Germany - Gender equality


Germany is the largest donor to gender equality; gender equality is a cross-cutting principle of Germany’s development cooperation

In 2020, Germany spent US$8.9 billion or 44% of its total bilateral allocable ODA on development activities that targeted gender equality in a principal or significant way, according to the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD’s) Development Assistance Committee’s (DAC) gender equality policy marker, placing Germany just under the DAC average of 45%. This puts Germany in first place in absolute terms, and 15th among OECD donors in terms of Germany’s total bilateral allocable ODA.  Germany’s spending on gender equality has continually increased since 2016 with the largest increase in funding between 2019 and 2020 (+29%).

Funding for projects with a principal gender focus is increasing but remains very low at 2%

Only 2% (US$376 million) of Germany’s bilateral allocable ODA went toward projects and programs that targeted gender equality as a principal goal, putting Germany below the 2020 DAC average of 7%. Germany’s funding for projects with a principal gender focus has been increasing since 2016 when the funding level stood at US$176 million or just 1% of bilateral ODA. Funding rose most significantly between 2018 and 2019 by US$88 million or 35%.

Gender policy marker: Projects which “advance gender equality and women’s empowerment or reduce discrimination and inequalities based on sex” are tagged in the OECD’s Creditor Reporting System (CRS) database.

Recent research by Oxfam found that around 25% of projects self-reported by donors using the gender equality marker were mismarked. This has implications for the validity of funding figures.

The marker rates projects based on three possible scores:

  1. Principal: meaning that gender equality is the main objective of the project or program;

  2. Significant: for projects in which gender equality is an important and deliberate goal but not the main objective; or

  3. Not targeted: used in cases where programs do not target gender equality.

Not all projects are screened against the gender marker; this funding falls into the ‘not screened’ category.

Germany spent US$8.5 billion (42%) of its bilateral allocable ODA on projects that included gender as a significant objective in 2020 (DAC average: 38%). In line with Germany’s overall increases in bilateral ODA, Germany’s financing of projects and programs with gender as a significant objective has increased since 2016. 

The remainder of Germany’s bilateral ODA (US$11.3 billion, or 56%) was spent on projects that did not target gender at all, while US$106 million (1%) was not screened against the gender marker in 2020. OECD data reveals that Germany’s screening of projects has improved in recent years; in 2016, only 95% of bilateral allocable ODA was screened. This share rose to 99% in 2017.

The largest shares of gender-focused bilateral allocable ODA are allocated to government and civil society (17% of gender-focused funding), other social services (15%), agriculture (12%), and education (11%).

Gender equality is a cross-cutting principle of Germany’s development cooperation

The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) adopted the cross-sectoral strategy ‘Gender Equality in German Development Policy’ in 2014. The strategy pursues a three-pronged approach to ending discrimination against women and girls and dismantling gender hierarchies, including 1) gender mainstreaming in all development strategies, 2) women’s empowerment, and 3) anchoring the strengthening of women's rights and equality in bi-and multilateral political dialogue. Concrete measures are guided by a Gender Action Plan (GAP), initially set out for the 2016-2020 period, which covers 10 priority areas: 1) access to justice and jurisdiction, political participation, co-determination and representation, 2) rural development, agriculture, and food security, 3) violence against women and girls, 4) armed conflicts, peacekeeping and flight, 5) education, 6) economic empowerment, 7) health, including sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), 8) water and sanitation, 9) energy, and 10) climate change, disaster risk management, sustainable development, city and community development. The GAP is complemented by annual roadmaps that provide an overview of priority measures and concrete impacts to be achieved. The roadmaps illustrate measures across the GAP’s priority issues that should be achieved during the timeframe of the roadmap; the measures are framed in the form of flagship projects and milestones. German Development Minister Svenja Schulze announced the development of a new Gender Action Plan in 2022. Schulze has put a feminist approach at the core of Germany’s development policy, considering gender equality as implicit in all sustainable development. In September 2022, the BMZ announced the implementation of a target quota for projects that contribute to gender equality. The target aims for 93% of all BMZ projects from 2022 through 2025 to contribute to gender equality. Of these, eight percent of projects must have gender equality as the main objective, twice as many as in 2022. 85% (a 25% increase compared to 2022) of all projects will contribute to gender equality as a secondary outcome.

On several occasions, Germany has used its standing in global fora to advocate for gender equality and girls’ and young women’s rights at an international level. During the negotiations toward the 2030 Agenda, the German government emphasized that gender equality and self-determination of all women should be anchored as a separate SDG, as well as a cross-cutting theme of the entire agenda. At the 2021 Generation Equality Forum (GEF; March of 2021 - June 2021), Germany increased its pledges to women's economic empowerment initiatives by €140 million (US$160 million), bringing Germany’s total commitment to the GEF to €240 million (US$273 million). €25 million (US$28 million) of that is earmarked for the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative. During GEF, Germany co-led the GEF Action Coalition on economic justice and rights and joined the Global Alliance for Care, which was created by Mexico's National Institute for Women and UN Women and will address the burden of care that hinders women’s economic participation and opportunities.

Germany used its previous G7 and G20 leadership in 2015 and 2017 respectively to champion issues of gender equality, advocating for policies to eliminate gender-based violence and barriers to women’s economic empowerment and financial inclusion. Gender equality, with a special focus on paid and unpaid care work, equal pay, better education for girls, and equitable participation of women in leadership positions has also been a priority for Germany during its 2022 G7 presidency. The 2022 G7 Leader’s Communiqué includes commitments to empowering women and girls by the means of feminist development, foreign, and trade policy, monitoring G7 commitments towards achieving gender equality, and an endorsement of the Gender Equality Advisory Council’s agenda.

In addition to its bilateral contributions, Germany channels some funding for gender equality through multilaterals. These include the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which received €42 million (US$48 million) and UN Women, which receive €12 million (US$14 million) from BMZ’s budget in 2022.

Germany’s two state-owned development agencies each have their own gender strategies but are guided by BMZ’s Gender Action Plan

The BMZ drives the strategies for German development policy, including on gender equality. Within the BMZ, the ‘Gender equality’ division (division 412) is responsible. Division 412 falls under the Directorate 41, ‘Agenda 2030; social and ecological transformation; feminist development policy’, which is part of the Directorate-General 4 ‘International development policy and United Nations; 2030 Agenda; social and ecological transformation; climate’. Germany’s state-owned development agency (GIZ) and the KfW Development Bank are responsible for planning and executing Germany’s technical cooperation and leading on Germany’s financial cooperation, respectively. Each has its own strategy for gender equality and strengthening women’s rights, last updated in 2019 and 2021, respectively. Despite having their own strategies, both implementing agencies are still guided by the BMZ’s Gender Action Plan (2016-2020).