What facilitates change in gender norms? Supportive policy and institutional environment for women's economic empowerment

Gender norms and the legal, policy, and institutional environment are often discussed as separate “high level factors” influencing WEE (Hunt and Samman 2016; United Nations 2017). However, gender norms do not operate only at household, community, and workplace levels, but shape, and are shaped by, legal and policy frameworks. The GrOW portfolio of studies did not probe these relationships in detail; however, some insights emerged about their implications.

One group of studies examined the relationship between the extent of women’s political representation, overall rights, and wellbeing, and found that in sub-Saharan Africa, where traditional (local or clan-based) political structures allow for female representation, women were significantly more educated than those in similar regions where only men occupy traditional political structures

(Anderson et al. 2018a). They were also more likely to have some ownership rights over their home and some land and have significantly higher household decision-making power. However, there was no relationship with labour force participation. Anderson et al. (2018b) also found a positive relationship between women’s local political representation, better education and health outcomes, household decision-making, and reduced support for domestic violence. These studies point to the importance of norms that enable women’s voice in decisionmaking as part of a broader enabling environment for WEE.

Norms around women’s voice in economic governance also matter, as the studies of artisanal mining in Central and East Africa (Buss et al. 2017a) made clear. Governance arrangements varied significantly between the types of mines, with distinct implications. The formal company structures in Rwanda potentially provided more routes for women to challenge some fonns of discrimination and barriers than less formal arrangements. However, they provided fewer accumulation opportunities for women than in “gold rush” sites in Uganda. Buss et al. (2017a) concluded that patriarchal norms infuse the relationships of governance and authority in different ways, limiting women’s representation among locally powerful players, and affecting the royalties and other payments expected of them.

Economic empowerment programmes

Only five GrOW studies explored the impacts of economic empowerment programmes on gender norms. These cover a variety of approaches, including individual and collective empowerment; incentives for education, training and delaying marriage; and providing childcare to facilitate paid work. We now examine findings pertaining to each approach in turn.

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