Women and development

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Why women and development?

Areas of investigation

Resources and activities

Critical thinking

Further reading


‘When women succeed the world succeeds. When women and girls thrive, entire societies thrive.’

Hilary Clinton, 7 March 2014


The empowerment of women has a key role to play in sustainable development. Entire communities benefit from gender equality, as closing gender gaps can enhance economic efficiency, make policies and institutions more representative, and improve development outcomes for the next generation. This is why gender equality is highlighted in Goal 3 of the Millennium Development Goals (Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women), and their 2015 replacement, the Sustainable Development Goals, will continue this focus with another goal specifically targeting women.

This resource has been written by Kate Woodruff to support teachers and KS4-P16 students investigating women in development. It aims to:

  • provide a base for teachers who wish to incorporate Women and Development into their lessons, e.g. when teaching the key concepts of international development
  • help meet the goals of the Global Learning Programme; for students to gain additional knowledge about globalisation and the causes of global poverty and what can be done to reduce it
  • provide a resource for students to work independently, e.g. as a starting point for EPQ
  • encourage a critical approach to thinking and pedagogy in curriculum making.

This resource was created by Kate Woodruff as part of a GA internship from Sheffield University.

Why women and development?

Women and Development has been a specifically articulated approach to development since the second half of the 20th Century, with the issue conceptualised in a number of ways, such as WID (Women in Development) in the early 1970s, and GAD (Gender and Development) in the late 70s. Since then the recognition that gender equality has as much of a role to play in the development of a country as tackling poverty has grown.

When women’s access to resources, rights and opportunities is improved, women emerge as social and economic actors who are likely to invest more in their children’s education and health. Furthermore, when women are in the workplace, they are less likely to have children so birth rates fall – which has a direct impact on the country’s economy.

The following bullet points list three key reasons why greater gender equality has a positive impact on society (adapted from The International Monetary Fund):

  • Overall productivity will increase if women’s skills and talents are used more effectively – especially as women are now responsible for half of the global labour force and over 50% of the world’s university students. The removal of barriers can increase women’s productivity by as much as 25%, and studies have shown that agricultural output could increase by up to 4% simply by giving women the same access to land and fertilisers as men.
  • Data from countries that range from Brazil to India to the UK show signs that women spend household income in different ways to men, and children are the benefactors. Giving women greater control over household resources can grant that country better economic prospects, whether through their own earnings or cash transfers.
  • The empowerment of women leads to more representative policies and institutions, both locally and on a larger scale, such as greater public services for sanitation.

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1 Comment


M Watts Guest

Very interesting resource

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