The overarching goal of the proposed project is to conduct rigorous research on economic development and women’s empowerment to inform local and national public policy and to influence the policies and practices of donors and multilateral organizations. The Urban Institute is leading this effort together with its partners: the Centre for Public Policy Alternatives in Nigeria, the Institute of Women, Gender and Development Studies in Kenya, and the Leadership for Environment and Development in Pakistan. The project has the following specific aims:
- to design and conduct six studies on economic development and women’s empowerment;
- to disseminate the research findings to academic audiences, policy-makers and other stakeholders; and
- to build the capacity of all the partners to conduct high quality policy-relevant research on low and middle income countries, ensuring that the findings reach a wide audience.
The conceptual model that guides the project posits that economic growth can foster women’s economic empowerment, but different aspects of economic growth may operate differently. The effect of economic growth will be enhanced in some places and inhibited in others because of historically and geographically specific sociopolitical structures. We suggest that the effect of economic growth on women’s lives operates through:
- factors that affect the types of women’s labor market opportunities (e.g. globalization and urbanization has narrowed the gender gap in labor participation, but also has pulled many women into vulnerable employment and living conditions);
- factors that affect women’s caretaking responsibilities (e.g. increases in health may lower the cost of household production and the burden of caretaking);
- other institutional, cultural, or infrastructural factors that may protect women( e.g. implementation of laws protecting civil liberties) ; and
- unintended consequences of development that may have negative effects for women (e.g. increased violence in overly crowded cities; exposure to environmental toxins).
This framework leads to the following research questions:
- How do different aspects of economic growth (e.g. sectoral composition, export growth, trade liberalization) affect women’s economic empowerment?
- How do the social processes and infrastructure that typically accompany economic growth (e.g. family change, education, urbanization, access to health providers, transportation, and labor market densification) affect women’s economic empowerment?
- Are there important differences across countries in how economic growth affects women’s economic empowerment?
- Are there important differences in how economic growth affects women’s economic empowerment across different domains (e.g. labor force participation, household decision making, and gender based violence)?
A key objective of our project is to provide evidence-based policy analyses for decision-makers within the Global South and beyond. Research does not easily find its own way into policy discussions however, particularly if it is upsetting some status quo. It needs to be communicated – the findings made relevant to wider debates, the implications for particular points explained, and ancillary work needs to be conducted. The partners we are teamed with understand this and their work reflects the approach Urban itself takes – both thinking and doing – in this case conducting research and engaging with policy-making consumers of research. The platform provided by collaboration between Urban and other partners, as well as with IDRC, will also help promote research results, enhancing their local impact and accelerating the likelihood of similar work being undertaken in other countries.