Empowerment of Women and Girls: a Conceptual Model


KIT developed a conceptual model on the empowerment of women and girls in close partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The model was presented in a White Paper: Conceptual model of women and girls’ empowerment. KIT conducted in-depth background research that formed the basis for the Foundation’s Method’s Note for measuring women and girl’s empowerment. 

What does the empowerment of women and girls mean?

The model aims to provide clarity and a common language on what the 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. These resources come from development agencies, knowledge and research institutes, women’s rights organisations, development NGOs and multi and bilateral donors. The White Paper benefited 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.

How do you measure the empowerment of women & girls?

In the second phase of the project, KIT developed practical and methodological guidance to foundation staff and grantees that are interested in the measurement of empowerment of women and girls. Our background research was closely tailored to the outcome investing and actionable measurement at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It provided direction on and reference to guiding principles, indicators, existing measures, and references to methods, tools and resource documents. This guidance has now been incorporated into the Foundation’s Methods Note: “What gets measured matters: a methods note for measuring women and girl’s empowerment”. This is one component of the Foundation’s Gender Equality toolbox website.

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.