Empowerment of women and girls: conceptual model and measurement guidance

In close partnership, a conceptual model on empowerment of women and girls was developed. This model was presented in a White Paper: Conceptual model of women and girls’ empowerment. This is followed by a Methods Note providing guidance on how to measure empowerment of women and girls.

What does empowerment of women and girls mean? The White Paper that was developed as the first component of this project sought to address this question. A conceptual model on empowerment of women and girls was developed in close partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The model aims to provide conceptual clarity and a common language on what empowerment of women and girls means for the foundation. The White Paper defines empowerment of women and girls as ‘the expansion of choice and strengthening of voice through the transformation of power relations, so women and girls have more control over their lives and futures. It is both a process and an outcome’.

The White Paper and conceptual model are based on a review of over 115 resources from development agencies, knowledge and research institutes, women’s rights organisations, development non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and multi and bilateral donors. The White Paper benefitted from a set of webinars as well as conversations with 40 foundation staff. The first ideas were presented and discussed at the first meeting of the Women and Girls at the Centre of Development Grand Challenge (Nairobi 2016). The draft paper was revised based on the discussions at an expert convening in Seattle with foundation staff, grantees and experts.

In the second phase of the project, a Methods Note was developed to support foundation staff and grantees in measurement of empowerment of women and girls. The Methods Note provides practical and methodological guidance to staff and grantees who are interested and motivated in measuring empowerment of women and girls. The guidance provided in the Methods Note is closely tailored to the outcome investing and actionable measurement at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It includes guiding principles, indicators, existing measures, and references to methods, tools and resource documents.


At our foundation, we will not use the complexity of resolving gender inequality as an excuse for failing to think and act more intentionally about putting women and girls at the center of what we do.’ (Melinda Gates, 2014, in White Paper 2016).

Women’s empowerment happens when individuals and organised groups are able to imagine their world differently and to realise that vision by changing the relations of power that have kept them in poverty, restricted their voice and deprived them of their autonomy’ (Rosalind Eyben, 2011, in White Paper 2016).