The Belgian Development Cooperation regards gender equality as a matter of fundamental human rights and of social justice, and integrates it as a transversal topic in its policies, strategies and actions.


The mission of BIO is to contribute to sustainable human development in its countries of intervention by supporting the private sector via direct and indirect investments to develop targeted enterprises. BIO’s Theory of Change integrates the Sustainable Development Goals (“SDGs”) and deliberately focuses on SDG5 (Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls), and SDG10 (Reduce inequality within and among countries, among other priority objectives).

The Gender Strategy

This document aims to present the main challenges that women and girls face around the world divided into five categories: women as users & consumers, as workers, leaders, entrepreneurs and as stakeholders. This approach allows BIO to wear a gender lens to examine the challenges women face in these different roles and the potential impact of BIO’s activities on gender equality. In addition, this document looks into what BIO has been doing until now on the topic, assesses the challenges and opportunities, and proposes an action plan to support and promote gender equality.

Gender & Infrastructure

The link between infrastructure projects and gender is not always obvious and is often underassessed. This can result in serious incidents and reputational risks. That is why, in September 2020, BIO has organised trainings for its clients on how to mitigate Gender Based Violence & Harassment (GBVH) Risks in infrastructure projects.

These trainings were organised in the form of a series of webinars, tackling the following topics:

  • The extent of the problem: why is it critical to include GBVH considerations in infrastructure projects;
  • Manifestations of GBVH: Gender violence on the job, in the community, and in private;
  • Heightened risks to women/girls: Increased risks to women and girls in adverse project settings, such as environmental crises or pandemics that result in curfews, lock-downs, decreased services, and other interruptions in supply chains and host communities;
  • Investment in gender-responsive planning: Summarizing the rights-based approach underpinning basic project compliance (such as IFC Performance Standards); the social, developmental and commercial costs of inaction on GBVH; and the potential material outcomes of investing in project safety for workers and community stakeholders with a gender lens.

The webinar also included suggestions for proactively integrating gender during project planning and due diligence.

Financial Institutions Scan

In 2020, BIO ran a gender scan of the Financial Institutions (FIs) in its portfolio, which represent about two-thirds of BIO’s direct investments. As these FIs involve most of the leaders, entrepreneurs, workers, and consumers directly impacted by BIO, they represent a huge potential to improve gender equality. The objective of this survey is to better understand where our clients stand in terms of gender equality, to raise awareness about the topic, and to find out to what extent BIO could further support them in promoting gender equality.

39 out of the 46 FIs in BIO’s 2019 portfolio participated in the survey. Among the respondents, there were 20 microfinance institutions (MFIs – institutions providing microloans), 11 commercial banks (institutions providing all banking services, but which are usually ring-fenced to SME loans) and 8 non-banking financial institutions (NBFIs – institutions mainly providing leasing and microloans).