"Evidence-based policy solutions — as well as some pitfalls to avoid — for those interested in strengthening women’s empowerment and improving development outcomes."
Learn about evidence-based solutions to enhance the impact of development programs by targeting couples.
Hundreds of millions of dollars in development spending are channeled towards women’s economic empowerment across a range of sectors. Most of these interventions aim to strengthen women’s empowerment by directly targeting women themselves. Yet women face substantial barriers to empowerment within their own households, including imbalances in bargaining power, behavioral and informational obstacles to coordination, and embedded social norms. Can couples-targeted interventions help women (and men) overcome these barriers?
In a joint session with the Gender Innovation Labs from Africa and East Asia and the Pacific, this Bite+ highlights evidence-based policy solutions — as well as some pitfalls to avoid — for those interested in strengthening women’s empowerment and improving development outcomes. The format is “lightning talks” that draw on new randomized controlled trial evidence from the World Bank, government, and private sector interventions that attempt to engage both women and men in pursuit of gender equality and enhanced program effectiveness.
The session opens with new experimental work from a land reform program in the Philippines that sub-divided collective parcels into individual parcels that will eventually receive a title. The preliminary results from this study, which point to erosion in women’s decision-making power in male-beneficiary households, highlight the need for a couples-based approach to rural land and agriculture interventions. Next, the session offers three examples of how targeting couples can enhance the impact of development programs, including new findings on the relative effectiveness of offering training and inputs to male rubber farmers with or without their spouses in Côte d'Ivoire; an experiment that tests ways to empower women farmers and link them to value chains with one of East Africa’s largest sugar companies; and finally, the first look at new impact results from a set of couples-targeted interventions to strengthen women’s property rights in Uganda. The presentations focus on the relative effectiveness of these low-cost interventions — which include conditional price subsidies and information — on household farms and firms, as well as the within-household impact on decision-making and bargaining. The session concludes with some over-arching lessons from these studies for World Bank operations.