ICRW Designs Approach to Measure Women’s Economic Empowerment

Article Date

04 May 2011

Article Author

By Sandy Won

Media Contact

Anne McPherson

Vice President, Global Communications email [email protected]

ICRW experts present a new framework to help development practitioners better understand how to design and evaluate programs to economically strengthen women.

The U.K. Department for International Development (DFID) and the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) recently co-hosted a workshop to help development practitioners better understand how to design and measure the effectiveness of programs to economically empower women. Held in New Delhi, India, experts shared best practices for strengthening women economically in Asia and unveiled a new framework for how to evaluate programs’ success.

Being able to measure women’s economic empowerment is critical to reducing poverty and achieving broader development goals. After all, women make up a majority of the world’s poor, and economic growth lags without their full participation in markets. But women face constraints that men do not, including gender discrimination, misperceptions about their abilities and gaps in their education. Unless development efforts explicitly take such gender considerations into account, women can easily be left behind, ultimately undermining the long-term success of programs.

The framework presented at the “Conceptualizing Women’s Economic Empowerment” workshop provided a simple outline of what constitutes women’s economic empowerment and ways in which it can be measured. 

More than 40 attendees participated in the gathering from across Central, South and Southeast Asia, including DFID social development advisors and DFID project partners from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, India, Nepal, Tajikistan and Vietnam. The workshop also drew regional and international experts in women’s economic empowerment from organizations that included ICRW, the World Bank, U.N. Women and Women for Women International.

During sessions, participants examined various projects to draw lessons on what works and why. They discussed what women’s economic empowerment means. And they reviewed the new framework, designed by ICRW, for conceptualizing and measuring women’s economic empowerment to achieve results.

The framework stresses that a woman’s capacity to be economically competitive and her agency – essentially, her ability to make decisions, act and control resources – are both critically important to achieve change for women and their communities. Its design reflects the latest thinking on empowerment and ICRW’s expertise on the issue. The framework also was adapted based on discussions ICRW staff had with DFID project teams and participants during several site visits in Asia.

Although women’s economic empowerment is a complex, multidimensional process, it can and must be evaluated. As a next step, participants addressed the need for tools and guides on how to measure economic empowerment in plain, easy-to-understand language; how to integrate measures of women’s economic empowerment into projects, how to build a measurement and evaluation system that tracks a program’s outcomes and impacts, and how to use results to showcase program effectiveness and improve future programming.

Sandy Won is ICRW’s strategic communications manager.