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Making Girls & Women The challenge of measuring gendered impact in private sector development Put simply, gender is no longer a “nice-to-have” - it’s a must-have. Recognising that women bear a disproportionate poverty burden relative to men, practitioners and donors have sought to integrate gender considerations into private sector development. But this is not so simple. In addition to economic factors, the rigidity of socially ascribed gender roles and women’s limited access to power, education, training and productive resources mean that it is often more difficult to reach, and positively impact women. This is particularly true when applying an approach such as Making Markets Work for the Poor (M4P). This approach – which changes economic market systems to benefit the poor – does not engage women directly, instead it seeks to facilitate gender-responsive systemic change by incentivising people to adopt inclusive business practices. Measuring the impact of private sector development programmes on poor women is equally complex. Whilst in most development sectors defining female beneficiaries is relatively simple, in private sector development, the generation, retention, and control of income makes this more complicated. Imagine then, as part of a M4P programme, low-income farmers are connected to commercial farms to increase the income of the smallholder farmer.

Unpacking the “Black Box”

Whilst a woman cultivates her own land and sells the increased or higher-quality yield herself is likely to count as a beneficiary, what about a husband and wife team? Do both count as beneficiaries? Does it depend on the division of labour or the nature of their contribution? Or is it automatically accrued by the husband regardless of the wife’s contribution, in accordance with traditional norms? Does it matter who collects the revenue? Or how the money is distributed and used? Understanding the gendered impact of private sector development is challenging because households and (micro) enterprises often coalesce within poor communities. This means it is common for multiple individuals – often of different genders – to contribute to commercially productive activity. Some or all of these individuals may benefit from interventions, though the ways in which they benefit can vary: from improved access to agricultural products, land, or credit; to increased incomes; to a reduction in unpaid care work; to strengthened agency at a family or community level. They may experience no benefit at all, or the intervention could cause harm. Whilst there is no agreed approach to beneficiary reporting in private sector development, the most common practice is to count only the head of the family unit or enterprise unit, which is often the same individual. Problematically, this masks others’ contribution to productive activity, including women, men, children, and labourers. This method almost always determines a male as the beneficiary.

Who to Count?

This approach is limiting and can distort the reality because impact on female members of male-headed family units are not captured in a programme’s monitoring and evaluation. Women are often counted as a beneficiary only if they are divorced, widowed, or because of male migration. And although impacts are much easier to attribute in female-headed households, a true understanding requires a more acute exploration of mixed-sex, male-headed family and enterprise units to disentangle who benefits from (or is harmed by) the market system intervention, and how. Other programmes count all those in the family or enterprise unit, including paid or unpaid labourers. This approach assumes – often incorrectly – that any increase in unit income has positive and equal benefits for all those contained within it and simplifies the real gendered impact of the programme.


Closing the Gender Gap  
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