Tuesday, May 23: Day One

9:10 AM – 9:50 AM | Opening Keynote, Prof. Naila Kabeer: Women’s Economic versus Non-Economic Empowerment: Is it a False Dichotomy? | Watergate Ballroom

Analysis of women’s subordinate status in society by feminist academics and activists combines two sets of concerns: individual-level gender inequalities in the capacity to exercise choice and agency in different domains of women’s lives and the societal-level rules and norms that generate these inequalities on a systematic basis and reproduce them over time. The idea of women’s empowerment refers to the processes of change which expand their capacity for voice and agency by addressing these inequalities at both individual and societal level.  In speaking of economic empowerment, we are attempting to capture one aspect of this change, their economic aspect. Economic empowerment focuses our attention on the specific processes that expand women’s market opportunities and improve the terms on which they access them.  The focus on economic empowerment resonates with those who believe that that material inequalities play a central role in reproducing gender inequalities more broadly. It also makes the case for policy efforts to make markets work more fairly for women. Kabeer argues that too narrow a definition of economic empowerment is likely to undermine the transformative potential that such efforts might achieve. In particular, the failure to take account of the non-market constraints which curtail women’s ability to respond to new opportunities is not only likely to limit the effectiveness of these efforts but is also unlikely to realize the full potential of economic empowerment to impact on different aspects of women’s lives.

Keynote Presentation

9:50 AM – 11:05 AM | Donor Viewpoints: Promoting Gender Responsiveness and Women’s Economic Empowerment in Private Sector Development Policy and Practice | Watergate Ballroom

An interactive donor panel with donor representatives will discuss how their respective agencies are making the shift to expand private sector engagement in a way that is gender responsive and contributes to women’s economic empowerment. Building on current economic empowerment objectives for women and girls, donors will be explicit about how to apply gender equality policy to private sector partnerships and programming. Donors may be focused on market systems lead firm models, investment through development finance initiatives, blended finance with supporting technical assistance or other private sector partnerships. We will encourage comparison across donors – what are the similarities and differences in their approaches and priorities, what is and isn’t working? We will solicit input from Forum participants about what is needed in practice to achieve desired outcomes for women and girls. We will conclude with a forward-thinking discussion on what is next, what has potential, how can we push the envelope to tip the balance once and for all.

Linda Jones, MEDA
Sarah Hendriks, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Annemarie Reerink, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)
Shawn Hayes, Global Affairs Canada

Wednesday, May 24: Day Two

9:00 AM – 10:15 AM | Enabling Environment for Women’s Economic Empowerment – Policy Perspectives and Strategies | Watergate Ballroom

There is an increasing interest from multilateral and bi-lateral organizations, as well as governments to create and support enabling economic environments where women will thrive. As more conversations shift from a tactical perspective where a plethora of positive actions are proposed, to a more strategic one involving critical and systemic change at the policy level, tackling how macro-economic policies can help create an enabling environment becomes central to the discussion. Policy levers such as fiscal policy, financial inclusion, valuing women’s paid and unpaid work and even to some extent how to capitalize on free trade agreements to benefit women’s economic empowerment to promote growth but foremost equality are emerging as topics of interest.

The panel will explore the basic principles of macroeconomic policy and how they can be effectively used to promote women’s economic empowerment.

Feisal Hussain, UNCDF
Nangi Massawe, Bank of Tanzania
Bounmy Sengphachan, Bank Franco Laos Ltd

10:15 AM – 11:15 AM | Tech Talks: Women’s Economic Empowerment through Innovation & Technology | Watergate Ballroom

Innovations in technology have the potential to greatly improve women’s economic empowerment (WEE). Technology can increase opportunities for women to work from home, e-commerce can help expand market access for artisans and craftswomen, and innovations in agricultural tech such as vertical farming can enhance the ability of women to raise vegetables without having to own land or reducing labor time. Moreover, innovations in mobile banking are enabling more women entrepreneurs to to access digital financial services, including sending and receiving secure payments. However, there are still many obstacles in utilizing technology for women in rural areas and those working in the informal sector. Access to, and control of technology for many women remains a challenge. Technology leaders will present examples of how innovations in technology are improving women’s economic empowerment and how we can continue to close the gender gap in access to, and control of technology.         

Lis Meyers, Banyan Global
Abigail Hunt, Overseas Development Institute
Wendy Gonzalez, Samasource
Moinuddin Rahgir, bKash Limited
Ewa Wojkowska, Kopernick

Kopernick Presentation
Bkash Presentation
ODI Presentation
Samasource Presentation

2:30 PM – 4:00 PM | Oxford-Style Debate: Market Programming for Economic Growth Should Address Women’s Unpaid Care Work. | Watergate Ballroom

A market system is a dynamic space – incorporating resources, roles, relationships, rules, and results – in which public and private actors collaborate and compete for the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. A market systems approach focuses on catalyzing a process that will result in a market system that is competitive, inclusive, resilient, and adaptive. Market systems approaches aim to reduce poverty for both women and men. Such approaches aim to ensure that both women and men have access to assets and services that enhance the efficiency of their participation in and their benefit from markets, including training, business development skills and finance.

However, unpaid care work is a key factor that affects women’s ability to participate in markets. Unpaid care work involves time and energy in supporting human well-being, arising out of social obligations. Unpaid care work includes (1) direct care of people, such as child care or care of dependent adults; (2) housework ‒ such as cooking, cleaning or collecting water or firewood; and (3) unpaid community work undertaken for friends, neighbors or more distant family members, and work undertaken out of a sense of responsibility for the community.

Pacharee Pantoomano-Pfirsch, Brand Now
Junayed Jamal, The Asia Foundation
Sarah Gammage, International Center for Research on Women
Thalia Kidder, Oxfam
Wade Channell, US Agency for International Development (USAID)
Kristie Drucza, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)
Anne Thandeka Gebhardt, Namibian Women Summit

Thursday, May 25: Day Three

8:30 AM – 10:45 AM | SEEP Network WEE Working Group Meeting | Watergate Ballroom

Please join the SEEP Network’s Women’s Economic Empowerment Working Group for an interactive action planning session on applying key WEE Forum learnings, opportunities, and discussions into practice. New and existing working group members will discuss next steps and opportunities for collaboration and continued knowledge sharing after the WEE Forum.

The Women’s Economic Empowerment Working Group (WEEWG) is a learning community that brings together practitioners dedicated to improving the ability of market systems and other economic development initiatives to facilitate inclusive, empowering, and sustainable opportunities for women across the globe. We have over 250 members from nearly 40 countries, with members hailing from donor organizations, international and local NGOs, consulting firms, community service organizations, and private sector firms. Working group priorities include: 1) CONNECT. Build working group membership and connect with each other; 2) SHARE. Sharing of WEE tools and resources; 3) THRIVE. Learning and expanding our knowledge.

Note: this session is open to all WEE Forum participants.

WEE WG Presentation

12:30 PM – 2:00 PM | Taking Action for Transformational Change – Report from the United Nations High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment | Watergate Ballroom

The United Nations (UN) Secretary-General established the High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment to bring together leaders from different constituencies- government, civil society, business and international organizations. Its purpose is to launch a shared global agenda that accelerates women’s economic participation and empowerment in support of implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its promise that no one will be left behind. The High-Level Panel has just released its final report focusing on a set of recommendations to accelerate progress associated with seven drivers for addressing systemic barriers to women’s economic empowerment. Now accompanied by a useful set of tools, the Panel’s recommendations have the potential to galvanize an historic process of positive change.

This session, led by the report’s author Dr. Cynthia Drakeman, and supported by Sophie Romanawill provide an overview of the Panel recommendations and an interactive discussion of practical strategies for taking the agenda forward.

UN Panel Presentation

1 USAID. Unpaid Care Work in Market Systems Development: Measurement Practices For Women’s Economic Empowerment (2016).

2 Thorpe, Jodie, Mar Maestre and Thalia Kidder, Market Systems Approaches to Enabling Women’s Economic Empowerment through Addressing Unpaid Care Work (2016).