Africa Gender Policy Briefs

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The Gender Innovation Lab (GIL) conducts impact evaluations of development interventions in Sub-Saharan Africa, seeking to generate evidence on how to close the gender gap in earnings, productivity, assets and agency. The GIL team is currently working on over 50 impact evaluations in 21 countries with the aim of building an evidence base with lessons for the region.

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    Household Demand and Community Perceptions of Community-Based Childcare
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2022-09) Brudevold-Newman, Andrew ; Buehren, Niklas ; Gebremedhin, Roman Tesfaye ; Hailemicheal, Adiam Hagos ; Ketema, Tigist Assefa
    Women in Ethiopia bear a disproportionate burden of childcare responsibilities, spending approximately eight times the amount of time that men do on childcare. Childcare duties, while critical to the development of the child, could be holding back the earning potential of women and households, ultimately diminishing household income and poverty reduction efforts. In a study in the Amhara region, we explore the demand for and social norms around external childcare services through a pilot intervention within the context of the Ethiopia Productive Safety Nets Program (PSNP). We find that the demand for childcare centers in rural areas is high, and the perceptions around external childcare services are favorable. More than 95 percent of potential beneficiary households expressed an interest in sending their children to childcare centers and anticipated sending their children for 4.6 days/week on average. The objective of the study was to generate rigorous evidence on the impactsof providing rural childcare through the PSNP on individual and household outcomes.While the intervention and associated impact evaluation were suspended due to theconflict in Northern Ethiopia, the study provided valuable lessons on the demand for and social norms around external childcare services from a pre-program survey of 2,250 households in the study region and administrative attendance data on program use from the first months of implementation.
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    New Insights on Women’s Employment in Ethiopia’s Industrial Parks
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2021-10-01) Ajayi, Kehinde Funmilola ; Buehren, Niklas ; Cassidy, Rachel Margaret ; Salcher, Isabelle
    Low take-up of job offers and high early turnover continue to affect employment of Ethiopia’s female factory workers. Despite starting factory work around the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the women in our sample still left factory employment primarily for voluntary reasons unrelated to COVID-19. This is consistent with early separation being a longer-term feature of factory employment. Women who voluntarily left their factory jobs reported they had received wages close to the minimum of what they were expecting. Much of the COVID-related separations we observe are “voluntary”, with women choosing to leave factory jobs and mainly staying at home due to personal health concerns. Therefore, while measures to reinforce input chains and demand for factory orders remain key, immediate interventions to address workers’ health and safety concerns are crucial to counter voluntary quitting in times of a public health crisis.
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    Re-Thinking Firm Level Data Collection during COVID-19: Using Mobile Sensing to Understand the Financial Behaviors of Entrepreneurs
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2020-08) Alibhai, Salman ; Buehren, Niklas ; Cucagna, Maria Emilia
    SMEs around the world are entering a crisis period in light of COVID-19, adding new urgency to understanding firm-level financial behaviors and challenges. At the same time, traditional methods of in-person data collection pose a health risk to both enumerator and firm and contravene social distancing guidelines and public health policies. Remote data collection methods such as phone sensing offer a viable and promising alternative. Phone sensing utilizes data generated from mobile phone usage, from GPS location to call logs to battery life – to offer insights on firm behavior, trends, and challenges. While the technology is still new and untested, this note explores some of the early insights gained from a pilot of mobile sensing technology to understand the financial behavior of women entrepreneurs in Ethiopia. Phone sensing data allows us to glean some insights into the lives and behaviors of entrepreneurs which traditional data collection might not reveal. One of the key finding of this pilot is that mobile phone sensing data correlates with business outcomes. Insights such as the ones from this pilot, if collected at a larger and more systematic scale, could enhance our understanding of borrower behavior, and could help lenders and policymakers better target potential borrowers, better understand when borrowers are likely to face adversity, and better design products to meet their needs.
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    The Impacts of COVID-19 on Women-Owned Enterprises in Ethiopia: Findings from a High-Frequency Phone Survey
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2020-07) Abebe, Girum ; Alibhai, Salman ; Buehren, Niklas ; Ebrahim, Menaal ; Hailemicheal, Adiam
    This brief summarizes findings from a high-frequency survey of women-owned firms in Ethiopia which participate in the International Development Association (IDA) - financed Women Entrepreneurship Development Project (WEDP). Over the past five years, WEDP reached nearly 40,000 women-owned firms in Ethiopia with meso-loans and business training. Many WEDP firms had been on a high-growth trajectory, with firms that benefited from WEDP services growing incomes by 67 percent and employment by 55 percent over a three-year period prior to the crisis. This brief is based on the results from the first round of the survey, implemented between May 15, 2020 and June 15, 2020, revealing some initial insights into the scale of the impacts and the nature of the challenges currently facing the WEDP firms.
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    COVID-19 Impacts on Women Factory Workers in Ethiopia: Results from High-Frequency Phone Surveys
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2020-06) Ajayi, Kehinde ; Buehren, Niklas ; Ebrahim, Menaal ; Hailemicheal, Adiam
    As the Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic continues to disrupt international supply chains and local economies, workers employed in export-oriented industries are likely to experience both demand and supply shocks due to the crisis. In Ethiopia, a slowed global economy can pose a significant threat to the country’s industrial parks and their factories in the female-concentrated garment industry, forcing them to lay off workers or even shut down their operations. To monitor the potential effects of the pandemic and support the design of evidence-based policy responses, the gender innovation policy initiative for Ethiopia (GIPIE) is conducting a high-frequency phone survey on a sample of 323 recently hired female factory workers in Ethiopia. This brief reports on the first two waves of data collected between late March and late May 2020, showing the evolution of this sample of female workers’ employment status, earnings, and expectations over the course of the pandemic. Due to the size of the sample and the fact that it only includes recent hires at the Bole Lemi Industrial Park, the results may not generalize for the full population of women factory workers in industrial parks. Data collection from the ongoing high-frequency phone survey of women factory workers in Bole Lemi Industrial Park will continue in the coming months, with recurring surveys every month for a total of 6 rounds. By tracking the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, these data collection efforts aim to equip policymakers with timely, actionable data to better design and implement policy responses in support of Ethiopia’s women factory workers.
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    Can Public Works Enhance Welfare in Fragile Economies? The Londo Program in the Central African Republic
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2020-01) Alik-Lagrange, Arthur ; Buehren, Niklas ; Goldstein, Markus ; Hoogeveen, Johannes
    We evaluated the Londo public works program, which provided temporary employment and a bicycle to beneficiaries selected through public lotteries in the Central African Republic. The evaluation focused on the impacts of the program on households' welfare between 2 and 21 months after participation. We find that the program enhances the productivity of participants in a lasting way, with an approximate 10 percent increase in monthly earnings and a small impact on the number of days worked, well after they finished participating in the program. This improvement takes place through different channels for men, who intensify agricultural production and diversify in small manufacture activities, and women, who diversify into small trade activities. Londo increases the beneficiary households’ durable goods, such as furniture and cellphones, and productive assets, such as agricultural tools and livestock – thereby building household wealth. It also significantly improved their ability to cope with shocks. However, women coming from the poorest households experience much lower impacts on productivity and assets than men and women from less poor households, which indicates the need for specific provisions for widows and ultra-poor women in this type of intervention. The provision of bicycles increases mobility for male beneficiaries, but not for women, likely due to gender norms, risks and bike-riding skills, and other related constraints affecting women specifically.
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    Empowering Adolescent Girls in a Crisis Context: Lessons from Sierra Leone in the Time of Ebola
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2019-07) Bandiera, Oriana ; Buehren, Niklas ; Goldstein, Markus ; Rasul, Imran ; Smurra, Andrea
    In Sierra Leone, the empowerment and livelihoods for adolescents (ELA) initiative sought to enhance adolescent girls’ social and economic empowerment by providing life skills training, livelihood training, and credit support to start income-generating activities. The Ebola crisis occurred during the project, resulting in curbed implementation. In contrast, younger girls (12 to 17 years old) who resided in communities that benefitted from the program in high Ebola disruption areas were more likely to be in school and saw their numeracy and literacy levels improve. However, as younger women spend less time with men in the presence of ELA, men likely shift their attention to older girls: the evaluation finds an increase in unwanted and transactional sex by older girls in areas highly exposed to the Ebola crisis. As the program was implemented, the Ebola epidemic hit Sierra Leone. First, in an effort to stem the spread of the disease, the government-imposed quarantines, limited travel, and closed public spaces such as markets in certain areas, which significantly impacted the economic activities of men and women. Second, schools were closed for an entire academic year. Finally, Sierra Leone’s limited health resources were diverted into caring for patients and preventing the spread of the epidemic, limiting their ability to attend to other issues such as sexual and reproductive health. These results show how safe spaces interventions can be effective even in the face of large-scale shocks such as Ebola crises as seen in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uganda, as well as other shocks constraining economic and social life, by buffering girls from the adverse effects of crises.
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    What Are the Economic Costs of Gender Gaps in Ethiopia?
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2019-03) Buehren, Niklas ; Gonzalez, Paula ; Copley, Amy
    Despite Ethiopia’s remarkable economic progress over the past decade, gender gaps in key economic activities - agriculture, entrepreneurship, and wage employment - indicate that challenges remain to realizing the full potential of women’s economic empowerment. Differences in simple averages between men and women show that women lag men by 36 percent in agricultural productivity, by 79 percent in business sales, and by 44 percent in hourly wages. This brief examines the costs of these gender gaps and estimates the potential gains from closing them.
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    Africa Gender Innovation Lab Ethiopia Gender Diagnostic: Building the Evidence Base to Address Gender Inequality in Ethiopia
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2019) Buehren, Niklas ; Goldstein, Markus ; Gonzalez, Paula ; Hagos, Adiam ; Kirkwood, Daniel ; Paskov, Patricia ; Poulin, Michelle ; Raja, Chandni
    Ethiopia has made remarkable economic progress over the past decade, achieving high gross domestic product (GDP) growth and dramatically reducing poverty. Despite this success, current gender gaps show that challenges remain to realizing inclusive growth and the full potential of women’s economic empowerment. In Ethiopia, women still lag men on several important economic indicators, including employment rate, agricultural productivity, earnings from self-employment, and wage income. While the Government of Ethiopia has already made significant commitments and investments aiming to close the country’s gender gaps, new data offer an opportunity to generate critical evidence to strategically target these investments. For this reason, the Africa gender innovation lab’s (GIL) Ethiopia gender diagnostic report provides innovative analysis on the root causes and drivers of gender inequality in Ethiopia. Using data from the latest round of the Ethiopia socioeconomic survey (2015-2016) and an established statistical approach, the report examines the country’s gender gaps in employment, agricultural productivity, and income from self- and wage employment. It presents specific policy areas for the government to target in addressing the constraints faced by female workers, farmers, and business owners. The key findings and policy recommendations are discussed in the report.
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    The Impact of Strengthening Agricultural Extension Services: Evidence from Ethiopia
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2018-04) Buehren, Niklas ; Goldstein, Markus ; Molina, Ezequiel ; Vaillant, Julia
    Extension services have been implemented on a large scale in developing countries for decades. However, there is little evidence on their impact on the productivity and welfare of farmers. Our study aims to begin to fill this evidence gap with the goal of identifying and encouraging the uptake of best practices for the delivery of extension services by governments.Our findings suggest that strengthening extension services to make them more responsive to the needs of farmers can induce a switch to more commercial, market-oriented agriculture.Female-headed households seem to have benefited equally from the extension services project but it did not contribute to reducing the gender gap in agricultural outcomes as their initial levels of wealth and consumption, as well as labor and capital endowments were lower.Additional research is required to identify extension services designs that contribute to closing the gender gap, by addressing more specifically the challenges faced by women in areas such as labor and capital endowment.