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Originally published on ADB Avenue, 22 March 2017

Unsung gender equality hero: Martin Lemoine

In celebration of Gender Month, we are honoring Asian Development Bank (ADB)s


unsung gender equality heroes. They went the extra mile to change womens lives through
their work in development projects. They have proven that anyone can advocate for gender
equality, even without a formal gender job title. Martin Lemoine talks about his
experience promoting gender equality in private sector operations.

Why do you advocate for gender equality in your work? Why does it
matter to you personally?

The very reason I work for ADB is because I care about social justice. In my view,
gender equality is just one component of the wider social equation. Personally, I have
seen women around me sacrificing their career
for their husband's career. This needs to change.
My wife is a working mom, we have two
daughters and one son, and we want all our
children to have equal opportunities to pursue
their dreams.

I also think working with women and for women


makes a lot of business sense. About half of the
chief financial officers of the companies I work
with actually happen to be women and I really
appreciate the very professional and straightforward interactions I have with them.
These women are the true heroes!

How do you go about doing this in your work?

The way I push for gender equality in my projects is to discuss the topic with clients
during due diligence and site visits. This is where we can really discover whether
clients deeply care about the issue, whether women are actively engaged in the
companys operations, and what improvements could be brought in.

During a due diligence mission on a hazelnut company in Bhutan, we discovered how


much the company had already done for women contracting with women-led
farming households, providing customized training for women workers in their
nursery, and actively promoting women to management positions. The chief of
quality, a young agriculture graduate from Bhutan, was encouraged to give a
presentation to us and it was so inspiring to realize her potential and see how much
the company was already doing to develop her. After the mission, we continued to
engage with the company to build a very comprehensive gender action plan covering
both contract farmers and workers.

What challenges do you face?

The key challenge for private sector operations is that gender is never top of the
agenda neither for the client nor for the ADB project team. The client is primarily
interested in our financial terms, how fast we can move, how much our due diligence
will cost them, etc. The ADB process is very much focused on credit, integrity, and
safeguards; basically to make sure the investment is a safe investment for ADB.
Gender falls into a different category of discussions, when we actually talk about how
to improve the business and the impact of the company. When the transaction is
difficult or moves too fast, it is hard to get the attention of the client and the project
team on these topics.

Can you give us an example of a successful advocacy to get gender


integrated into a project notwithstanding the difficulties?

Last year, we worked very hard to get approval for a horticulture investment in Viet
Nam in a record time. We encountered more issues than expected on the credit side.
As a result, gender fell in the background. Fortunately, the ADBs Sustainable
Development and Climate Change Department alerted us on an opportunity for
effective gender mainstreaming in this project during the process of inter-
departmental review. So we made the effort to re-open the discussion with the client,
who turned out to be very receptive. In the end, we were able to negotiate ambitious
targets on women employment, women in management positions, and an enhanced
human resource policy promoting gender equality.

For the first time in 7 years we will be unlikely to meet our target of
45% gender- at- entry mainstreaming in operations. What is your view
about this?

The challenges we face are not only at a project level. In the agribusiness sector,
almost all projects have potential for a very positive impact on women farmers,
women workers, and their children. We should do more in sectors with direct gender
impact namely job intensive sectors (agriculture, manufacturing, and services) and
social sectors (health and education). Allocating more financing to these sectors
would contribute to a greater gender impact and a greater social impact more
generally, consistent with ADBs objective to support inclusive growth.

2
ADBs Private Sector Operations Department (PSOD) has taken steps to do more in
high gender impact sectors. In 2012, we approved our first agribusiness project. In
2015, we created a dedicated agribusiness investment unit. In five years, we approved
10 agribusiness projects across nine countries. We have also provided large credit
lines to banks for smallholder farmer financing. And we are using a technical
assistance grant to provide additional training to women farmers and workers. In line
with ADBs operational plan for food security (2015-2020), we are committed to
doubling PSODs annual commitments to the agriculture sector to $500 million by
2020. All the more for the cause of women!

Martine Lemoine is Unit Head, Food and Agribusiness Investment at PSOD, ADB

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