Our Work

Delivering excellence in social development consultancy and research


Why we work on women’s economic empowerment

Women and girls’ economic empowerment is fundamental to their empowerment more broadly and increasingly a focus of the development agenda globally and nationally for governments, including as a key component of recently agreed Sustainable Development Goal 5.  Since 2012, SDDirect has been steadily developing its portfolio in this area working with clients including DFID, UN Women, and Foundations.

Our approach

At SDDirect we understand that women and girls economic options are limited by structural inequalities in men’s and women’s access to and control of resources, as well as gender-biased rules, laws and social norms. Social norms perpetuate expectations that women and girls will carry the bulk of unpaid household and caring work – work which is undervalued both socially and in standard economic analyses.  Responsibilities for unpaid work combined with restrictive social norms also tends to restrict girls’ access to education and limits the range of paid work opportunities available to women such that they are often concentrated in informal less regulated work in precarious and sometimes dangerous conditions.  This concentration of women in lower paid jobs, as well as discrimination in laws and markets, results in persistent gender pay gaps, which in turn reinforce women’s economic dependency and limit their capacity to accumulate financial and other assets. 

To overcome these systemic challenges, economic empowerment thus involves not only supporting individual women and girls’ by strengthening their knowledge, skills, resources and agency, but also enabling them to act collectively to influence wider structures and institutions in order to expand their opportunities and defend their economic rights. 

SDDirect’s approach to women and girls’ economic empowerment encompasses:

  • Changes to women and girl’s self-perception, self-confidence and aspirations, regarding their role as economic actors
  • Building women and girls’ agency to define and make economic choices
  • Expanding the resources women and girls can mobilise, including knowledge, skills, assets, capabilities and networks; and
  • Developing the opportunities available to women and girls through interventions in the market and the wider enabling environment, including tackling social norms that limit women’s economic choices

Particular areas of SDDirect expertise include:

  • Rural women’s economic empowerment and agricultural livelihoods
  • Economic empowerment of young women and adolescent girls
  • Collective action and economic empowerment
  • Measuring and evaluating women’s economic empowerment
  • Links between social, economic and political aspects of empowerment