What Does It Take to Achieve Scale in Women's Empowerment Activities?
Scaling development innovations
There is broad global recognition that meeting targets and 21st century challenges require multiplied efforts to reach and benefit increasing numbers of people currently living in poverty — in other words, scale.
While there are different pathways for achieving scale, “scaling up” is broadly understood to mean expanding, replicating, adapting and sustaining successful policies, programs or projects to reach a greater number of people, and is part of a broader process of innovation and learning. Scale is also relative to
Taking successful interventions to scale is particularly critical to making gains for women in agricultural productivity,
Scaling women’s empowerment
Despite its importance, achieving scale for women’s economic empowerment in terms of both female voice and choice is particularly challenging in the agricultural sector, as success requires overcoming significant barriers faced by women, such as tenuous access to land and limited access to financing and agricultural technologies and inputs. These and other normative and structural barriers also limit women’s participation in more profitable value chains. These gender inequity challenges and what is needed to address them also varies across communities, countries and regions.
Typically, interventions seeking scale are pilot tested with designated organizational, financial and human resources. However, for these interventions to scale beyond the pilot phase, there have to be stakeholders invested in providing resources and support beyond this initial testing, which isn’t always the case. In addition, implementing organizations often lack the expertise and capacity to fully integrate gender into the scale-up process, and there exists a real risk of achieving greater numbers of beneficiaries at the expense of sustainability and equality. To achieve long-lasting gains for women, empowerment interventions must address deeply entrenched systemic barriers to gender equality, such as social norms that prevent women from reaching their full potential.
Successful scaling of women’s economic empowerment relies on facilitating local ownership and engaging stakeholders deeply connected with local systems in policy processes. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) finds that to achieve scale for women’s empowerment, programming needs to include the following features:
- A well-articulated gender strategy grounded in sound analysis that supports overall project goals.
- Adequate human and financial resources to implement that strategy, including gender expertise in the management team.
- Progressive but realistic targets for women’s participation in project activities.
- Gender-sensitive monitoring and evaluation systems.
Examples of approaches to achieving scale in women’s empowerment
Feed the Future Advancing Women’s Empowerment's (AWE's) consortium member MarketShare Associates (MSA) has recently supported two initiatives that directly address barriers to scale for women’s empowerment.
Feed the Future Inclusive Agricultural Markets (IAM) Activity in Uganda
Initially, agricultural market systems development programs often are able to successfully pilot gender-sensitive interventions with agribusinesses, such as innovative business models, new products or services or more inclusive distribution and supply chain practices. However, many of these innovations are never able to reach scale beyond the initial pilot funded by the program because of the lack of private financing from banks and equity investors. In response to this challenge, the Feed the Future Inclusive Agricultural Markets (IAM) Activity in Uganda is catalyzing gender lens investment (GLI) in inclusive agribusinesses in Uganda.
The overall purpose of IAM is to improve household incomes and livelihoods through agriculture-led inclusive economic growth. As part of this, IAM is providing direct support to agribusinesses to test new business models or business practices that increase women and youth inclusion. To ensure that these models and practices can be scaled beyond the life of the project, IAM is working to increase the flow of capital to inclusive agribusinesses by supporting increased use and quality of GLI by local agribusiness advisors and investors. When local business advisory services are able to deliver gender-smart assistance to the inclusive agribusinesses they support, it is easier for these businesses to raise capital and scale their gender-inclusive business models. IAM aims to help raise $5 million in investment capital for a minimum of six agribusinesses that meet GLI criteria.
Jointly, testing new, inclusive business models and increasing use and quality of GLI by local agribusiness advisors is expected to strengthen the capacity of the agricultural market system to support the growth and scaling of Ugandan agribusinesses that benefit or empower women.
Arab Women’s Enterprise Fund
Many women’s empowerment interventions struggle to reach scale because they ignore the enabling environment. In Jordan, the Arab Women’s Enterprise Fund (AWEF) worked with municipal and national government agencies to deliver accessible business licensing services for home-based dairy entrepreneurs, the majority of whom are women. Previously, many women entrepreneurs were excluded from formal business licensing because their businesses were home-based. Having a license
As with IAM’s support for expanded gender lens investing, integrating women into formal markets by addressing enabling environment constraints increases the scale of women’s economic empowerment in agriculture. Women are able to earn more and expand their businesses. Although it is still necessary to consider potential unintended negative consequences of these results, these models show promise in tackling the challenge of increasing women’s economic empowerment in agriculture.