Making markets work for women: how push and pull strategies can support women's economic empowerment
In many countries, the inability of women to negotiate pervasive social, legal, and cultural barriers inhibits their participation in the productive sphere, particularly their entry into market systems as producers and entrepreneurs. The paper draws on case studies from projects implemented by the Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) in Ghana, the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Institute (ECDI) in Pakistan, and Zardozi in Afghanistan to show how practitioners can maximize ‘push’ and ‘pull’ strategies to increase the scale, impact, and sustainability of women's economic empowerment programming. Despite differences in country contexts, value chains, and sectors, the authors illustrate the importance of ‘push’ strategies in helping women to overcome the persistent gender-based discrimination that undermines women's understanding of markets, access to networks, self-confidence, and business success. They also show how deliberate ‘pull’ strategies that use commercially based incentives can increase women's incomes and business sustainability. The authors conclude that a blend of push and pull strategies will provide the most reach and impact for women's economic empowerment projects, ensuring income growth and gender equality dividends for families and communities.