Gender Is Key to Smart Development and Empowering People

Women and Men Central to Economic Growth in Emerging Markets


ACDI/VOCA works to empower farmers, workers, entrepreneurs, communities, and individuals—both women and men—to succeed in the global economy. We do this by investing in people’s skills and knowledge and finding ways to expand their access to resources and assets so they have more choices and opportunities.


We are committed to gender equity in all aspects of our programs and operations. Because there is gender inequality in all the countries we work in, we often must focus specific attention and resources on ensuring that women are fully able to engage in development activities and benefits.


We have also learned through our work since 1963 that using gender approaches and analysis is part of doing “smart” development. Gender approaches and tools allow us to bring an awareness of gender issues to our program design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation activities.


The result: Our programs and interventions get better, more sustainable results toward fighting poverty and ending hunger.


Community-Driven Gender Approaches

“Gender” refers to the roles, responsibilities, attributes, and power relations that are socially constructed by and assigned to men and women of a given society or community. These constructs vary greatly by culture, geographic region, socioeconomic status, and context, and they change over time.


Because of gender’s localized nature, ACDI/VOCA prioritizes the engagement and leadership of local partners, stakeholders, and beneficiaries in developing, implementing, and evaluating gender approaches. We also support local initiatives that promote gender equity.


Women Key to Economic Growth

Women are essential to economic growth in developing countries. Moreover, investments in women often return multiple dividends in terms of helping to improve the well-being of their children, families, and communities.


Women are central wage earners. Their earnings and productive activities provide vital income to many households.


Women also are vital food producers and preparers. Women in developing countries produce between 60 and 80 percent of food crops.


Yet women continue to face social barriers and inequities that prevent them from realizing their full economic potential.


Women and Gender Inequities

In both developed and developing countries, women face gender-based inequities that often impede their ability to earn a living and better their lives and those of their families.

  • Women worldwide typically earn less than men for the same work, and their jobs are concentrated in lower paying industries and the informal sector. In addition, family labor is usually unpaid.
  • Women tend to work longer hours under the double burden of domestic and remunerative labor.
  • Women constitute the majority of the world’s agricultural laborers but receive only a small fraction of the available extension and support services.
  • Women have less access to and control over resources, benefits, and opportunities, including land, assets, credit, training, and household income.
  • Female-headed households are overrepresented among the poor and food insecure, and women and their children are the majority of refugees and displaced populations.
  • Women are further disadvantaged economically and socially because they often receive approximately half the years of schooling of men and have less access to health care services and fewer legal rights.

Gender Includes Men and Boys Too

Men and boys can be disadvantaged due to socially defined gender roles, as is reflected in situations of mass male unemployment or the problematic reintegration of ex-combatants and efforts to control the spread of HIV. Because of this, gender approaches and analyses also strengthen ACDI/VOCA efforts to improve the economic status and well-being of men and boys.


Moreover, women’s empowerment cannot be achieved without engaging men in the process.


ACDI/VOCA Leads by Example

ACDI/VOCA promotes the equal participation of women at all levels of our own organization—in headquarters and field offices—through equal access to resources, opportunities, and decision-making roles. We have a gender policy that outlines steps to promote gender equity and support nondiscrimination in programs and operations.


The policy applies to all ACDI/VOCA projects, regardless of whether they are required by project donors. Core components include: gender equity training for staff; designation of gender specialists or focal points for all projects; using sex-disaggregated country benchmarks to inform targets for program participants; disaggregating program data and results by gender; and reporting the gender balance of staff in all offices around the globe.


To facilitate progress toward gender equity, we encourage gender audits and gender awareness trainings in our programs and operations. In line with our core values, we respect diversity, emphasize a participatory culture, and promote transparency.


Learn more about our gender policy.


Learn more about our gender integration and women’s empowerment approach.


En Español: Equidad de Género es Clave para el Desarrollo Inteligente y el Empoderamiento de las Personas.



World Report Spring 2010

World Report: Gender Approaches Strengthen Development
ACDI/VOCA works to empower people—women and men—to succeed in the global economy. In this World Report, we highlight some of the lessons that have led us to where we are today and continue to shape how we work to expand opportunities for people worldwide.



Gender Equity

Gender Is Key to Smart Development and Empowering People:
Women and Men Central to Economic Growth in Emerging Markets (PDF, 1 MB)



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