Economic empowerment of women and girls is a high priority for DFID. It is one of the four pillars of DFID's Strategic Vision for Girls and Women and a key commitment in DFID's Business Plan (2011-15), which highlights the need to "recognise the role of women in development and promote gender equality" as a Ministerial priority. By 2014 DFID aims to help 18 million women access financial services and 4.5 million to strengthen their property rights.
As DFID scales up its assistance in this area, we want to be sure our aid investments are effective and deliver good value for money for taxpayers, and that we take decisions based on robust and credible evidence. We also want to ensure that investments by our partners, such as the World Bank and African governments themselves, are underpinned by rigorous evidence. While the World Bank's 2012 flagship report on Gender Equality and Development indicates strong evidence on the broad areas of intervention that are needed to address gender disparities, there are still extensive knowledge gaps on how to effectively tackle these issues. The project will generate evidence to fill those gaps, assess innovative solutions to address developmental priorities, and use evidence to inform key stakeholders of the impacts and influence their policy and programming decisions. It will therefore help strengthen the effectiveness of donor and country government gender programmes and policies in sub-Saharan Africa.
Research themes: The Lab will respond to the need to fill knowledge gaps in the following areas:
Agricultural Productivity: While we know that productivity on farms in Sub-Saharan Africa could increase between 10 and 30 per cent if women used inputs at the same rate as men, we still do not know how best to provide women with consistent access to these inputs. Although we know that rural women are constrained by their care responsibilities, we do not know the most cost-effective solution to reducing them. While we know that women use government services such as extension at lower rates than men, we still do not know the most effective way to increase not only their utilization, but also the benefits these services can provide. Although women are under-represented in high value agriculture, we do not know how to bring more of them into this higher return area. Developing effective policy responses for these issues will require solutions that analyse and adequately address the most pressing interlocking constraints. For example, bringing women into higher value agriculture will have to consider access to inputs or technical or market information, access to markets, secure access to property rights how decisions are made in the household, and social norms that may prevent her from participating in the agriculture economy (e.g. care responsibilities).
Non-agricultural entrepreneurship and employment: While we know that under similar conditions women-owned businesses can perform as well as male-owned, we do not know which barrier (credit, skills, etc.) should be addressed first and how to screen entrepreneurs to ensure effective targeting. While we know that if women were to shift to male-dominated sectors they could improve their returns (both in enterprises and in the labour market), we do not know how to effectively spur and sustain that change in economic roles. While we know that access to markets can play a pivotal role in women’s business development, we do not which instrument can best level the unequal playing field. For example, is the main underlying constraint a limitation of women accessing information about markets perhaps compounded by time constraints which limit women’s ability to find information, or limited credit for investment? While we know that savings accounts can significantly improve the welfare of female entrepreneurs it is not obvious what constrains women's ability to open such accounts. While evidence from other regions suggests that childcare may boost women's labour force participation, we do not know if this intervention will work to address the time constraints that African female entrepreneurs and workers face.
Assets and Agency - property rights: While we have made some progress toward equality of men and women under the law, we don't know how to ensure that women know and make use of the tangible benefits of legal reforms, especially in areas where customary law still holds sway. We know that in some, though not all, areas increasing women’s control over assets can be associated with a lower risk of domestic violence , and that having registered these assets provides women with the incentive to improve their economic outcomes, but we do not know how best to secure women's property rights. While we know that simple savings accounts can increase women's household decision-making power, we do not understand how (and if) this affects domestic violence.
The Gender Lab is focused on testing interventions and creating evidence on how to close the gender gap in earnings, productivity, assets, and agency. It focuses on those factors that give rise to the underlying causes or "sticky" domains of gender inequality that persist even in the presence of economic growth: market failures that disproportionately constrain women; institutional constraints (discriminatory regulations, law, services); social norms (especially women's roles in unpaid care); and interactions within households.
(i) High quality impact evaluations and evaluative learning from innovative pilots in the areas of agricultural productivity, non-agricultural entrepreneurship and employment, and property rights aimed at improving women’s economic and social empowerment outcomes. DFID funding will directly deliver 12 new high quality impact evaluations. The Lab will simultaneously complete work on 20 on-going impact evaluations from phase 1 of the project, mainly using World Bank resources. Collectively, these impact evaluations will add to the evidence base of what works in programmes to tackle underlying gender inequalities and will contribute to wider sharing of data, lessons and filling of strategic evidence gaps.
(ii) Strengthened ability of southern researchers and policy makers to produce and use rigorous evidence in gender policymaking. The Lab will deliver 12 capacity building workshops and events to improve understanding of impact evaluation techniques with project teams and evaluation teams. It will support fellowships and mentoring of African national researchers (5 Junior Fellows and 4 Senior Fellows), two major south-south learning events and engage extensively with southern researchers and policy-makers throughout.
(iii) Influencing policies and practices that matter for gender equality. The Lab will synthesise key relevant lessons from its work and engage proactively with policy makers to maximise the return on its investment in impact evaluations. These activities will aim to ensure that key findings are used to scale up, scale down, target, or refine development policies and programmes. This should increase the benefits from future investments and ultimately reduce gender gaps in pay, productivity, assets and voice.