Germany - Gender equality

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

In 2019, Germany spent US$7.0 billion or 46% 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 47%. This puts Germany in second place in absolute terms, and 15th among OECD donors compared to the size of Germany’s economy. In 2019, Germany’s spending on gender equality reached its highest peak since 2015. Between 2018 and 2019, funding for this issue increased by 2%.

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

Only 2% (US$329 million) of Germany’s bilateral allocable ODA went toward projects and programs that targeted gender equality as a principal goal, putting Germany below the 2019 DAC average of 6%. Germany’s funding for projects with a principal gender focus has been increasing since 2015 when the funding level stood at US$152 million or just 1% of bilateral ODA. Funding rose most significantly between 2018 and 2019 by US$86 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$6.7 billion (44%) of its bilateral allocable ODA on projects that included gender as a significant objective (DAC average: 41%). 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 2015. 

The remainder of Germany’s bilateral ODA (US$8.1 billion or 53%) was spent on projects that did not target gender at all, while US$106 million (1%) was not screened against the gender marker in 2019. OECD data reveals that Germany’s screening of projects has improved in recent years; in 2015, only 94% of bilateral allocable ODA was screened. This rose to 99% in 2017.

The largest shares of gender-focused bilateral allocable ODA are allocated to the sectors of government and civil society (17% of gender-focused funding), education (12%), agriculture (10%), and health and populations (8%).   

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 period 2016-2020, which covers 4 priority sectors, including 1) rural development, agriculture, and food security, 2) education, 3) economic empowerment, 4) health, including sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), 5) water and sanitation, and 6) climate change. 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. As of April of 2021, the BMZ has not yet published a roadmap for 2020 and 2021, nor published a new Gender Action Plan.

On several occasions, Germany has used its standing in global fora to advocate for the topic of 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 is co-leading the GEF Action Coalition on economic justice and rights.

In 2015, Germany used its G7 leadership to champion issues of gender equality, advocating for policies to eliminate gender-based violence and barriers to women’s economic empowerment and financial inclusion. Germany launched an initiative the same year focused on increasing girls’ and women’s participation in technical and vocational education by one-third. In 2017, Germany used its G20 presidency to again place the topic high on the agenda; the G20 Leaders’ Declaration touted women’s economic empowerment and financial inclusion, as well as education, as key means to improve sustainable livelihoods.

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 €40 million (US$45 million) and UN Women, which received €14 million (US$16 million) from BMZ’s budget in 2021.

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 ‘Human rights, gender equality, inclusion of persons with disabilities’ division (division 412) is responsible. Division 412 falls under the Directorate 41, ‘2030 Agenda; democracy; human rights; gender equality; education; Commissioner for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ which is part of the Directorate-General 4 ‘International development policy; 2030 Agenda; climate’ under the leadership of Dr. Jürgen Zattler. 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 2011, respectively. Despite having their own strategies, both implementing agencies are still guided by the BMZ’s Gender Action Plan (2016-2020).