Gender Action Mainstreaming for Empowerment to Change

Gender environments

Women's Rights | Women's empowerment | Working with men | Participation | Wealth Creation | Sustainability |
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What are enabling policy environments for women's enterprise?

Providing an enabling environment for women’s enterprise will require a radical shift in conceptual frameworks from:

socially responsible growth generally confined to voluntary self-regulation by vested interests


socially equitable growth which provides the necessary regulation and support for empowerment and poverty eradication.

This in turn requires a holistic framework of integrated macro- and meso-level policies to adequately address the multiple constraints facing women entrepreneurs, and particularly poor women.


  Reconceptualization of the “economic” to encompass analysis of and strategies to address:

• Broader livelihood strategies and integrating non-market/reproductive work;

• Power relations at household, market, institutional and macro-levels.

Gender equity:

• Mainstream policy to take equal account of women’s gender-specific needs, rather than taking male-specific needs as the norm;

• Reform of policies which give inequitable advantage to men;

• Adequately resourced affirmative action to address women’s gender-specific needs to redress previous discrimination and neglect;

• Reinforcement of men’s responsibilities in the reproductive sphere.

Poverty eradication

• Reform of policies which give inequitable advantage to powerful interests of large-scale business and Northern economies;

• Specific support for very poor women and labour as integral part of enterprise policy;

• Specific support for very poor countries.

Institutional accountability in economic decision-making at all levels:

• Women’s equal representation;

• Representation of very poor women;

• Representation of women from very poor countries.

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• Legislation to treat women as independent actorswith equal rights and who control property, income and other resources;

• Legal definition of small-scale/micro-enterprise to recognize women as independent and equal actors,and to include labour regulation and guidelines for co-operation;

• Financial sector legislation to ensure women’s equal access to financial services and foreign exchange.

FISCAL POLICIES based on equal rights and integration of reproductive work :

• Individual taxation for women;

• Childcare expenses and housing improvement allowable as part of business tax relief; Insurance schemes and pensions to take into account women’s needs and working patterns;

• Unification of tax and benefit systems to remove discrimination against poor self-employed women;

• Lowering VAT on essential goods produced by women and/or consumed by children.

INDUSTRIAL AND TRADE POLICIES to promote women’s enterprises rather than discriminate against them:

• Reform of discriminatory investment, trade and infrastructure policies which produce market distortions in favour of male entrepreneurs and particularly to large-scale and foreign owned businesses;

• Affirmative action for promotion of production and services used and provided by women, e.g. care services, technology to decrease burden of domestic work, preferential grants, collective and individual loans, etc. for female social entrepreneurs in poor neighbourhoods;

• Promotion of women’s marketing and networking through the Internet (including e-mail shops), trade fairs, and promotion of alternative trading organizations (ATOs), preferential access to public tendering;

• Promotion of ethical enterprise: ethical legislation to be an integral part of enterprise policy and enforceable for all enterprises, and active promotion of collective and co-operative arrangements and innovative forms of management.

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  HUMAN DEVELOPMENT AND INFRASTRUCTURE POLICIES to integrate reproductive work and promote women’s enterprises:

• An integrated care strategy;

• Women’s participation in design of physical infrastructure like roads, transport, markets, power and water supplies;

• Public expenditure on literacy and higher education for women, removal of gender stereotypes from curricula mainstreaming enterprise, business skills, and different types of technology training for women in general education;

• Media promotion of positive images of female entrepreneurs and women in general;

• Mainstreaming reproductive work and women’s rights in training and education for men and in media images.

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INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE for gender accountability:

• Structures for representation of women’s organizations in decision-making, particularly those representing poor women and women in poor countries;

• Equal opportunities policies and gender training in all concerned institutions as a condition of funding and support;

• Gender-disaggregation of all budgets, statistics and research, and dissemination of information to women’s organizations;

• Networking between institutions to promote integration and coherence of gender policies to increase the depth, scope and pace of change;

• Support for women’s movements and NGOs providing legal support, gender expertise in research, training, and policy development.

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challenging vested interests

Unless a holistic approach is taken and powerful vested interests challenged, the majority of women will continue to be consigned to low income and low profit enterprises. This is both economically inefficient and has serious consequences for children, as well as imposing burdens on women themselves, with serious consequences for their well-being and human rights. The current emerging consensus about the importance of micro and small enterprise development for women risks becoming little more than a convenient means of side-stepping the need for radical policies for redistribution of wealth within or between countries, or explicit strategies for feminist organization. It has been largely fuelled by a political search for quick solutions to poverty and unemployment as a response to increasing evidence of negative impacts of macro-economic and social policies. The current emphasis on gender mainstreaming also becomes a convenient means of paying lip-service to goals of gender equality through marginal changes, whilst maintaining strict budgetary constraints on programmes for women and leaving existing macro-economic policies intact.

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