Contextualising the Economic Pathways of Women’s Empowerment Findings from a Multi-Country Research Programme

Contextualising the Economic Pathways of Women’s Empowerment Findings from a Multi-Country Research Programme

Women’s paid work has featured in the development literature for two main reasons. The instrumental reason relates to its potential to contribute to a variety of development goals, from poverty reduction to human development to economic growth. The intrinsic reason is its potential to transform the lives of women and girls by addressing gender inequalities on a wide variety of fronts. However in both cases, paid work is most likely to achieve this potential if it empowers women; since it is women’s capacity to exercise voice and influence in the key arenas of their lives that provides the impetus for change.

Research from Egypt, Ghana, Bangladesh by the Pathways of Women’s Empowerment Consortium suggests that:

  • An understanding of women’s work in its various forms remains a major gap in our knowledge;
  • Policies that provide more and better jobs for women will promote an enabling environment for women’s empowerment;
  • A gradualist and ‘joined up’ approach may be necessary in contexts where informality is the norm and intersecting constraints on women’s labour market participation tend to reinforce each other;
  • The impact of paid work on women’s political participation and collective action has been uneven. Women workers need to build and mobilise a constituency to put pressure on the state to support their efforts. Collective action is vital and needs to be supported.
  • Law is an important resource for working women to improve working conditions and their position in the economy.
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