How can aid promote the empowerment of women?
Over the last thirty years the International Labour Organization (ILO) has actively pursued women’s economic empowerment projects, seeking to aise global awareness of women’s positive contributions to society and improve their welfare. A review of ILO interventions shows that targeting women directly and specifically, engaging and coordinating actively with local institutions to raise awareness, strategies for job creation, and programmes that increase social security, are all crucial to improve gender equality.
Gender equality in the workplace
Women around the world suffer disproportionately from a number of critical economic challenges. Social norms that impede women’s movements outside of the family sphere leave them with fewer property rights and a more limited scope of economic independence.
Furthermore, discrimination towards women causes them to have lower levels of education, skills and knowledge than men, which limits their productive capacity and potential income. Women’s productive activities are also hindered by childbirth and the healthcare issues surrounding it, and by traditional gender roles that tie women to unpaid domestic work.
As a result, of the 1.2 billion working women in the world in 2012, the ILO estimates that 650 million are working in vulnerable conditions and live in poverty. In the struggle for women’s economic empowerment, the ILO highlights four strategies that combine to succeed where others have failed.
First and foremost, all successful ILO projects reviewed targeted poor women directly; specifically at the hiring stage either exclusively or by demanding they be given a quota of the benefits from a pool that also included men. Given the existence of entrenched discrimination against women, a failure to incentivise locals to target women will lead to the failure of any women empowerment objective.
Promoting employment: entrepreneurs, cooperatives and public works
Empowerment through employment and income generation can be achieved in three complementary ways; the promotion of women entreprenuers, the promotion of women’s cooperatives, and the inclusion of women in infrastructure and agricultural works.
This Research brief is based on WIDER Working Paper 2014/91 ‘Promoting women’s economic empowerment through productive employment and social protection’ by Naoko Otobe.