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A Ridiculously Short Introduction to Monitoring & Evaluation for Women’s Economic Empowerment in Market Systems Development*

Itad's Jessica Rust-Smith explores how to evaluate women's economic empowerment within a market systems programme.

So you want to measure and/or evaluate a programme with Women’s Economic Empowerment? The programme is using a market systems approach? Don’t know where to start? I was equally curious. Luckily, a number of very smart and experienced people have written and spoken on the subject. Below are some of the key points that stuck with me while I’ve been reading up on this subject.

Understand your Intervention

To monitor and/or evaluate a programme, it is normally good practice to actually understand what the programme is trying to achieve. So, do you know the difference between a programme approach that is ‘Gender aware’, ‘Gender mainstreaming’, and ‘Women targeted’? Me neither, but Erin Markel explains these different terms in the DCED Guidelines for measuring Women’s Economic Empowerment in Private Sector Development:

  • A ‘Gender aware programme’ is one that is just disaggregating its data by gender;
  • A ‘Gender Mainstreaming’ programme is one that explicitly aims to benefit both men and women; and
  • A ‘Women Targeted’ programme is one that explicitly seeks to improve benefits to women.

In my experience most market system development projects don’t go much further than being gender aware, although Erin Markel draws on examples from a couple of notable exceptions: Making Markets Work for the Chars (M4C) in Bangladesh, and Alliances Lesser Caucasus Programme (ALCP) in Georgia. In an excellent SEEP webinar on the same topic as this blog, Helen Bradbury of ALCP explains that ALCP actually adopted a gender mainstreaming approach several years into its implementation, so there is hope for the rest!

Expect the Unexpected (and Measure it)

When talking about M&E for market systems development, we are accustomed to advising practitioners to look out for unintended consequences in these complex programmes (see section 4.7 in Itad’s M4P Synthesis Paper). This holds true for measuring Women’s Economic Empowerment in these programmes too. A colleague of mine gave the example of a market system intervention that might try to formalise a sector that is currently informal, and dominated by women.  What if the process of formalisation has the negative, and unintended, effect of driving women out of this sector? It is a possibility, and a programme’s M&E system needs to be prepared to pick up on unintended consequences and act quickly if these are negative. One way to prepare for this, my colleague suggests, is to list the potential negative consequences during the initial market analysis stage in a programme. A programme should also look for early signs of positive impacts on women; and this is what the Ghana MADE programme has found from recent anecdotal evidence of increased access to land for women farmers of rice and groundnuts.

Ask, ‘What does successful Women’s Economic Empowerment look like?’

So let’s say you have established that the programme is Gender Mainstreaming or Women Targeted, it is then important to think about what it will look like if the programme is to achieve its goals vis-à-vis Women’s Economic Empowerment. As the Ghana MADE blog explains very well, women are not a homogenous group, and their levels of economic empowerment – usually defined in terms of women’s Access, Agency and Growth – will vary based on geographical location, class, ethnicity, etc. So successful Women’s Economic Empowerment will look different in different contexts. In the same SEEP webinar mentioned above, Elizabeth Dunn of Leveraging Economic Opportunities (LEO) explains how women’s objectives in a market system development programme may be broader than just increasing profits, and may for example involve using business proceeds to invest more in their children. Understanding these differences is dependent on gender analyses alongside the market analyses that should precede every market systems intervention.

The Unit of Analysis: Households and Enterprises

Elizabeth Dunn also stresses the need to go beyond the enterprise level (the usual unit of analysis for a market systems programme) when measuring Women’s Economic Empowerment to measure change at the household level as well. The reason being, market systems and household systems are interrelated. The importance of looking at change at the household level is also stressed in this recent BEAM Exchange discussion paper on evidence for market systems interventions. However, both Elise Wach and Elizabeth Dunn acknowledge that measuring this change at the household level is not without its difficulties – because of resource constraints, but also having to measure often very intangible changes such as an increase in a woman’s decision-making power.

M&E and Gender are everyone’s responsibility

Effectively conducting M&E for Women’s Economic Empowerment in a market systems intervention requires integration of gender into M&E (and indeed the programme as a whole). Just as we recommend that M&E is everyone’s responsibility, as Helen Bradbury said, so too is gender. For this reason, I encourage everyone in our line of work (that is M&E and Private Sector Development) to check out some of these excellent resources mentioned above. I know that going forward in my own work, I am going to try to think more about how we measure the gendered effects of PSD interventions, and ask if we should go beyond simply disaggregating data by gender.

*For an introduction to Market Systems Development more generally, check out the BEAM Exchange.

Jessica Rust-Smith, January 2016

Other blogs in our Gender Equality Series:

Can football tackle violence against women and girls? Six findings from our baseline study in Kenya.