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Gender Equality and Social Inclusion

Resilient market ecosystems must be inclusive of marginalized groups


Power imbalances and harmful social norms prevent women—as well as men and socially excluded groups—from going about their lives freely, preventing them from taking full and equal advantage of opportunity. Disparities and biases lead to less inclusive markets and businesses which further reinforce social and economic inequities. At iDE, we work to expose beliefs and practices that perpetuate inequality and use the knowledge we acquire to design social and behavioral-change programming that promote the creation of resilient market ecosystems, which benefit all people.

Our new gender equality and social inclusion policy commits us to supporting groups which are under-represented in market ecosystems; are discriminated against; and/or unable to access products and services, simply because of who they are, holding them back and hurting their ability to prosper. The policy is embedded in our Infinite Model, which guides the way we create market ecosystems and says markets must be inclusive of marginalized groups such as women, as well as being competitive and resilient. 

iDE uses a range of tools to measure empowerment for people at the household level. For example, we use the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI), a tool developed by the International Food Policy Research Institute to assess changes in empowerment across five domains including production, resources, income, leadership, and time use. IDE is now pioneering a similar tool to use in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector, researching methods that go beyond gender to evaluate other barriers to inclusion.

Finding a work-life balance

Family and business were tangled together for Celestina Arnaldo. She used to depend on her son to find suppliers for her vegetables, which he wasn’t paid for. Then Arnaldo received training from iDE to be a farm business advisor and learned how to organize her business as a separate entity from the household. With that in place, her family worked to increase their production. Now Arnaldo is the general manager, her husband is the head of production, and her son has become the accountant and driver. The business pays everyone a monthly salary, they keep track of all their transactions, and they have been able to use their profits to invest in a truck.

iDE MOZ Celestina Arnaldo Callout 3X2

Celestina Arnaldo, Mozambique

Stopping at nothing

An entrepreneurial spirit was alive in Nazrin Nahar Mila long before she met with iDE. Driven by fierce independence and the will to succeed, the young Bangladeshi woman defied gender norms and pursued her education while working as a private tutor. Since taking part in an eight-week training course, she has been able to secure an official identification card and business license, which have allowed her to set up shop at a local bazaar and sell products door-to-door. Women sales agents like Mila not only generate their own incomes, providing them with more independence and agency, they also deliver better access to products and services for other women and young girls in their community.

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iDE PC BAN Nazrin Nahar Mila 3X2

Nazrin Nahar Mila, Bangladesh

Disability is no barrier

In a place like rural Cambodia, where latrines aren’t common, it is especially difficult to find a toilet facility that accommodates people with disabilities. Che Chemm bought a disability-accommodating latrine and shelter, furnished with grab rails and a sitting toilet, from an iDE-supported local business in 2017. Some 18 months after the latrine was installed, the team returned to visit Chemm and found he was particularly pleased with his purchase. He gestured toward the neighboring homes of his sons, one of whom also has a disability. Now both Chemm and his disabled son have the shelters, which were designed by iDE.

iDE PC CAM Che Chemm 3X2

Che Chemm, Cambodia


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How gender affects sales

Research suggests that matching sales agent gender to different target households can increase sanitation uptake

Research suggests that matching sales agent gender to different target households can increase sanitation uptake


Read more: Learn more about how understanding gender issues can accelerate WASH sales