Austria, with 42.5% of funds channeled by the Austrian development co-operation in Africa to score 2 (principal) against the marker; Canada, with 80% for score (significant) and 15% for score 2; the European Union (EU), with 85% of new initiatives to score 1 or 2 (including both ODA and blending operations and guarantees by – 2025); France, with 75% of programmable aid to score 1 or 2, and 20% to score 2 by 2025, with the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), France’s development agency, aiming for EUR 600 million to score 2 in the 2020-2022 period; Italy, with 10% of score 2 and the remaining ODA allocated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation Agency for Development Co-operation (MFA/AICS) as score 1; Japan, with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) aiming for 40% of aid to score 1 or 2; Korea (the Korea International Co-operation Agency) intends to double the number of projects that score 1 or 2; Slovenia, with 60% to score 1 or 2 by 2030; Switzerland, with a total of 85% of which at least 8% score 2.

← 5. Thirteen DAC members reported that they used financing tools for gender equality and women’s empowerment beyond ODA, such as partnerships with private companies and multilateral development banks and blended finance instruments.

← 6. DAC members providing capital to blended finance vehicles devoted to gender equality that responded to the 2020 OECD blended finance survey include the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Sweden.

← 7. Seventeen DAC members identified multilateral organisations as the main or one of the main modalities for funding gender equality programming. This included funding for dedicated gender equality projects, as well as core funding accompanied by regular policy dialogue to influence the multilateral organisation to address gender inequalities in line with their commitments.

← 8. See more https://www.2xchallenge.org.

← 9. See more https://www.cdcgroup.com/en/news-insight/news/development-finance-institution-gender-finance-collaborative/ .

← 10. OOF are defined as official sector transactions that do not meet ODA criteria. OOF include: grants to developing countries for representational or essentially commercial purposes; official bilateral transactions intended to promote development, but not reaching the minimum grant element for a given recipient; and, official bilateral transactions, whatever their grant element, that are primarily export-facilitating in purpose. This category includes, by definition: export credits extended directly to an aid partner by an official agency or institution (official direct export credits); the net acquisition by governments and central monetary institutions of securities issued by multilateral development banks at market terms; subsidies (grants) to the private sector to soften its credits to developing countries; and funds in support of private investment.

← 11. The 2X Challenge’s gender-lens investing criteria focus on businesses founded or owned by women, women in leadership, women in the workforce, products or services benefitting women, and includes applying these criteria when investing through intermediaries.

← 12. The International Trade Centre’s “SheTrades” initiative is an example of a set-up that offers a network and platform supporting the participation of women-owned businesses in international trade (https://www.shetrades.com/en).

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