‘Women’s economic empowerment: key issues and policy options’ SIDA Policy Women’s Economic Empowerment Series (SIDA and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sweden)

This paper argues strongly that the values that underpin the arguments for women’s empowerment are exactly the kind of values that we might want to help us on our way in the current economic crisis. They include respect for human rights and social justice, the
central importance of human capital and human capabilities – including women’s own – and the need for more balanced processes of growth. Women’s economic empowerment, which is an entry point into other forms of empowerment, will allow them to
bring these values into the construction of an alternative to the current structure.

The central argument of the paper is organised around the limits to markets as a means of overcoming ‘durable inequalities’ which rel ect long-established power relations and the need for public action by states and civil society to address these underlying
causes. The paper sketches out a number of areas where policies could make a difference, including a difference on the terms on which women can participate in, contribute to and benefit from processes of economic growth. They include:
• Building women’s human capital and capabilities so that they
enjoy higher returns to their labour efforts
• Redistributing reproductive responsibilities through labour-
saving technologies, affordable and reliable care facilities and
strengthening the caring role of fathers
• Equalising property rights, including land, housing and
associated resources
• Mainstreaming women into the i nancial system, perhaps more
necessary now than ever before
• Promoting gender-aware social protection in increasingly
insecure markets, again something that the present crisis has
brought to the forefront.

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