Women's Economic Empowerment

Case Studies

Learn about the daily realities of women from lowñincome households living in India, Nepal, Rwanda and Tanzania.

Our short case studies reveal how women endeavour to balance the tensions between paid work and unpaid care work responsibilities; and the implications of this double burden on themselves and their families.

Find out more

Browse the dataset

Latest news

  • Upcoming event: Interventions for women’s economic empowerment in South Asia

    Join us at the What Works Global Summit in London from 26-28 September. The session, Interventions for women’s economic empowerment in South Asia, on Wednesday 28 September, 9-10.15 am, in BO7, at Birkbeck College, will describe the early qualitative and quantitative results from three studies that are evaluating interventions for increasing women’s economic empowerment in the South Asian context. The panel will conclude with a synthesis of research findings, a discussion of research gaps, and a consideration of policy implications.

  • Participatory methods in mixed methods research – a methodological treasure

    Since the inception of the GrOW project, on unpaid care work and women´s economic empowerment, the team mixed three strands of research methods – qualitative, quantitative and participatory. Kas Sempere writes about  the particular professional challenges of these methods in the project taking place in India, Nepal, Rwanda and Tanzania.

  • Join us at AWID 2016

    We're thrilled to be involved in two sessions this year at the AWID Forum in Brazil. If you're planning to go to AWID 2016, please join us. Friday 9th September, 11:00 to 13:00 (BRT) Building gender-just social movements: stories of success and routes for transformation, and from 14:30-16:30 Reclaiming our power. gender and knowledge: a feminist approach to new technologies.

    from IDS


Findings from the research are being shared and discussed at local, national and international events. Find out more about the latest advocacy activities that project partners have been doing.

International uptake and advocacy

Country level uptake

GrOW video

Balancing Unpaid Care Work and Paid Work in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa

This short video from IDRC outlines work to generate new evidence on womenís economic empowerment, gender equality, and economic growth in low-income countries, led by IDS, the Institute of Social Studies Trust and BRACís East Africa Research and Evaluation Unit.

Links between WEE and unpaid care work

Important points to consider:
  • Women's Economic Empowerment is not simply about labour force participation, but also about the choice to work, the choice of sector, location and working hours.
  • Unpaid care work impacts on the type, location and nature of paid work that women and girls can undertake.
  • Discrimination in the labour market:
    > Women are more likely to stay at home rather than work in the paid economy.
    > Undertaking paid work close to home allows women to mind their children, cook meals and care for elderly relatives, without incurring additional time and financial costs.
  • Correlation between womenís stages of life and entry into the labour force:
    > An increase in womenís household responsibilities, either through marriage or childbearing, leads to many women either withdrawing from the labour market; finding more flexible, part- time jobs; or entering into self-employment that offers more flexible time management. 


Global Synthesis report

Programmatic notes
What is the potential to achieve women’s economic empowerment that generates a ‘double boon’ – paid work that empowers women and provides more support for their unpaid care work responsibilities? 

National reports
Full reports from each country are being published this month.

What is Women's Economic Empowerment?

Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) is often understood as improving women’s access to economic resources and income through the enhancement of economic opportunities and participation, as well as increasing women’s agency and control over household resources and decision making. It is as much about labour force participation as it is about choice. A broader notion of economic empowerment comprises both the market economy where women participate in the labour market, and the care economy which sustains and nurtures the market economy. 

Latest Updates

Drawing on evidence from our 126 short case studies, we produced four videos re-telling the stories of real women’s experiences trying to balance the demands of the family and the home with the need to earn an income. In these films, their stories have been adapted into a script, anonymised and narrated by an actor. The photos are from the region where the women are from, but not of the women or their families, themselves.

Each country experience is different, and the women also have different family set ups, but there are recurring themes throughout, around the long-hours work, the back-breaking drudgery and nature of the work, the paucity or absence of support and help. 

Our first two video stories from India and Rwanda are now live, compiling aspects of women's daily work into compelling visuals and first-person narratives.

The new global synthesis report 'No Time to Rest' is now launched. It finds that national and local level women’s economic empowerment initiatives in developing countries are failing to capture the full physical, emotional and economic costs to women of balancing paid work with unpaid care duties.  It warns that unless the backbreaking drudgery of water carrying, fuel collection, cooking and caring is urgently addressed future global progress on women’s rights and gender equality could stall.

Emerging findings from an IDS-led project on Balancing unpaid care work and paid work, part of the global Growth and Equal Opportunities for Women programme (GrOW), has thrown fresh insights into women’s “double-burden” – the responsibility assigned to them of being primarily responsible for care in their home and the need to earn income. 

Case studies provide a ground-level view of the physical, emotional and mental toll on individual women’s lives resulting from long hours spent on back-breaking unpaid household chores, such as collecting and carrying firewood, caring for children or the sick and elderly, and (often manual) paid work such as stone-breaking.

As part of the uptake for this research, the Alliance for Right to Early Childhood Development in India have created two comic strips exploring the Importance of women's work and recognition for womens unpaid work. In Hindi, with translations in English.