Women Economic Empowerment

Gender equality is smart economics. According to some estimates, closing the gender gap could add about $12 trillion to global growth by 2025. Gender parity can also trigger a virtuous circle of higher overall employment, increased household income, more equitable allocation of power and resources within the household, and better nutritional and educational outcomes for children, evidence shows. However, several gender-specific challenges currently hinder women’s potential to contribute to growth through employment and entrepreneurship – among others, those include low female labour force participation, occupational segregation & salary gaps, disproportionately higher trade barriers, limited access to inputs, access, training, finance, and markets, and discriminatory socio-cultural norms.

Based on our experience, untapping women’s economic potential requires in-depth analysis of gender-specific constraint, tailored design of appropriate response measures, and careful measurement of results and impacts. For instance, trade can generate significant income-generating opportunities for rural women, especially in the form of agricultural small-scale cross-border traders – however, specific interventions are required in order to enhance overall border security, and to develop infrastructure that caters for the specific needs of female traders such as toilets, childcare facilities, and market stalls with gender quotas. We also learned that hard measures need to be systematically accompanied by soft responses such as training & sensitization, aimed at building the capacity of women and their associations, at raising awareness on their rights and obligations, and at disseminating key information on prices, markets, and distribution channels.

Similarly, promoting female entrepreneurship in urban contexts marked by gender-biased socio-cultural norms can be extremely challenging. In this case, our experience shows that tailored measures are needed to meet women’s key needs, such as targeted financial products and bank guarantee schemes to increase their ability to access credit, simplified registration procedures and tax schemes to counter informality and evasion, and ad-hoc value chain development strategies to bring women closer to markets. Support measures tend to be generally more effective when bundled in packages that also include capacity building (e.g. on agro-processing, financial & business management etc.)and awareness-raising, covering for instance registration procedures and tax compliance. Finally, mechanisms to anonymously report abuses such as toll-free lines can help reduce the risk of gender-based violence and corruption.