Women's Economic Empowerment

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. 

Links between Women's Economic Empowerment 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 women’s stages of life and entry into the labour force:
    > An increase in women’s 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. 

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

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

Latest Updates

The Commission on the Status of Women will take place at the United Nations headquarters in New York from 14 to 24 March 2016. IDS is co-organising two parallel events: one on sustainable women’s economic empowerment, drawing on research from the Growth and Economic Opportunities for Women programme, and the other on intersectional inequality and power. Interactions will be there to cover both of them.

IDS has published a new Bulletin which contributes to understanding of how ideas around empowerment have evolved and how we can move forward to expand women's opportunities and choices and realise women's empowerment in a meaningful way. The editors reflect on the interconnectedness of the economic, social and political components of empowerment and highlight significant gaps in policy and programming. 

04.01.16Stakeholder meeting takes place in Nepal

Oxfam in Nepal and ISST organised a half day meeting on 17 December in Kathmandu. The audience included representatives from government ministries including Women, Children and Social Welfare, Agriculture Development and Local Development, as well as participants from NGOs. The event included an enriching discussion on the study and the audience gave many useful suggestions for the fieldwork and final analysis.

The first two rounds of data collection for the GrOW project have begun in Rajasthan, India. The ISST India team visited remote tribal villages of two districts in Udaipur and Dungarpur. Surveys of 50 women in each of the districts and participatory activities with groups of women, men and children of these villages revealed hard living and working conditions, combined with discriminatory gender roles that had resulted in acute time poverty and drudgery for women. 

The paper, ‘Conceptualising women’s economic empowerment: the importance of care’ was presented on the panel,  ‘Social Reproduction, Care and Women’s Economic Empowerment: New Framing and Research to support Claimsmaking’, at the 24th IAFFE conference in Berlin from 16-18 July 2015. The panel, organised by the Institute of Development Studies, included papers Oxfam and ActionAid, as well as leading scholars, such as Professors Ruth Pearson and Rhys Jenkins.