Are We There Yet? The Quest for Women’s Economic Empowerment at Scale in Agricultural Market Systems, Part 2: Beyond Partnerships
As we explored in the
In the previous post, we highlighted several private sector partnerships that focused on scale through a strong business case and within a larger market facilitation, systems-based implementation approach. In this post, we highlight projects and approaches that identify opportunities for WEE at scale and explore the enabling environment conditions necessary to sustain it. These projects were profiled in a recent Advancing Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture (AWE)-led, USAID-funded review of women and youth inclusion in 15 agriculture and supporting market systems development programs, spanning multiple donors representing work in 17 countries. Although scale was not a specific focus of this study, the analysis discussed scale as part of its review of how programs measured impact (or didn’t).
Enabling environment and corporate-level behavior change
Formal laws and policies and informal rules and norms are critical dimensions in determining whether impact at scale will be sustained. Scaling WEE, therefore, requires a focus on the broader enabling environment and behavior change at multiple levels. The UK Aid-funded Arab Women’s Enterprise Fund (AWEF) acknowledges that many women’s empowerment interventions struggle to reach scale
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) funds the Market Development Facility (MDF) program, which operates in five countries in the Pacific and Asia, shares AWEF’s perspective and has facilitated opportunities to engage private sector actors in corporate-level behavior change that promotes enabling environments more conducive to WEE. This work includes identifying corporate behaviors that transcend single sectors and embedding those behaviors in partnership design, such as integrating WEE in a company’s national and sales marketing plans, helping develop human resources policies related to female distribution networks and incorporating WEE-related business metrics into companies’ management information systems. These types of interventions have allowed MDF to make significant strides to scaling WEE interventions year after year. In its 2019 annual report, MDF reported being able to double the number of women benefiting from activities from the previous year to more than 100,000 (44% of total individuals), resulting in almost $40 million net additional income generated for women.
Identifying opportunities for WEE at scale
The issue of how we frame or identify opportunities for WEE at scale also matters. MDF found that the greatest improvements in WEE are not necessarily through partnerships with women-owned industries, which offer deep impact but are limited in scale. It found that jointly-led sectors or predominately male-led sectors, which have a greater concentration of existing or potential female workers, offer a greater potential to reach scale and a range of impact depth for WEE. The USAID-funded Punjab Enabling Environment Project (PEEP) identified opportunities to reach scale by looking beyond individual partnerships and seeking to facilitate multi-actor partnerships that were more likely to drive systems change, benefit more women and deliver on more comprehensive and lasting results that have mutually reinforcing impacts on WEE. The program identified public and private sector actors that entered into a joint partnership agreement to provide a comprehensive set of services to women livestock farmers, resulting in more than 2,000 women trained on animal husbandry best practices, 6,000 women accessing veterinary services and 35,000 women receiving microloans.
Partnerships with individual private sector partners can make a significant impact on scaling WEE in agriculture. But addressing systemic constraints also requires a wider approach that addresses the enabling environment and corporate-level changes. In this two-part series, we have explored several projects and how they’ve approached the challenging topic of WEE at scale through context-based approaches. However, many issues remain that constrain scale. As noted in