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A Roadmap for Promoting Women’s Economic Empowerment

The following guest post comes from Mayra Buvinic, who is here with us now for Power Shift and will presenting the Roadmap described below at 13.30 PM GMT today.

Mayra Buvinic is Senior Fellow at the UN Foundation.

The author of this post, Mayra Buvinic, is Senior Fellow at the UN Foundation.

A growing body of research shows that when women are empowered economically, entire communities and nations benefit. Yet, there has been a crucial knowledge gap; more needed to be done to identify which programs are most effective in directly advancing women’s economic opportunities. To help address this gap, the UN Foundation partnered with the ExxonMobil Foundation to produce A Roadmap for Women’s Economic Empowerment, a report that systematically reviewed the best available empirical evidence to identify most effective program interventions. We asked: What works, for whom, and in which economic contexts?

The report summarizes the findings of 18 research studies across four categories: entrepreneurship, farming, wage employment and young women’s employment. A “Roadmap”, derived based on the findings, identifies nine proven, nine promising, and six high potential interventions. We found that one size does not fit all. Whether an intervention works depends on the economic situation of the woman and the context in which she lives. In high fertility, agrarian economies, for example, programs for women farmers need to be complemented by interventions seeking to reduce women’s work and time burdens. In resource rich economies and small island nations, programs should seek to identify and develop domestic and niche export markets that are accessible to women producers.

One of the interventions that works for most women across geographies and economic status is savings. Individual savings, more than loans and access to capital in general, is proven to increase women’s productivity and earnings. Secondly, information technologies like mobile phones help women overcome social and family constraints and promise to deliver financial services and market information in a cost-effective way to women farmers and entrepreneurs. We also saw that, for poor and very poor women, we really need to do more. If we want to elevate the economic status of these women, we need to invest in more comprehensive services to enable them to break free from low-earning subsistence-level businesses.

It is our hope that this report provides other funders and practitioners with a Roadmap to help guide current and future programs. Powershift is an important opportunity to broaden and deepen the discussion of how we can share knowledge to increase our collective impact. I look forward to further collaboration with the ExxonMobil Foundation to implement the findings of this report and continue to close the knowledge gap about what works. By expanding opportunities for women together, we will reduce poverty, spur economic growth and realize the multiplier effects for women and their communities.

Mayra Buvinic, an internationally recognized expert on gender and development and social development, is a Senior Fellow with the UN Foundation.  Between 2005 and 2011, she was Director for Gender and Development at the World Bank; before joining the Bank, she worked at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) where she headed the Social Development Division and advised the IDB on violence prevention (1996-2005).  Prior to that, she was founding member and President of the International Center for Research on Women (1978-1996).

She has written extensively on gender and development and gender and poverty issues; violence reduction and violence prevention; and social development and social inclusion, the latter with a particular focus on Latin America and the Caribbean.  She has a PhD in Social Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


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