Digitization, core focus in advancing women’s economic empowerment at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Photo credit: Indian farmer women on a farm field/iStock

Digitization, core focus in advancing women’s economic empowerment at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation


By Liz Kellison, Gender Lead, Financial Services for the Poor, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation


In conjunction with International Women’s Day on March 8, 2019, AFI is publishing a series of blog posts throughout the week including contributions from our donors and private sector partners. Join us in embracing innovative ways to advance gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.

At the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we are pleased to partner with the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) in a shared effort to enable women to contribute their full potential to the economy.

When women have access to digital financial accounts, research shows that everyone wins: families eat more nutritious diets; more of the household finances go towards the children’s education; and women are more likely to seek formal employment or start their own business.

How are we advancing women’s economic empowerment? We’re working with AFI and others to close the gender gap by (1) improving how social protection and government transfer payments are made to poor women; (2) advancing the evidence base and increasing advocacy on sex-disaggregating data and removal of legal barriers to women’s economic participation; (3) digitizing wage payments; and (4) amplifying lessons learned through a research and learning agenda and increased donor coordination.

In particular, the foundation’s work on government-to-person (G2P) transfer payments focuses on digitizing priority social protection programs; directing the payments into women’s accounts; and designing the programs so that they expand women’s opportunities. We are currently using this “D3” framework in Tanzania, Pakistan and India where we will evaluate whether women’s access to labor opportunities and better livelihoods improves. The “D3” framework will also evaluate if women actively use their accounts to save money, make payments, and gain greater bargaining power over the use of household resources.

Through this work, we expect to have a better understanding of how innovations in the G2P space could advance women’s economic empowerment, as well as the pitfalls to avoid. We will share our learning to strengthen global advocacy efforts and help countries adopt G2P frameworks grounded in real-world research about how to advance gender equality and reduce poverty for all. Through this work with AFI and other partners, we envision a world in which every woman is financially independent, respected as an active participant in the economy, and has the power make decisions about her own future.