The provision of livestock and tailoring supplies has become a hallmark of global women’s economic empowerment initiatives. Now, the same symbols are attached to calls for change in a sector increasingly accused of “one-size-fits-all” approaches and overreliance on fragmented women’s entrepreneurship models.

Targeted skills training and other financial entrepreneurship support certainly have a role to play in unlocking income opportunities for women, according to Sangeeta Chowdhry, senior program director for economic justice at the Global Fund for Women.  But Chowdhry explains that isolated economic-focused strategies have also come to represent a focus on donor priorities rather than on the tough, systemic change needed to increase women and girls’ agency and choice.

Implementing more successful strategies to address power imbalances will require change in donor behavior and a bigger commitment from the aid sector to bring women and girls into the program design process.

“The current tendency in international development to view women’s economic empowerment as only a matter of access to employment is failing women and their families,” Deepta Chopra, research fellow at the Institute of Development Studies.

However, more donors are coming to the stage, such as The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation who announced its first gender equality strategy, which will commit $170 million to women’s economic empowerment.

But further reform will need to come from the top — namely from the donors funding short-term “women’s empowerment” initiatives simply because women’s issues have captured international media attention.

Read the full article on a new era of women's economic empowerment by Kelli Rogers at Devex.