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WAGE Background


Women and Girls Empowered (WAGE) was a global consortium funded by the U.S. State Department Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues (S/GWI) to advance the status of women and girls. The consortium was led by the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) in close partnership with the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), Grameen Foundation, and Search from Common Ground (Search). WAGE worked to strengthen the capacity of civil society organizations (CSOs), private sector and semi-private sector organizations, including microfinance institutions (MFIs) and business associations, in target countries to:

  1. improve the prevention of and response to gender-based violence (GBV);

  2. advance the women, peace, and security agenda;

  3. and to support women’s economic empowerment

In this context, WAGE provided direct assistance to women and girls, including information, resources, and services they need to succeed as active and equal participants in the global economy, public life, and in the area of peace and security. WAGE also engaged in collaborative research and is building a body of evidence on relevant promising practices in these thematic areas. To account for the deeply interconnected nature of women’s and girls’ experiences, WAGE’s initiatives employed approaches that are highly collaborative, integrated, multidisciplinary, and inclusive. WAGE initiatives were based in El Salvador, Eswatini, Ghana, Honduras, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Moldova, Sudan, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Core Partners

WAGE Learning Agenda

The Women and Girls Empowered (WAGE) global consortium used an integrated, intersectional, and multidisciplinary approach to address gender-based violence (GBV), women peace and security (WPS) and women’s economic empowerment (WEE). The WAGE Learning Agenda was designed to promote promising practices for integrated programming in these three thematic areas through collaborative research and learning.

WAGE’s Integrated Approach

Societal barriers, including GBV, often prevent women from fully participating in society and the economy. While lack of economic opportunity exacerbates women's vulnerability to GBV, WEE may expose women to a higher risk of GBV as a negative unintended consequence, due to shifts in power dynamics in households. Most business associations, microfinance institutions, and other economic strengthening civil society organizations (CSOs) are not accustomed to looking at GBV as a barrier to WEE or a potential negative consequence of WEE and have neither the capacity to address it nor do they have any notable experience in this area. Similarly, women’s empowerment CSOs are not used to looking at GBV through the economic empowerment prism.

Despite their interconnected nature, foreign assistance programs historically have approached GBV, WPS, and WEE as separate, distinct issues. WAGE recognizes the deeply interconnected nature of women’s and girls’ experiences, and all WAGE programs were designed with the intersections of GBV, WEE, and WPS in mind. Project activities strengthened the capacity of organizations to understand and address these thematic issues, improved the environment in which WAGE partner organizations operate, and provided direct assistance to women and girls. WAGE also engaged in collaborative research and learning to build a body of evidence on promising practices in advancing the status of women and girls.

Learning Agenda

WAGE’s Learning Agenda establishes priority research questions, which sought to understand what is already known about integrated programming for women’s and girls’ empowerment, what gaps in experience and evidence exist, and how the consortium will aim to bridge these gaps.

WAGE analyzed these research questions in support of the overarching Learning Agenda. Lessons learned and evidence uncovered through collaborative research and learning fed into the implementation of initiatives in line with the principle of adaptive management. WAGE also shared research and lessons learned with key stakeholders and the international development community through events, publications, and products, which will contribute to a body of global evidence on promising practices in integrated approaches to GBV, WEE, and WPS.

Advisory Group and Network (AG&N)

The WAGE consortium will involve a broader community of experts through the Advisory Group and Network (AG&N), a community of practice designed to advance the WAGE Learning Agenda. The AG&N is a cross-disciplinary voluntary network of scholars and practitioners united by a focus on collaborative research and learning around what works in integrated programming aimed at advancing the status of women and girls. The AG&N will also include WAGE consortium partners, local partners, and gender and research experts from WAGE’s target countries. In bringing together expertise on the core thematic areas and regional knowledge, the WAGE AG&N will provide thought leadership on best practices, assist in comparative data analysis, contribute to evidence building based on the outcomes of the WAGE initiatives, and promote public-private partnerships among WAGE partners and AG&N members as well as other stakeholders to bridge the gap in quality programming for the target countries.

Learning Questions

The WAGE Learning Agenda focused on the following research questions:

  1. What are the current evidence and knowledge gaps within and across the three thematic areas of WAGE?
  2. What are the lessons learned and promising practices from integrating GBV, WPS, and WEE throughout the program cycle? How do we best apply these lessons? What are some of the most promising practices in measuring women’s empowerment, including but not limited to WEE, at the institutional, family, and individual levels? And how do these practices manifest differently or similarly comparatively across regions? What are some of the promising practices and lessons learned from implementing women’s empowerment programming in contexts affected by violent extremism and conflict?​​ 
  3. Does strengthening CSOs and PSOs lead to improved outcomes for women and girls? 
  4. What types of activities are found to be effective and not effective in reducing structural and societal barriers to WEE? WPS and GBV? 
  5. What are successful ways to design and implement women’s empowerment programs that apply the principles of a) do no harm / safeguarding; and b) diversity and inclusion?
  6. How does wide stakeholder consultation and inclusion as well as targeted private sector engagement and public-private partnerships improve the development impact, local ownership and sustainability of project results and project learning for women’s empowerment programs?