\J UNITED STATES GOVERNMEtf
DATE: April 23,1979 memorandum
ATTNOF: Kathleen A. Staudt
SUrJECT: World Bank Workshop on Women & Basic Needs
TO: Arvonne Fraser
On April 16th, I got myself invited to a Workshop on Women and Basic Needs
sponsored by the Policy Planning and Program Review Department of the World
Bank. The twenty participants were weighted in favor of World Bank economists
(one woman among them, Frances Stewart); Gloria Scott was also there. Outside
participants were a high powered group, including Mary Hollensteiner;NhsUaiE VICAR~
Goodwillie, Achola Pala, Judith Bruce, Emmy Simmons, Peg Snyder, and Sally ?tl-
Yudd.man. t ~-
In the last two years, the World Bank has belatedly discovered Basic Needs,
and recently, that women are vehicles to realizing Basic Needs. In computer
calculations, the "women's education" variable stands out sharply in high
"Basic Needs performance" in, for example, lowered infant mortality rates,
higher life expentancy, etc. (The content of education, marketability,
employability, and use of education for women's income-earning skills go
To digress for a moment, Basic Needs is sometimes associated with the
unfortunate terms "welfaristp' "service" strategy, whereas investment in
sectors with high immediate returns is termed a "productive" strategy.
AID, using Basic Needs rhetoric for about four years, seems to integrate
the strategies, seeing Basic Needs as a means to realize increased productivity.
My impression from this meeting was that Basic Needs is a definite minority
position within the bank. Moreover, loan criteria include the ability to,
recover loans and the avoidance of recurrent costs--factors setting
institutional procedures against this approach.
Unlike AID, the World Bank cannot press policy mandates upon clients
such as WID, environment, or equity. Theoretically, the bank is to
respond to member initiatives, and no formal accountable body exists to
press institutional mandates upon loan recipients. Sympathetic staff can
articulate concerns in information fed to top board members with the
authority to make lcan decisions, though this is a haphazard and temporary
strategy for penetrating an issue into institutional practices. Informally,
at top level negotiations with member countries, Basic Needs or WID could
become a leverage point in bargaining and discussion; this too depends
on individual commitments and sentiments. Thus, whether WID can ever
percolate the World Bank is a big question. Of course, the economic
criteria for loans recoverabilityy; no funding of recurrent costs) are
implicit policy and political criteria--explaining the bank's image
as the capitalist-fostering institution, par excellence.
Buy U.S. Savings Bonds Regularly on the Payroll Savings Plan OPTIONAL FORM NO. 10
GSA FPMR (41 CFR) 101-P. t
Nevertheless, as a vehicle to vocalize women in development, Basic Needs
rumblings within the Bank are commendable. The publicly stated purpose
of the meeting was to gather information, citations, research findings,
etc., with the ultimate aim of staff writing a paper ("a paper to end all
papers" as one put it). Our workshop input may fit into later bank research
efforts on Basic Needs. What was remarkable was how little World Bank
economists knew of the research and critical issues in women in development.
Their initial line of defense was that "nothing was available," or "it was
all soft" (another reason why it's so critical to fund respectable, credible
research, because it must penetrate the gates of gatekeepers like these).
In their initial presentation, the economic models used to describe Basic
Needs all relied heavily on the household as the vehicle for meeting basic
needs. Responding to those models, the morning workshop was spent describing:
-intra-household disparities in work, responsibilities, income,
use of income, and the existence of a "women's economy" and "men's
economy'' the special situation of the female headed household;
-regional variation in the above (sub-saharan Africa is the classic
example of separateness within households);
-ties beyond the household which meet basic needs, such as kin
groups and organizations.
Thus, the morning was spent raising critical questions about whether the
household is the uniform vehicle for meeting basic needs.
The afternoon was spent discussing whether women should be a "targeted
population." We also spent considerable time sharing project ideas.
Most ideas revolved around income-earning, participatory projects aimed
at increasing women's productivity, rather than service-oriented projects%.
Outside participants were wary of heavy-handed control oriented target
population strategies which too easily end in simply making jobs for
bureaucrats. In questions that came up in this discussion, there
appears to be no monitoring of existing program reviews, research,
or guidance manuals within the bank.
The meeting concluded with people impressing upon the economists to use
bank leverage to raise equity questions in top level negotiations. There
appears to be little interaction between bank types and any but top
level people. As one economist put it, "I met a farmer once, or at
least he said he was a farmer." (He wasn't joking.) Those persons
who raise questions in third world countries--most countries of which
are fairly authoritarian--are branded troublemakers, even jailed. If
the bank, however, raises questions and/or reinforces local critics,
this would lend considerable legitimacy to remarks and enable local
people to play a stronger role. Bank economists hesitate on this,
seemingly seeing any attention to women or sex equity as "social
engineering" (though other development strategies, ironically, are not.)