How sustainable infrastructure contributes to gender mainstreaming in South Africa

Sustainable infrastructure plays a key role in economic development. It has a domino effect, affecting job creation, and opens up access to goods and services as well as other necessary resources. It also promotes a positive impact on the environment and improves the distribution of funds. In addition to these benefits of sustainable infrastructure, there’s also the impact on gender mainstreaming

What is sustainable infrastructure? 

In layman's terms, sustainable infrastructure refers to the development of roads, buildings, technology, energy, water and other infrastructure in a manner which ensures a long-lasting impact. It facilitates economic, environmental and social benefits for our communities. 

What is gender mainstreaming?

Gender mainstreaming; however, is a strategy aimed at creating gender equality. This is done by creating preparation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation policies, with the intention of realising equality for all genders. It also includes the integration of gender perspective in legislation, and programmes in all economic, political and social structures. 

The state of gender equality in South Africa is progressively slow. It requires aggressive approaches to push it where it needs to be. That’s why gender mainstreaming is a priority in South Africa. It ensures that men and women are exposed to the same opportunities in life. 

Where do gender equality and infrastructure meet?

Sustainable infrastructure promotes a positive economic environment, which accelerates the availability of opportunities. Essentially, it drives change, improves lives and contributes to women empowerment. 

By focusing on the importance of gender mainstreaming, we ensure that business opportunities are distributed equally to men and women. That’s how the process of gender equality begins, with the potential to grow and meet the desired goal.

DBSA’s gender mainstreaming programme

As one of the leading development finance institutions, the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) is responsible for procuring funds to finance large scale infrastructure. 

With the focus on four specific sectors; energy, information and communication technology, transport as well as water and sanitation. Our gender mainstreaming programme is aimed at facilitating infrastructure projects for women-owned or women-led businesses in these sectors. The programme focuses on these following pillars:

  • Promoting investments in women-owned projects. 
  • Adapting strategies, policies and procedures to enable gender mainstreaming across the Bank.
  • Providing capacity building and knowledge sharing. 
  • Building partnerships with public and private partners who share our vision for gender equality.

We have determined that women-owned or women-led businesses operate in smaller projects at lower quantum. This is why the Bank’s cross-functional teams have been working on redefining our lending and technical assistance processes to include smaller projects. This initiative is aligned to our transition into a development impact and social change focus.

We’ve developed strategies, policies and procedures, which adhere to governance and oversight principles. And, these are all implemented to ensure that the Bank works efficiently. It also means that we work with a clear objective of financing infrastructure and embedding sustainable development in projects aimed at women-led businesses. 

Currently, the policies and procedures are designed in a gender-neutral manner. Because of this, we’ve created a strategy where our teams will examine the relevant policies and procedures. 

This is done to ensure that women-owned businesses have an opportunity to enter our value-chain and obtain finance and technical support from us. The Board supports gender mainstreaming across the DBSA’s value-chain. This has ensured our commitment to adopting the strategies to meet all gender equality requirements within our space. 

DBSA partnerships in gender mainstreaming

In addition to the above, we have partnered with the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) to obtain funds to develop women service providers within the infrastructure value-chain. 

Our unique project will ensure that women engineers, quantity surveyors, lawyers, and architects will have access to municipal projects financed through the Bank. 

All of this work in gender mainstreaming is also possible through our partnerships with various organisations such as the African Development Bank, Global Climate Fund (GCF) and the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), among others.

Final thoughts

Sustainable infrastructure development factors can influence change in the distribution of opportunities and promote gender equality. Overall, the role of gender equality in development projects is significant in breaking down the barriers for women. And that is a big part of why the Bank is making financing women-owned projects a priority going forward. 

As of now, our immediate short-term goal is to ensure that our initiatives will bring women-owned businesses into the infrastructure value chain, as well as to achieve success in all lifecycle stages; the preparation, developmental, monitoring and maintenance.