Gender Action tracks how the World Bank and IMF affect women and children

November 1, 2011

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(AP/Bullit Marquez)
World Bank President Robert Zoellick listens to residents’ concerns in a slum community outside Manila, Philippines.

Over the last sixty years, international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have doled out more than one trillion dollars in loans. Much of this money has gone to poor countries to fund large-scale infrastructure projects, from transportation to access to electricity and water.

But these ambitious projects can have unforeseen consequences. By burdening poor countries with gargantuan debt, they sometimes do more harm than good. And, critics say, the human dimension to these projects is often miscalculated. For example, World Bank-funded pipelines have displaced tens of thousands of impoverished people in places like West Africa and Central Asia.

While working as an economist at the World Bank, Elaine Zuckerman started to think that the needs of women and children were being overlooked by these massive, taxpayer-backed financial institutions. In 2002, she founded Gender Action, a watchdog group that monitors how the practices of the World Bank, IMF and other organizations affect women. It's one of the only organizations of its kind in the world.

On today's show, we talk to Elaine about how international financial institutions may be contributing to gender inequality.