Opportunity and Inclusion
Decent work opportunities
The existence of formal and informal work opportunities for women that are accessible and visible (i.e., women are aware that the opportunities exist)
© Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation | Prashant Panjiar | HLL condom plant at Perookada in Kerala, India | 2013
How decent work opportunities support women's economic empowerment
How decent work opportunities produce further benefit

Our interest in expanding women’s market inclusion stems from its positive impact on both women’s economic empowerment and inclusive agricultural transformation, a dynamic process in which rising agricultural productivity spurs growth in the rural non-farm economy, fosters out-migration from rural to urban areas, and strengthens connections between rural and urban areas. Attention to the inclusivity of agricultural transformation will help ensure that both women and men benefit as the agricultural economy evolves.

As we investigated efforts to improve WMI, we identified four intervention types—producer collectives, outgrower schemes, farmer field schools, and poverty graduation programs—that have been shown to work in different settings with clear evidence from multiple RCTs or quasi-experimental studies.

At present, most market interventions are gender-unintentional because their design and implementation do not work to disrupt gender-based inequality. To make investments gender-intentional, care should be taken to:

  • Define the problem appropriately by consulting women in the initial research
  • Design for women’s unique needs
  • Implement in a way that attends to gendered norms as well as affordability, time, mobility, and other constraints that affect women and girls
  • Evaluate gender-disaggregated data to determine impact on women
Women-only cooperatives in India
Digital platform to connect farmers and buyers in India and beyond
Poverty graduation programs in Bangladesh and elsewhere
Mobile layaway for agricultural purchases in Africa
Market connections and norms change in India and Africa
Training and market access in India
Is there a case for action?

Expanding women’s access to decent work opportunities has been shown to have a significant positive impact on women’s labor force participation, wages, and agency—all of which contribute directly to women’s economic empowerment.

A key aspect of decent work opportunities is women's market inclusion (WMI), which we define as women’s equitable participation in and ability to capture value from agricultural market systems. Equitable participation involves both the level and nature of participation and value capture refers to the ability to earn income and strengthen one’s economic position through agricultural productivity, both in absolute terms and relative to men.

WMI has a direct impact on WEE in that exclusion from agricultural markets tends to restrict women to low-skilled, low-paying work. Furthermore, as the agricultural sector evolves women who lack access to agricultural markets often find themselves falling further behind men. In addition to earning less than men, these women are often unable to control or make decisions about their earned income, which further constrains their economic empowerment.

The value proposition of WMI is its potential to increase poor women’s incomes at scale, which in turn contributes to gender equality and poverty reduction. Numerous studies in LMIC settings have shown that women’s agency in spending decisions increases as their earned income rises. Such gains benefit women and their families and can contribute to country-level economic growth.

© Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation | Prashant Panjiar | Workers pile rice for processing in Bogra, Bangladesh | 2009