Promoting Women’s Empowerment and Agency for Economic Development
A growing body of evidence shows that placing women in the center of the development agenda can increase efficiency in the management of institutions and resources. Also, female leaders can have beneficial impacts on social norms. The i2i research agenda focuses on using gender empowerment to combat domestic violence, testing interventions such as cash transfers and active labor-market policies to economically empower women, and role of law and justice in achieving gender equality, among others.
An ongoing IE in Azerbaijan, for example, tests the extent to which free legal aid leads to greater legal empowerment, improved dispute resolution, and higher welfare from reclaimed income and benefits, more stable household settings, productivity gains, and a gradual move away from discriminatory norms and practices (Bilal Siddiqi et al., forthcoming). In Pakistan, an IE is evaluating the impact of women-inclusion mandates and ratification in village-level grant management, which imposes an inclusion mandate that 50 percent of individuals organized in a village have to be women (Gine et al., forthcoming). As results come in, we will know whether having more women in these village-level bodies changes the composition of projects that are funded and leads to a better overall allocation of resources. Another IE in India is testing whether privately-run kiosks offering access to government services under the Right to Public Services Act allow women greater access to basic services, and whether this changes their attitude (Daniel Rogger et al., forthcoming).
Gender in Underserved Research Areas
A notable opportunity for the i2i portfolio is to make a dent in understanding gender issues in underserved areas. Recent progress on this front includes the transport sector, and economic and electoral participation in fragile settings.
Reducing transaction costs by improving transport infrastructure has the potential to change the way women access markets. In Ethiopia, a large expressway construction is combined with the development of a large industrial zone. Since the large majority of employment in the industrial zone will be of young women, this will be an opportunity to study the effect of a large labor market shock (60,000+ jobs over a period of several years) on young women’s economic and social outcomes in the vicinity of the zone. A complementary intervention will be set up to experimentally study the role of skills, information, and access to employment opportunities.
In Peru, an intervention to promote women’s access to health services and education is being evaluated in the context of a rural road-rehabilitation project. In Brazil, a new IE on gender-segregated public transport tests the extent to which gender segregation is beneficial for women (Kondylis et al., forthcoming). Harassment in public transport, and sometimes even risk of rape, limits women’s movements, activities, and employment in many developing countries. Results from this study are expected to inform policies going forward on public transport-systems in cities worldwide.
Electoral Participation in FCV Settings
Despite recent policy efforts to increase women’s participation and representation in politics, significant gender gaps remain. Less than 10 percent of the world’s countries have a female head of state and fewer than 30 countries have reached the target of 30 percent female representation in parliament. Further, women continue to have lower electoral participation rates than men and their voting choices are often influenced by powerbrokers or household heads (Giné and Mansuri 2011; Tripp 2001; Geisler 1995). Gender gaps in political participation are especially pronounced in war-torn settings, where women tend to disproportionately bear the consequences of conflict (Buvinic et al. 2013; Sow 2012; Rehn and Sirleaf 2002). While there are individual country cases where women’s representation in governing bodies have increased in the aftermath of civil war, such representation has not necessary translated into their efficacy in voicing policy preference or interest (O’Connell 2011; Tadros 2011; Hogg 2009).
What explains gender gaps in political participation? A growing number of DIME IEs investigate the effects of information-provision interventions and a variety of delivery mechanisms designed to remove or circumvent these constraints. The underlying premise of these interventions is that since information provision can occur relatively quickly and at lower cost, interventions designed to provide information can potentially address the lack of awareness, thereby promoting political participation (Gine and Mansuri 2010; Kumar 2001).
Consistent with this intuition, a DIME impact evaluation in Liberia investigates the positive effects on the political attitudes and voting behaviors of rural women when they are provided access to United Nations elections-related radio programs. The results point to significant effects of the intervention on women’s political participation, both on national and local levels. Worryingly, though, the study finds no evidence of effects on women’s political efficacy and empowerment outside of the electoral context, suggesting the need to complement such brief interventions with more sustained interventions that tackle slow-to-change constraints (on supply and demand sides) that might be embedded in prevailing social structures and norms.
DIME is evaluating a number of interventions that do just that. In Zimbabwe, for example, a DIME IE tests the effects of an intervention designed to reform village-level governance via horizontal pressure on gender inclusion and empowerment. Likewise, in Liberia, another DIME IE investigates the extent to which a nine-month civic education intervention that provides men and women a forum for monthly deliberation on governance, rights, and gender-equality issues, helps narrow gender gaps in political participation.
Economic Participation in FCV Settings
Women’s access to productive assets and agency over the household’s economic decisions is even lower in fragile contexts. Yet, women’s access to resources is particularly impactful on human-capital investments that can help poor children in tough places get out of poverty (Duflo 2003). i2i is supporting a number of studies that aim to provide economic opportunities to poor women in fragile states.
In DRC and Indonesia, i2i is supporting the evaluation of unconditional ‘business grants’ to women for the creation of sustainable livelihoods and for long-term poverty alleviation. A social-network treatment will also be tested, in which participants join a series of workshops from female mentors that focus on building links between individual business-owners. The relative impact and complementarities across these interventions will be captured by the experimental design. In Tunisia, an IE is testing the effect of capital injections to complement a more traditional income-support program that supports the unemployed through short-term employment opportunities. Focusing on vulnerable women, the impact of this additional intervention on long-run consumption and labor-market outcomes will be compared to the outcomes of those who merely participate in short-term labor-intensive works (Mvukiyehe et al., forthcoming).
In Liberia, activities will be centered on developing diagnostic studies, designing materials and micro-interventions, and testing these materials and micro-interventions as part of the Liberia Youth Opportunities Project (LYOP). The diagnostic studies will focus on understanding the concrete actions, behaviors, and decisions that influence women’s access to male-dominated trades and explore the underlying preferences, information, and assumptions (conscious or otherwise). The goal is to step back and research actual needs and obstacles on the ground before jumping to conclusions about solutions. It will pay special attention to considering prevention and mitigation strategies for potential unintended consequences of supporting females in non-traditional or male-dominated fields.
Once the diagnoses have been carried out, the next step will be to design and develop materials and interventions to address the identified constraints and safely support vulnerable females in these sectors. A critical last step will be test and refine the material and interventions before taking them to scale in the project, including in the impact evaluations each project intends to undertake.
 Evidence from recent public opinion surveys across African countries suggests that 36 percent of female respondents are not interested in politics and that 39 percent never discuss politics. 22 percent and 24 percent were reported for men, respectively (Afrobarometer, 2008, reported in Bleck and Michelitch 2011).