Four good reasons for engaging with DFID’s Work and Opportunities for Women programme

by 25th Jul 2018
Women working in a garment factory, Cambodia. Women working in a garment factory, Cambodia.

The DFID-flagship Work and Opportunities for Women programme (WOW) has recently completed its inception phase and is now beginning implementation. The programme was originally conceived as a response to the UN High-Level panel report on women’s economic empowerment, which CARE broadly welcomed at the time. The programme is being run by an alliance of CARE, PwC, BSR, Social Development Direct and the University of Manchester, and aims to enhance the economic empowerment of 300,000 women by 2022.

1. Enhance the economic empowerment of 300,000 women working in global value chains

The world increasingly works through global value chains, which link firms across all stages of production, distribution and retail. OECD, WTO and UNCTAD estimate that approximately 70% of world trade now passes through global value chains. Global value chains therefore can be a powerful lever for change and companies which play key roles, such as retailers and brand owners in the global North, must look closely at how the value chain engages with women.

WOW is designed to work with ten companies to look at key women’s economic empowerment issues in their value chains from women’s leadership to unpaid care – the actual elements will be developed in partnership with the companies. The programme has objectives to show how change can work at scale, how changes can be made systemic and to push the envelope on some important issues.

The programme will publish regular learning materials highlighting lessons derived from the WOW alliance’s WEE experience, research by the programme, and the results of projects being run with companies. The first such document has recently been published as a draft, to support a discussion in September between companies and modern slavery and WEE experts.

2. Partner with business to improve data and transparency on women’s work in value chains

As I argued some time ago, while there is recognition that women play important roles in many segments of global value chains, there is little knowledge of what those roles are and how they can be made more productive and valuable for women. WOW will help to tackle this via research into the role of women in global value chains and company’s specific value chains by working closely with the companies and particularly products and commodities in specific countries. This strand of the programme will publish reports on global value chains, company-specific value chains and particular products/commodities in particular countries.

3. Work with DFID economic development programmes to increase the numbers of women beneficiaries

DFID have made a significant commitment to supporting economic development in its partner countries, and equally a strong commitment to gender equality. These two strands come together under women’s economic empowerment and WOW is committed to providing DFID and other government departments with expert input for policy and programme formulation and execution. This will be via a Help Desk and proactive guidance on important themes within women’s economic empowerment. A flavour of these can be found in the first of the regular WOW evidence digests.

4. Support civil society initiatives to sustain the momentum created by the UN High-Level panel

Recognising the important role of civil society in achieving catalytic impact and/or global learning on topics, which will sustain the UNHLP’s momentum, there is a WOW Fund, which will focus its support on 3 priority areas:

  • recognising, reducing and redistributing unpaid care and domestic work
  • improving outcomes for women in informal work
  • enhancing women’s land tenure security

CARE is delighted to be working in such an ambitious programme on women’s economic empowerment: one that reaches across company policy and practice, research, DFID’s internal processes and policies, and civil society. We’ll be continuing to feature progress on the programme in our upcoming CARE Insights In-Depth feature on WOW, and we hope that you will return to access some of the insights and learning that will be created over the next few years.

Gerry Boyle

Gerry led CARE International UK’s policy analysis and advocacy around value chains and dignified work. He originally joined CARE as the Senior Policy Adviser on Private Sector Engagement. With the advent of our new Global Programme Strategy which put a particular emphasis on women’s economic empowerment, his focus changed a little.

Gerry co-chaired the Bond Private Sector Working Group. Immediately before he joined CARE he worked for Oxfam as Head of Business Relations for about three years, but the vast majority of his career was spent as a management consultant including being a consulting Partner at Deloitte, where for a time he led Deloitte UK’s Consumer Business consulting practice, serving many major multinationals. Gerry's original degree was in Law from Oxford University, and in 2008 when he left Deloitte he did an MSc in Philosophy and Public Policy at LSE.

One good thing I've read

Amartya Sen’s Development as Freedom. It provides a framework for many people’s modern understanding of what is development, based on a profoundly human-centred approach rather than anything instrumental. And to check whether one personally is doing enough to fight poverty, I recommend Peter Singer’s The life you can save: Acting now to end world poverty – it’s very clear and easy to read but very challenging! Finally, Ha-Joon Chang’s Bad Samaritans: Rich nations, poor policies, and the threat to the developing world is a very readable guide to economic development which argues strongly against many of the prevailing orthodoxies.

Twitter: @gerryboyle10