[PANEL SESSION] How does Women's Financial Inclusion contribute to Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) and how do we know it?

  • Jenny MORGAN, FinEquity
  • Leanne BAUMUNG, MEDA
  • Aletheia DONALD, World Bank’s Africa Region Gender Innovation Lab
  • Sonya KELLY, Women’s World Banking


Jenny MORGAN, from FinEquity, started the panel session by briefly introducing the speakers and herself, and mentioning that the focus of the session would be on how different institutions approach measuring Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE), key dimensions of these approaches, and what they have learned along the way. She then gave the floor to Leanne BAUMUNG of MEDA to present their initiative to measure WEE to better understand the impact of financial inclusion.

Baumung started with explaining how MEDA defines WEE in the context of financial inclusion. MEDA developed Gender Progress Markers (GPM), which are client-centred indicators to measure gendered behaviour change. The participatory and qualitative methods used were illustrated by providing examples of GPMs validated with local communities in Jordan, Nigeria, and Senegal. She stated that the Gender Progress Markers cover the categories of: Division of labour and workload sharing; Agency; Self-confidence; and Recognition by households and community.

Baumung then shared that data to measure the GPMs are collected through surveys and focus groups. Data collection and monitoring activities play an important role in building trust and increasing client ownership. These activities allow for dialogue engaging both women and men and contribute to a transformative effect on WEE. Subsequently, she described MEDA’s approach to reflection providing insights on how to adjust its interventions and strengthen the impact on WEE.

Sonja KELLY, from Women’s World Banking, shone a light on the role financial inclusion has in empowering women and their households, by helping them access financial services, knowledge, and markets. Women’s World Banking operationalized WEE in four dimensions to determine indicators to measure the WEE impact of its financial products and services. She presented the four dimensions, being: Material change, Cognitive change, Perceptual change, and Relational change.

Kelly pointed that there is no uniform methodology for measuring WEE, as demonstrated by the three different approaches presented in this session. The Women’s World Banking’s client-centred approach to new product development and impact evaluation was illustrated by concrete examples from projects in India and Cambodia covering a diverse range of financial products and services. She concluded that the emerging methods to WEE measurement tested in India and Cambodia could increase the cost-effectiveness of impact evaluations, providing an opportunity for replication across Women’s World Banking’s target markets.

Aletheia DONALD, from the World Bank’s Africa Gender Innovation Lab (GIL), presented the organization’s large-scale impact evaluations that aim to understand the sources of underlying constraints that women face in Sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, GIL advises project teams within the World Bank, as well as external partners, how to implement gender-effective policies. Within these Impact evaluations, GIL uses a modular approach to measure the effect of women’s financial inclusion on WEE, consisting of in-depth economic-activity specific modules, non-survey measures and a standardized set of indicators to measure WEE at a household and individual level.

Donald continued by providing an overview of questionnaires administered to collect baseline, midline and end-line data. She highlighted that early analysis of indicators to measure the relationship between financial inclusion and WEE allows for adjusting the project’s interventions to optimise their impact. Donald mentioned that, based on the impact evaluation’s end-line results, successful innovations are tested on other target beneficiaries and potentially replicated in other World Bank programmes. She reflected on lessons learned from projects across GIL’s portfolio, with respect to measuring WEE:

  • During the project design phase, WEE constraints should be clearly defined and relevant to the project’s context.
  • Think outside the box and use creative data sources..
  • Applying evolutionary learning helps to continuously improve project interventions.
  • Partnerships between stakeholders (and engaging early with them) strengthen project design, implementation, and hence evaluation.
  • It is recommended to use measurement tools that are reliable and valid.

Donald concluded by mentioning that the new Measures for Advancing Gender Equality (MAGNET) Initiative, a partnership between the World Bank, IFPRI, IRC and Oxford University, will be producing tools to broaden and deepen the measurement of WEE over the coming years.


The discussion revolved around best practices in data collection methods to measure WEE. Donald described GIL’s collaboration with local research institutes and other partners to determine indicators and to conduct tailored qualitative research. Kelly confirmed Donald’s statement made earlier about the importance of using creative data sources. Kelly added that alternative data sources could be deployed to minimize the burden on people to administer surveys and prevent power dynamics between enumerators and clients. This ensures valid and unbiased outcomes and has the additional benefit of protecting participants’ privacy. Donald pointed out the role that digital tools can play to complement traditional data collection methods and the importance of understanding enumerator effects by including their characteristics in data analysis.

An audience member asked about approaches to measure indicators related to unintended negative consequences of financial inclusion. Baumung stated that direct contact with project beneficiaries through focus groups and home visits allowed project staff to build trust, and to identify unintended consequences. Morgan closed the session by thanking the panellists for their contributions.