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Remarks by Dr. Judith Rodin on the Launch of “On Norms and Agency”

I’m thrilled to welcome you to the Rockefeller Foundation for the official launch of the World Bank’s groundbreaking book, “On Norms and Agency.”

Thank all of you for joining us. A special thank you to Rachel Kyte – whom you’ll hear from in just a moment – for being such an incredible champion for gender equality and women’s leadership at the World Bank. We are grateful for your leadership.

I would also like to thank Jeni Klugman and Naila Kabeer for taking the time to share their thoughts with us today.

I’ll talk more in a moment about why the Rockefeller Foundation was so excited to be a part of this book, and what I believe the findings mean for our own work to advance the well-being of humanity around the world, the mission of the Rockefeller Foundation, unchanged since 1913.

As you may have noticed on your way in, we are celebrating our centennial this year – 100 years of innovation.

Through our funding, women have played a critical role in inspiring and incubating some groundbreaking breakthroughs, from the nurses on the frontlines of halting disease epidemics, such as yellow fever and hookworm, to the smallholder farmers on the frontlines of the Green Revolution that fed a billion people, to a woman named Jane Jacobs who changed the way we think about cities and altered the course of urban planning.

But it wasn’t until the 1980s that the Rockefeller Foundation began to make the implicit more explicit and formalize our organizational commitment to gender as a key pillar of our strategy.

In 1984, then-President Richard W. Lyman wrote a thoughtful message regarding the Foundation’s evolving thinking. It was the first such statement to come from the highest level of the organization. He wrote:

“The Rockefeller Foundation does not pretend to be neutral on the questions of gender role or the exploitation and oppression of women.  What we do seek is to operate on the basis of knowledge rather than stereotypes.”

As the first female president of the Rockefeller Foundation, I take some measure of pride in these words. This was before the United Nations proclaimed the full participation of women a key part of the development agenda, before then-First Lady Hillary Clinton declared women’s rights, human rights.

But I also know how much more there is to do to go beyond words to put this knowledge into action.

True — we have seen enormous gains for women in the years since these words were written. Today, women represent 40 percent of the global workforce. They are living longer than men. The education gap is tightening. And thanks to the leadership of organizations like the World Bank, there is a shared view in development, as well as in philanthropy, of gender equality as more than just a human right, but as an economic and development imperative.

But despite these gains, it’s no secret that grinding disparities persist. Women do two-thirds of all the work, yet earn only 10 percent of the income. They harvest more than half of the world’s food, yet own only 1 percent of the world’s land. 1 in 3 women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex or abused – often by someone she knows.

At the Rockefeller Foundation, we believe that infusing an explicit focus on gender in all our work is a key contributor to achieving our dual visions of advancing more equitable growth and building greater resilience against the shocks and disruptions of our dynamic, fast-paced world.

To help identify the still-present root causes of gender inequalities, the Rockefeller Foundation was pleased to support the development of “On Norms and Agency” – the largest qualitative data set ever collected on the topic of gender and development.

The book revealed fascinating, pervasive, universal patterns that drive acute inequalities, as well as pathways to greater change.

And while we’ve implicitly understood the strong connection between gender norms and gender inequalities, it is clear that unless we make these connections explicit, both within our organizations and outside of our walls, we will never produce fully workable, equitable solutions to many of the world’s most pressing problems.

I see the role of philanthropy and development as two-fold: first, to shine a light on how gender norms impede progress; and second, to help provide both men and women with the tools to negotiate those gender norms in order to achieve better social outcomes.

On the first point, the Foundation made a strategic investment in support of Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s Half the Sky Movement, a multi-media platform to end the oppression of women and girls worldwide. The PBS series attracted 5 million viewers, making it one of the most highly-rated programs of 2012.

We are also supporting a Facebook platform, officially launched yesterday, that triggers corresponding charitable action and cell-phone based games to address maternal and children’s health, girl’s education, and gender norms for distribution in India, Kenya, and Tanzania.

But building greater awareness to gender inequalities, and the norms that underpin them, is only half the battle – we must also be sure these tenets are explicitly ingrained in our strategy and our individual grantmaking.

For us at the Rockefeller Foundation, that means evaluating the causes of gender disparities in a particular domain and then integrating this knowledge at the earliest stages of our developing work.

For example, we just completed a preliminary exploration of how the Rockefeller Foundation may engage on the pressing issues surrounding the degradation of marine ecosystems and the livelihoods that depend on them. As we move our work forward, one of the questions we’re grappling with is how we can best address the social norms and gender disparities that exist throughout the fisheries marketing chain to ensure more sustainable livelihoods for women. Part of that will mean understanding the social norms within each community and how they reinforce these inequalities.

Another example is our work to secure the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Africa,

While women make up the majority of subsistence farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, they have less access to land, credit, or technology.

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa – AGRA – which the Rockefeller foundation established in partnership with the Gates Foundation in 2006 to help secure the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, recognizes the importance of equally addressing the needs of women farmers and male producers. Its strategy includes gender advocacy, workshops and trainings on gender disparities, and mechanisms to remove the barriers women small holder farmers often face across the agriculture value chain.

There is also good work being done in the area of climate resilience.

At the climate change negotiations in Doha in December of last year, we were proud to support the effort launched by Mary Robinson to seek gender balance in the climate negotiations and in all bodies established by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. We are also supporting the secretariat to launch a “Women for Results” pillar of their Momentum for Change initiative to showcase replicable, scalable, innovative models of leadership and participation of women in addressing climate change.

The UN will open a call for applications on March 8. I encourage you to visit our website for details and a link for submission.

I am also pleased to announce that just last week we announced our support for WEConnect International’s work to make it easier for buyers to find self-registered and certified women’s business enterprises in key emerging markets.

Because, in addition to integrating gender as a key strategy in our own work, we believe in helping women access the tools to be their own champions for change.

To that end, the Rockefeller Foundation supports the Earth Island Institute’s Climate Wise Women program – a group of women who travel the globe speaking on behalf of women who live with the impacts of climate change every day. Through their own stories, they connect the dots between climate, environmental justice and gender equality and put a face to a pressing global challenge.

Because just as women need the tools of development, development needs women. Women are the original innovators – given the adversity we’ve faced, we’ve had no other choice.

Now, imagine if we took adversity out of the equation…if we stopped viewing gender norms as a barrier to progress but as critical piece of understanding for designing our interventions.

And imagine if we applied that understanding to help women find the space to bring their innovations to their full potential, and provide the tools for women to be agents for transformative change….

That is the opportunity that stands before us today.

Our ability to embrace it will define our world for the next century.

And it’s a privilege to do this work alongside each of you.

Now it’s my pleasure to introduce Rachel Kyte, Vice President of Sustainable Development at the World Bank, to share with you some of the most important findings of this book and to help us chart a way forward.

Bio
Judith Rodin

Judith Rodin

Judith Rodin is a pioneer, innovator, change-maker and global thought-leader. Read Full Bio

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