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Panelists on the stage at the CGD Event 'Empowering Ultra-Poor Women: Learning from Graduation Approaches.' Photo by Kaveh Sardari.

What Does it Take to Empower Ultra-Poor Women?

There is no more urgent and fundamental problem in development than finding effective ways to help the ultra-poor improve their economic and social condition. But most interventions don’t reach the poorest of the poor. A stellar panel cohosted by CGD and Women for Women International recently came together to discuss the challenges in addressing the needs of the poorest women and to explore how graduation programs perform in addressing them. Here are some key takeaways from the discussion.

School kids in a classroom

We Can Learn a Lot about Improving Girls’ Education from Interventions That Don’t Target Girls

What if the programs that help the girls the most are not the programs that target girls? Imagine two hypothetical programs. One is targeted towards girls, and it finds a big impact on girls’ learning. It even finds some impacts for boys, although those are much smaller. The other program is a general intervention (in other words, it doesn’t target girls specifically). Let’s imagine that it finds even larger impacts on girls, and that those impacts are roughly the same as the impacts for boys.

Mexico City

Mexico Proves Bill & Melinda Right on Gender Data

In their recently released 2019 annual letter, Bill and Melinda Gates argue that data can be sexist. Missing or inaccurate data on women and girls can block their progress and that of society and economic development at large, they state, since robust gender data has the power to encourage change to achieve greater gender equality.

Riyadh

Firms that Profit off Gender Apartheid Must Be Held Accountable

I wrote last week that with an Administration and Congress both prioritizing gender equality and women’s economic empowerment, now was a good time to put in place legislation that would leverage the power of US-based multinational enterprises to encourage gender equality in the workplace in countries that legally enforced discrimination. A recent case of US-based multinational enterprises abetting discrimination suggests an extension to the law, and the creation of the new US Development Finance Corporation provides a new tool for the legislation to use.

A woman working at a stall in Accra, Ghana. Photo by Jonathan Torgovnik/Getty Images Reportage, via imagesofempowerment.org

Leveraging American Enterprise to Deliver Women’s Global Development and Prosperity

Today, the Trump administration rolled out the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP). Pillars one and two seem to suggest a rebranding of existing funding for women’s economic empowerment efforts in USAID and a repackaging of previously announced initiatives at the World Bank and Overseas Private Investment Corporation. But the third pillar is potentially more encouraging.

needle on measuring device

Do Indices Move the Needle on Gender Equality?

The broad scope of the Sustainable Development Goals acknowledges that human development is multifaceted and that gender equality is crosscutting.

In the drive to measure these concepts and gauge progress, there has been a proliferation of indices in recent years. The allure of indices is twofold: they reduce complex concepts and multiple indicators into one number, and this number can be used to rank countries and, so the theory goes, drive change. In one fell swoop then, indices seem to bring simplicity, order, and transformative potential.

smiling woman at sewing machine

Helping Poor Women Grow Their Businesses with Mobile Savings, Training, and Something More?

Growing a business is not easy, and for women firm owners the challenges can be acute, especially when they are poor and run subsistence level firms. In developing countries, 22 percent of women discontinue their established businesses due to a lack of funds, and women are more likely than men to report exiting their businesses over finance problems, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. Meanwhile, personal savings are a crucial source of entrepreneurial financing, and nearly 95 percent of entrepreneurs globally state that they used their own funds to start or scale up their businesses. Women, however, face unique constraints in accumulating savings to invest in growing their firms.

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