2.3.4. Resource 4: Human Capital


Human capital is a central driver of sustainable growth and poverty reduction. Building women’s human capital and capabilities so they can enjoy higher returns for their work is central to women’s economic empowerment and gender equality. By improving their skills, health, knowledge, and resilience—their human capital—women can be more productive, flexible, and innovative. Improvements in healthcare and nutrition ensure that women and girls can survive and thrive, and may reduce gender inequalities in household resource allocation, in certain contexts. Additionally, education has been recognized as a critical resource in promoting the empowerment of women because of its impacts on human capital and human capabilities. Payoffs in terms of family welfare, child survival, and women’s own voice and health have shown to apply most strongly to secondary and higher levels of education.

The research cited in this section shows that markets will require strategic investments to improve human capital and capabilities in order to overcome inequalities and sustain inclusive growth. Reports from the international development community offer insights into the importance of addressing gender-based violence (GBV) at home and in the workplace, tackling gendered social norms, and responding to bias in access to training and vocational programming (which often excludes women) in non-formal education and extension services. If left unaddressed, under-investment in women’s human capital development will reinforce their persisting occupational segregation and exclusion from the economy.

Sexual Harassment and GBV

Oxfam—Women’s Economic Empowerment and Domestic Violence

This paper examines the links between women’s increased market-oriented economic activity and women’s experience of domestic violence. A literature review, complemented by perspectives from staff within the Oxfam confederation working on women’s economic empowerment and violence against women, suggests that women’s economic empowerment has discernible and significant—but often mixed—impacts on women’s risk of domestic violence. This paper encourages and assists practitioners to better integrate women’s economic empowerment in development programming, including countering violence against women, in context-responsive ways that can facilitate more holistic empowerment of women.

Sexual Violence Research Initiative—Economic Empowerment Interventions to Reduce Gender-based Violence

This brief outlines several economic interventions that show promise in targeting individuals and risk factors associated with violence. Given that poverty is a risk factor associated with GBV, it also often intersects with and reinforces gender inequality. Approaches listed in this brief are suggestions of ways to empower women by increasing their economic resources and reducing gender inequalities in their intimate relationships.

USAID—Toolkit for Integrating GBV Prevention and Response into Economic Growth Projects

This toolkit offers background and practical guidance to USAID staff on addressing GBV in economic growth and trade projects across the program cycle. The toolkit covers four overarching issues: how and why these projects can play a critical role in addressing GBV; how GBV can affect and undermine the outcomes of such projects; contexts to consider when integrating GBV prevention and response into economic growth and trade projects; and practical ideas and strategies for integrating GBV prevention and response.

WORLD Policy Analysis Center—Preventing Gender-Based Workplace Discrimination and Sexual Harassment

To increase transparency around laws and policies in workplace discrimination and sexual harassment, this report from the WORLD Policy Analysis Center presents actionable data on laws and policies in all 193 UN Member States that address sexual harassment and gender discrimination in pay, promotions and/or demotions, and access to vocational training. The goal of this report is to evaluate not only whether countries have fundamental employment protections in place for women, but also whether these protections extend equally for all women across race/ethnicity, age, disability, religion, and social class.

Social Norms

Men Engage Alliance—Policy Brief: Engaging Men and Boys in Social Norms Transformation as a Means to Achieving Agenda 2030 and the SDGs

In this policy brief, the Men Engage Alliance provides a comprehensive call to action on the engagement of men and boys in transforming social norms for the achievement of the SDGs. It calls for scaled-up and institutionalized evidence-based, gender-transformative interventions with men and boys that challenge the social and cultural norms that act as barriers to gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. The brief outlines specific sub-indicators on engaging men and boys in ending violence and discrimination toward women and girls, including in sexual and reproductive health, unpaid care, and women’s economic empowerment. Peaceful and active non-violence techniques are included.

Overseas Development Institute (ODI)—Women’s Voice and Leadership in Decision-Making: Accessing the Evidence

This report looks at whether women’s capabilities and actions in different spheres secure them more presence and influence in private and public decision-making. The report aims to answer two questions: What are the enabling factors for increasing women’s voice and leadership? How do voice and leadership translate into greater gender equality? The report is guided by a framework that draws together theories of women’s empowerment with the political economics of institutional change in developing countries. It tests two common assumptions regarding women’s voice: that women’s voice and political participation leads to actual influence on decision-making; and that women of influence will always champion issues of concern to women.

UN High-Level Panel (UNHLP)—Driver 1 Working Group Paper: Changing Norms in Support of Women’s Economic Empowerment

This brief working paper provides guidance to actors interested in taking action on changing norms to improve women’s access to decent work and to realize their economic rights. It focuses on removing and restricting adverse norms, while recognizing that support for positive norms is also important. Interventions on norms need to be related to broader goals for reducing poverty and inequality, and they should include challenging structures as well as behaviors. The paper offers a renewed focus on the economic norms as well as the gendered social norms that affect women’s economic empowerment. The authors argue that if action on women’s economic empowerment is to be bold, the push for change should be more on norms that regulate institutions, structures, and policies, rather than those regulating individual behavior.

UN Women—Beyond Gender: The Invisible Stereotypes

The UN Unstereotype Alliance commissioned this research to discover more about the intersectional nature of stereotypes in three key nations: South Africa, Brazil, and India. The findings, which are the result of speaking to 1,000 women and 1,000 men in each country, show that while there are cultural nuances, there is a commonality of experience: women and men are suffering discrimination due to a myriad of factors, of which gender is just one. The authors argue that it is time to stop looking at gender bias in isolation, because doing so overlooks the complex and interconnected nature of social stereotypes. The concept of intersectionality alters the way we think about people, helping us to understand the different dimensions of their identityconsidering not only gender, but also other vital factors such as race, class, language, education, appearance, and sexuality.

USAID—Leveraging Economic Opportunities Brief: Engaging and Working with Men—Program Insights and Key Considerations for the Agricultural Sector

This technical brief presents guidance on the effective engagement of men in programming to improve women’s economic empowerment and gender equality outcomes in the agricultural sector, using a market systems approach. The brief establishes five considerations for this engagement, drawing upon literature and case studies from within and outside the agricultural sector.