Women's Economic Empowerment

Most women informal workers face triple barriers to economic empowerment:

  • as women, due to gender norms and relationships;
  • as workers, due to their often informal status; and
  • as members of disadvantaged communities, who often live in underserved slum and squatter settlements.
Ahmedabad, India: Neighbourhood women gather outside their homes to discuss the area upkeep and work issues.
photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images Reportage

Bias and Barriers

While informal workers represent a majority in developing countries, most supports, social protection, laws and policies are biased towards formal workers and formal enterprises. These include sectoral policies, infrastructure services, social protection, child care and occupational health and safety systems. Add to this a long-standing bias in institutions for collective bargaining, policymaking and rule-setting.

To overcome these structural barriers, WIEGO emphasizes that women informal workers need to be organized and their organizations need to be legally recognized and officially represented in collective bargaining, policy-making and rule-setting processes.

WIEGO's Approach to Women's Economic Empowerment

Through our work with membership-based organizations, we have learned that increased access to resources without the ability to influence broader external factors will not necessarily translate into more secure and remunerative livelihoods.

For WIEGO, empowerment refers to the process of change that gives working poor women – as individual workers and as members of worker organizations – the ability to gain access to the resources they need while also gaining the ability to influence the wider policy, regulatory, and institutional environment that shapes their livelihoods and lives.

Read WIEGO’s position and approach to women’s economic empowerment.

What WIEGO Does

WIEGO seeks to advance the economic empowerment of women in the informal economy through five core programmes that work to:

Increase Voice by supporting and strengthening organizations of the working poor and linking organizations together. We also help them gain representation in the policymaking and rule-setting bodies that affect their work and lives.

Increase Visibility by undertaking or sponsoring research and helping to develop and improve official statistics on informal employment and the informal economy.  

Increase Validity by promoting the mainstream recognition of informal workers as legitimate economic agents who contribute to the overall economy and who should benefit from economic and social policies. We also advance the incorporation of informal workers into policymaking and rule-setting processes.

WIEGO works principally with four occupational groups of informal workers where women are over-represented among the lower earners: domestic workershome-based workerswaste pickers and street vendors. WIEGO engages with membership-based organizations (MBOs) of these workers in advocacy and action from the municipal to the international level.

Global Advocacy

WIEGO Projects that Focused on Women's Economic Empowerment

While all of WIEGO's work seeks to improve the economic circumstances of women working in the informal economy, these projects have a particular focus on women's economic empowerment.

Promoting Women's Economic EmpowermentPromoting Women's Economic Empowerment


This project received support from the Government of the Netherlands, Ministry of Foreign Affairs



Securing Economic Rights for Informal Women WorkersSecuring Economic Rights for Informal Women Workers


This project received support from the Government of the Netherlands, Ministry of Foreign Affairs



Securing Economic Rights for Informal Women WorkersWaste & Gender


The Gender & Waste Project in Minas Gerais, Brazil, was initiated to bring gender consciousness to the forefront of the discussion among waste pickers.

Informal Economy Theme