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Lessons Learned and Not Yet Learned from a Multicountry Initiative on Women's Economic Empowerment

  • Sara Johansson de Silva
  • Pierella Paci
  • Josefina Posadas

The Results-Based Initiatives (RBI), launched in 2007, were a pioneering attempt to provide comprehensive, coherent, and rigorous evidence on effective interventions to foster the economic empowerment of women. The RBI comprised five small pilots with built-in impact evaluation designed to identify what works best in promoting better outcomes for women as entrepreneurs, wage earners or farmers, under different country contexts. The program was an innovative experiment in an important policy area. While there is a clear rationale for policy interventions to help remove constraints to women’s economic empowerment, knowledge of what interventions work best in different settings remains limited. When the RBI were conceived, rigorous evidence in this area was close to nonexistent because no systematic impact evaluations had been carried out in developing countries. However, the RBI fell short of meeting several of their ambitious objectives. This study highlights lessons from the RBI with respect to both the impact of the interventions and dos and don’ts in the design and implementation of pilots. Regarding the impact on economic opportunities, the interventions did not generally increase women’s earnings, with the exception of the Peru pilot. However, women who received training generally appreciated the access to new information and felt their skills and their involvement in business associations and networks had increased. However, it would be wrong to conclude that these interventions were not effective. The lack of robust positive impact may be due to the evaluations being conducted too soon to show fully the long-term effects of the interventions, or to problems in the design, implementation, or measurement of pilot outcomes. In particular, there was a clear need of an “early warning system” to synchronize the corrections in the interventions with the design of the impact evaluation. The RBI were overambitious regarding what could be achieved with a limited budget and a short time frame.

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This book is provided by The World Bank in its series World Bank Publications with number 16377 and published in 2014.
ISBN: 978-1-4648-0068-9
Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbpubs:16377
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  1. McKenzie, David J. & Woodruff, Christopher, 2013. "What are we learning from business training and entrepreneurship evaluations around the developing world?," CEPR Discussion Papers 9564, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Duflo, Esther & Glennerster, Rachel & Kremer, Michael, 2008. "Using Randomization in Development Economics Research: A Toolkit," Handbook of Development Economics, Elsevier.
  3. Dean Karlan & Martin Valdivia, 2006. "Teaching entrepreneurship: Impact of business training on microfinance clients and institutions," Natural Field Experiments 00282, The Field Experiments Website.
  4. Guido M. Imbens & Jeffrey M. Wooldridge, 2008. "Recent Developments in the Econometrics of Program Evaluation," NBER Working Papers 14251, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Jha, Saumitra & Rao, Vijayendra & Woolcock, Michael, 2005. "Governance in the gullies : democratic responsiveness and leadership in Delhi's slums," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3694, The World Bank.
  6. David McKenzie, 2010. "Impact Assessments in Finance and Private Sector Development: What Have We Learned and What Should We Learn?," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 25(2), pages 209-233, August.
  7. Paul J. Gertler & Sebastian Martinez & Patrick Premand & Laura B. Rawlings & Christel M. J. Vermeersch, 2011. "Impact Evaluation in Practice," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 2550.
  8. Duncan Thomas, 1990. "Intra-Household Resource Allocation: An Inferential Approach," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 25(4), pages 635-664.
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