Japan - Gender equality

Japan's bilateral ODA for gender equality

For further details on methodology, see our Donor Tracker Codebook.

Japan's bilateral ODA for gender equality by sector

For further details on methodology, see our Donor Tracker Codebook.

Japan’s ODA targets gender equality at a lower rate than the OECD DAC average, but the share is growing

Japan channeled US$3.3 billion (27%) of its bilateral allocable ODA in 2018 (in 2018 prices) on projects which targeted gender equality as a principal or significant goal, making Japan the fifth-largest Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) donor in this category in absolute terms, but twenty-third-highest in relative terms. Based on OECD DAC data, these numbers reflect a moderate increase from 2016 (US$3.0 billion or 26% of bilateral allocable ODA) and 2017 (US$3.2 billion or 23%).


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.


Japan prioritizes women’s participation in development cooperation in its development policy framework, the Development Cooperation Charter. During its G7 presidency in 2016, Japan expanded upon this and announced the ‘Development Strategy for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment’, which focuses on women’s empowerment through three main priorities: promoting women’s rights, building the capacity of women and girls to reach their full potential, and supporting female leadership. 

Since 2014, Japan has hosted the annual World Assembly for Women (WAW!), which brings together activists from around the world and Japan. The results of WAW! are used to inform collective actions towards women’s empowerment, but also as a reference for the Japanese government in policymaking. The 2019 WAW! was held concurrently with the Woman 20 (W20) as part of Japan’s presidency of the G20, and generated recommendations in six areas, including 1) human resource development in technology, 2) regional economic development, 3) diversity in media, 4) women, peace, and security, 5) diversity in the workplace, and 6) support for families and mothers.

Japan’s ODA for gender equality is largely concentrated in five key sectors which comprise 85% of all gender-focused ODA. Similar to Japan’s overall sector allocations (see ‘ODA breakdown’), the largest focus is on infrastructure, with 47% of gender-focused ODA in 2018.  This is followed by humanitarian assistance (14%), water and sanitation (9%), agriculture (8%), and other multisector initiatives (6%).

Japan also prioritizes efforts towards women, peace, and security (WPS) in its development cooperation activities and policies. This is guided by Japan’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security (last updated in 2019), which references ODA as an important tool in meeting Japan’s WPS commitments. The plan also outlines five areas where Japan will increase its support for gender equality and women’s representation: participation in peace and security, conflict prevention, protection, and humanitarian relief, recovery, and reconstruction assistance.

Japan provides a limited amount of gender-specific ODA through multilaterals. Japan has supported UN Women since it was founded, with total contributions of US$117 million from 2011 to 2018, including US$24 million in 2018. Japan also contributes to UNFPA (see Sector: ‘Health’).

Japan’s ODA targets gender equality in a principal way relatively less than most of its peers

Within the US$3.3 billion of Japan’s ODA in 2018 which focused on gender equality, US$206 million was directed to projects which addressed gender in a principal way. Although this represented a relatively large year-on-year increase of 122% from 2017, it still represents just 2% of all bilateral allocable ODA. This makes Japan one of the lowest DAC members (twenty-third) in terms of relative focus on principal gender funding.

Meanwhile, US$3.1 billion of Japan’s ODA was categorized in 2018 as addressing gender in a significant way. This amount has remained relatively static between 2016 and 2018. This funding is comprised largely of infrastructure projects which are categorized increasingly as gender significant funding.

Projects that did not address gender represent the majority of bilateral allocable ODA (US$7.5 billion or 61%) with approximately one-tenth of funding not screened for the gender policy marker (US$1.5 billion or 12%).

MOFA sets priorities and multilateral contributions for gender equality; JICA develops bilateral projects

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) sets priorities for gender equality and manages core contributions to multilateral organizations (i.e., UN Women and UNFPA), in consultation with other ministries. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) creates and implements bilateral projects focused on gender equality and women’s empowerment. Within MOFA, the Foreign Policy Bureau contains a Gender Mainstreaming Division — led by Director Mayumi Ishikawa — which is responsible for integrating a gender lens to policies across the organization, and for coordinating policies relevant to gender equality. JICA’s Office for Gender Equality and Poverty Reduction — led by Senior Director Haruko Kamei — is responsible for implementing gender mainstreaming policies across the agency.