Gender and development

Tracking the money for women's economic empowerment: still a drop in the ocean



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Tracking the money for women's economic empowerment: still a drop in the ocean


Women’s economic empowerment – defined as women’s capacity to contribute to and benefit from economic activities on terms which recognise the value of their contribution, respect their dignity and make it possible for them to negotiate a fairer distribution of returns – is a prerequisite for achieving gender equality and building inclusive and prosperous societies.

Women’s economic empowerment cuts across the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with targets on recognising and valuing unpaid care and domestic work, women’s equal rights to economic resources, full and productive employment and decent work, and equal pay for work of equal value. The Addis Ababa Action Agenda further commits to ensure women’s equal rights, access and opportunities for participation and leadership in the economy, recognising this as essential to achieve sustainable development. Other recent international commitments include the “25 by 25” target adopted by G20 leaders in 2014, to reduce the gender gap in labour force participation in G20 countries by 25% by 2025. Adequate financing from all sources will be required for the full and accelerated implementation of both new and long-established commitments to empower women economically and shape economies that work for women.

This brief produced by the OECD-DAC Network on Gender Equality (GENDERNET) and the DAC Working Party on Development Finance Statistics (WP-STAT), provides an overview of official development assistance (ODA) going to women’s economic empowerment. It identifies key trends, financing gaps and priority areas for improving donor support in this area.

Key findings

  • Aid committed by DAC members to women’s economic empowerment reached USD 8.8 billion on average per year in 2013-14 – a rise from USD 5.2 billion in 2007-08. This is the first upward trend in aid to gender equality in the economic and productive sectors since 2007.
  • However, less than a quarter (24%) of DAC members’ aid to the economic and productive sectors targeted gender equality as either a primary or secondary objective in 2013-14. This is much lower than the average of 35% across all sectors.
  • Aid targeting women’s economic empowerment as the principal objective remains especially low, at USD 861 million in 2013-14. This is just 2% of the aid going to the economic and productive sectors – a mere drop in the ocean.
  • While gender equality is fairly well integrated into donor support to agriculture and employment, the proportion of aid to other economic and productive sectors remains very small. The gender focus is weakest in the infrastructure sectors such as energy and transport. This is despite strong evidence that women’s access to quality infrastructure is essential for expanding their economic opportunities, reducing unpaid work burdens, and advancing gender equality.


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