Helpful guidance on addressing violence against women through economic empowerment programs

To be effective, programs to improve women’s economic empowerment must also consider other aspects of women’s empowerment, particularly women’s safety. To help navigate what this connection might look like in program design, the British Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) developed a guidance note.

The guidance note explains DFID’s approach to addressing violence against women and girls through its economic development and women’s economic empowerment programs. It sets out the strategic rationale for addressing violence against women in economic development programming and outlines an approach to achieve this.

The guidance note cites statistics from 2014 that show the economic cost of violence against women and girls can amount to between 1.2 per cent and 3.7 per cent of gross domestic product. Women and girls experience violence at home, in the workplace, in market places and on the way to work. Violence can prevent women from earning an income. It also restricts business productivity and profitability and therefore impacts on economic growth. The guidance note explains:

‘An employee may lose income, opportunities for promotion and jobs as a result of violence in the home or in the workplace. The employer faces the cost of sick days; lower productivity, poor concentration and possible disruption by the violent partner at work; and the costs of recruitment and re-training if a person leaves their job.’

The guidance note articulates a number of principles to guide economic development programming in tackling violence against women and girls:

  • Design context-specific interventions to tackle violence as part of economic development programs using a thorough situational analysis which analyses women’s and girls’ economic activities in both the formal and informal sector, in the home and in organisations.
  • Develop multi-level holistic approaches to women’s economic empowerment with specific action to tackle violence against women and girls.
  • Use women and girl-led participatory methods throughout the project cycle.
  • Do no harm.
  • Design age appropriate interventions.
  • Work to change social norms that condone and promote violence at all levels in communities and the workplace.
  • Partner with organisations that can provide services and support.
  • Build on evidence and innovate.

The guidance is equally relevant in the Pacific context. Research with three employers in Papua New Guinea in 2015 found that 68 percent of employees in these businesses experienced family and sexual violence, and that an average of 11 days was lost per employee each year as a result.

The guidance is a useful reference for any implementer of women’s economic empowerment initiatives. The full note can be found here: