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Gender

We need to know more about how to economically empower women

Markus Goldstein's picture

co-authored with Alaka Holla

Everyone always says that great things happen when you give money to women. Children start going to school, everyone gets better health care, and husbands stop drinking as much. And we know from impact evaluations of conditional cash transfers programs that a lot of these things are true (see for example this review of the evidence by colleagues at the World Bank). But, aside from just giving them cash with conditions, how do we get money in the hands of women? Do the programs we use to increase earnings work the same for men and women? And do the same dimensions of well-being respond to these programs for men and women?

The answer is we don’t know much. And we really should know more. If we don’t know what works to address gender inequalities in the economic realm, we can’t do the right intervention (at least on purpose). This makes it impossible to economically empower women in a sustainable, meaningful way. We also don’t know what this earned income means for household welfare. While the evidence from CCTs for example might suggest that women might spend transfers differently, we don’t know whether more farm or firm profits for a woman versus a man means more clothes for the kids and regular doctor visits. We also don’t know much about the spillover effects in non-economic realms generated by interventions in the productive sectors and whether these also differ across men and women. Quasi-experimental evidence from the US for example suggests that decreases in the gender wage-gap reduce violence against women (see this paper by Anna Aizer), but some experimental evidence by Fernald and coauthors  from South Africa suggests that extending credit to poor borrowers decreases depressive symptoms for men but not for women.

The silent global epidemic: domestic violence against women

Miriam Sabzevari's picture

A glance at the world’s news headlines will tell you all about today’s military wars, terrorist attacks, and territorial disputes. But there is an oft forgotten war occurring everywhere in the world and at all times; the war in our homes.

To paraphrase a worker at Vancouver’s Rape Relief & Women's Shelter: no country in the world, developed or developing, is exempt from the otherwise ordinary men who beat their wives or lovers.

If you want her business to grow, don’t just give her cash

David McKenzie's picture

That’s one blunt message from my new working paper with Marcel Fafchamps, Simon Quinn and Chris Woodruff, which replicates in Ghana a study that Chris and I had previously done in Sri Lanka with Suresh de Mel. In the new experiment, we take almost 800 microenterprises in urban Ghana, and randomly divide them into treatment and control groups.

Solar Sister: Bringing a market based, gender inclusive, bottom up clean energy revolution to Africa

Neha Misra's picture

Solar Sister LogoAlmost 1.6 billion people on the planet don’t have access to electricity. And 70% of these are women and girls for whom the darkness is quite literal. Today, even though portable solar LED lighting technology is an affordable solution; lack of innovation in distribution channels has kept the products from being available in the rural markets where traditional supply chains simply do not exist.

The challenge is to marry technology innovation with a delivery system that is efficient, sustainable and scalable. Solar Sister is an innovative social enterprise addressing this weakest link through a market-based, gender inclusive, bottom-up solution to bring a new kind of clean energy revolution in Africa.

With an Avon-style women-driven business model, Solar Sister addresses both geographical access - making clean energy products available at the rural customer's doorstep; and cultural access - closing the gender-technology gap by including women as key players in the provision of technology solutions instead of as passive consumers of energy.

Why Social Norms Matter for Policy-Making on Gender

Josefina Posadas's picture

(Parallel Session 16 at the ABCDE, Paris)

Gender equality has not been achieved yet, and progress comes at a different pace across countries and across different dimensions of gender equality. In some domains, as childcare, access to some occupations and sectors, and dimensions of agency, change has been limited or negligible. Even in the domains where improvements have been widespread, as in education, the change has not reached all groups within a population or occurred at the same pace across countries.

Why improvements have come so quickly in some domains while there has been little change in others? One possible explanation that has been recently receiving much attention among the academic community is gender roles, which are in turn the result of differences in biological responsibilities and in preferences between men and women, but also of social norms.

Biofuels: Threat or opportunity for women?

Daniel Kammen's picture

In Africa, where two-thirds of farmers are women, the potential of biofuels as a low or lower-carbon alternative fuel, with applications at the household energy, community and village level, to a national resource or export commodity, has a critical gender dimension. The key question is: how will increased biofuel production affect women?

To look at the impacts on women, one logical approach is to use a computable general equilibrium model that tracks economic impacts of new crops and how patterns of trade and substitution will change. It’s important to account for the complexities involved, and rely not on a simple, traditional commodity model but one that tracks the impacts on women through changing prices and demands for crops to be sold on local and international markets. Who gains and who loses as prices change, and as the value of specific crops and of land changes?

In a detailed modeling effort based on the situation today in Mozambique, World Bank economist Rui Benfica and colleagues (Arndt, et al., 2011) found that even with significant land area available, the impacts of large increases in bio-fuels production — which are now under way — will do little to benefit women. This is largely because shifts to export-oriented and commercial agriculture, while they may raise export earnings, often exclude women. Women are often already far over-burdened by work and time commitments to subsistence farming, other income-generating activities and household work, including child care. The CGE model shows that financially profitable bio-fuel expansions may widen this gap, and reinforce this exclusion.

Development Marketplace in India supports the vision and ‘can-do’ spirit of social entrepreneurs

Kirsten Spainhower's picture

Satyan Mishra, founder of DrishteeDrishtee is a network of over 14,000 rural enterprises that provides villages in India with access to internet connections, consumer products and critical community services.

Brainchild of Indian national Satyan Mishra, the Drishtee model is perfecting a “last mile delivery system” to reach villages that governments are unable to.

Mishra’s success was due in part to the faith that Global Development Marketplace (DM) — a Bank sponsored partnership that provides grant funding to support testing and scaling up of innovative ideas — had in his idea. In 2003 he received a $68,100 from DM allowing him to transform a budding idea into reality and scale up into three states: Assam, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh.

Aid, MDGs, and Gender

Swati Mishra's picture

'Development aid’ is always surrounded by questions. Some argue whether it shows results, and some worry about the way it is spent. And the imminent question is, where does it go? Well, it does have some impact. According to the latest UNESCO report ‘Financing Education in Sub-Saharan Africa’, development aid accounts for 50% of the government education budget in some countries of Africa. “Over the last decade public spending on education in Africa has increased by more than 6% each year”, says the report. However, much remains to be done to distribute it well between primary and higher education, as often requirements of the primary education system suffer. Thus, cutting aid is definitely not a smart move as explained by Liz Allcock and Jimmy Kainja in their post ‘Cutting UK aid to Malawi will hurt the poor, not the leaders’.

Civil society talks food price volatility, support to farmers

Sarah Holmberg's picture



As the Bank reported earlier this week, global food prices are rising to dangerous levels and threaten tens of millions of poor people around the world. Rising prices have pushed an estimated 44 million people into poverty since last June.


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