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Mayra Buvinic, an internationally recognized expert on gender and development and social development, is a Senior Fellow both at the Center for Global Development and the United Nations Foundation. Previously, she was Director for Gender and Development at the World Bank. She also worked at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) where she headed the Social Development Division and was founding member and President of the International Center for Research on Women. She has a PhD in Social Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
In 1995 India’s Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) organized women waste pickers in Ahmedabad into a cooperative to improve their working conditions and livelihoods. Over time, this informal arrangement evolved into Gitanjali—a women-owned and -run social enterprise. With support from key partners, Gitanjali has generated social value, providing its members with safe and dignified work while increasing their earnings. While Gitanjali faces challenges in becoming a fully self-sufficient social enterprise, its experience offers insights for other initiatives seeking to provide opportunities for women to transition from informal to formal work.
The entrepreneur is a 59-year-old widow in the city of Mbeya, Tanzania. She has a covered dark corner space in an open market where she sells soft drinks during the day, adds beer in the evenings, and also sells prepared meals in an adjacent space. She recently took a 6-week long business training course from TechnoServe, which included instruction on how to access M-Pawa, a new Vodaphone mobile savings platform. This should allow her to gain better control of her income and invest in her business.
Each of the G20 summits of the past seven years has suffered in comparison with the London and Pittsburgh Summits of 2009, when the imperative of crisis response motivated leaders, finance ministers, and central bankers to coordinate effectively with each other. Subsequent summits have lacked the same sense of urgency and have failed to deliver any kind of agenda that can be pinpointed as clearly as “saving the global economy.” This week’s summit in Hamburg, Germany promises more of the same, with the real possibility that the G20’s stock could fall even further at the hands of a non-cooperative US delegation.
The terminology describing economic programs for women has changed—actions to “empower women economically” have replaced efforts to “increase women’s economic participation and income.” This shift in language makes sense intuitively and has solid conceptual backing (in the work of Amartya Sen, for example) but, is there a difference between economic advancement and empowerment? And have measures changed in tandem with this change in terminology?
A review of the recent evaluation evidence on financial services and training interventions questions their gender neutrality and suggests that some design features in these interventions can yield more positive economic outcomes for women than for men. These include features in savings and ‘Graduation’ programs that increase women’s economic self-reliance and self-control, and the practice of repeated micro borrowing that increases financial risk-taking and choice. Subjective economic empowerment appears to be an important intermediate outcome for women that should be promoted and more reliably and accurately measured. Lastly, whenever possible, results should be sex-disaggregated and reported for individuals as well as households.
Women’s economic empowerment is critical for achieving women’s rights and gender equality, poverty reduction, and economic growth. Yet urban spaces pose significant barriers to progress, including limited mobility, safety risks, and lack of information and networks to access better economic opportunities. Increasingly, technology-based solutions are being developed to overcome these challenges, which can have particularly significant benefits in the Global South.
Kellyanne Conway called him a “man of action” after a whirlwind first week in which President Trump signed 14 Executive Orders and presidential memoranda, covering most of his key campaign issue areas from health to immigration to trade. In a series of blogs, CGD experts have been examining how some of these specific policy intentions could impact development progress. As you would expect from a group of economists, we believe in—and encourage—evidence-based policymaking, and here we look at what the existing evidence and research tell us about how likely these Executive Orders are to achieve the president’s stated goals.
At a CGD event on financial inclusion, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde noted that financial inclusion is a priority for the post-2015 development agenda as a whole. Here we explore both the benefits of financial inclusion and some concrete steps for achieving it, specifically looking at ways to overcome a persistent gender gap that leaves women with less access to financial services than men.
I’m pleased to announce that we are launching a new research program focused on the economics of improving women’s lives and well-being. Our aim is to bring the best economics research to identify specific actions that can advance gender equality, from fostering women’s involvement in business and entrepreneurship to making use of international policy levers and foreign donor investments. And I’m particularly pleased to welcome Mayra Buvinic as a new Senior Fellow with decades of experience in the fields of gender equality and women’s empowerment.
The scale of the turnout at the Women’s Marches across the world recently, along with President Trump’s early reinstatement of a ban on US funding for organizations that offer family planning services in foreign countries, seem to suggest an administration already at odds with an entire gender. On this week’s podcast, three CGD senior fellows weigh in on the evidence that engaging and empowering women—both at home and overseas—makes good sense, especially in an America-First strategy.
CGD senior fellow Mayra Buvinic, an author on both Roadmaps, joins this week’s podcast to discuss what’s changed in the evidence base on women’s economic empowerment, and how the findings could appeal to the incoming Trump administration.
Gender data are essential. How else are we going to monitor progress in the wellbeing of women and girls? Below, we provide background on data shortage, and outline three key steps that countries and the international community should take in order to produce better data and close gender gaps.