Inclusive and Equitable Local Development (IELD)

Inclusive and Equitable Local Development (IELD)

The Challenge

The elimination of gender inequalities and the empowerment of women and girls in all aspects of life will make a crucial contribution to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), serving as a catalyst to accelerate sustainable development overall. Studies have shown that women’s economic empowerment can raise economic productivity, reduce infant and maternal mortality, improve nutrition, promote health, increase the chances of education for future generations, and help advance women’s rights. To accelerate progress in the years ahead, we have a shared responsibility to recognize women as vital development agents and identify transformative solutions that will remove the barriers to the realization of their full economic potential.


BOX 1: Unpaid Care Work

Unpaid care work includes domestic work (meal preparation, cleaning, washing clothes, water and fuel collection) and direct care of persons (including children, older persons and persons with disabilities, sick persons as well as able-bodied adults) carried out in homes and communities. Domestic work and caring for people have remained largely invisible in economic calculations, statistics, policy and political discourse, and is commonly undervalued by society and policymakers, despite the fact that its monetary value is estimated at from 10 to over 50 per cent of GDP.

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How We Are Helping?

Access to basic infrastructure and services remains a major bottleneck to women’s economic empowerment. Although women generally do more work than men, their involvement in paid work varies greatly across countries depending on the extent and coverage of public services such as water and sanitation, energy, health and childcare. The problem is two-fold: on the one hand, there has been limited investment by the local public sector in infrastructure designed to reduce women’s care work. On the other hand, there have been limited partnerships between the private sector, especially domestic commercial financing institutions and women entrepreneurs who face steep obstacles in accessing adequate financial resources.
Research indicates that reducing women’s time burdens helps them become economically empowered and enables their increased participation in the labor force, greater investments in their families and their children, and more significant contributions to their societies and the economies. Fostering the full participation of women in local economic development processes and entrepreneurship will require overcoming entrenched discriminatory attitudes, norms and stereotypes as well as challenging existing inequitable historical, social and economic structures. Support is needed for governments and the private sector at the local level to design, plan, implement and sustain local public and private investments with a particular emphasis on unlocking barriers to women’s economic empowerment.


The Inclusive and Equitable Local Economic Development Programme (IELD) is a joint UNCDF, UNDP and UN Women initiative which aims to economically empower women by removing or reducing the infrastructure impediments that prevent women from entering the labor market. This will be done by unlocking domestic capital for public and private infrastructure projects, which can have a transformative impact on women’s economic empowerment and entrepreneurship.

The IELD Programme will use its gender-sensitive Local Economic Assessment tool (LEA) to identify, in consultation with local governments, the structural bottlenecks which hinder women’s participation in income-generating activities. For example, if women have to spend hours fetching water, IELD will work with local authorities to utilize their capital mandate and unlock fiscal transfers from central to local governments to invest in water infrastructure projects which can then create an enabling environment for women and save them the time they need to engage in the economy. 

At the same time, LEA will examine the role of the private sector at the local level, its potential for growth, its driving forces, as well as its relation to national, regional and global economies. With this in mind, IELD will identify a pipeline of investable projects – women-led enterprises and gender-sensitive businesses, which are large enough to have a transformative impact on the livelihoods of the communities and create jobs for women and men.

IELD will work with these enterprises, invest in grant mechanisms to build their capacity, upgrade their business plans and financial sheets, and bring them up to attractive standards for domestic commercial banking institutions. At the same time, IELD will build the capacities of both women entrepreneurs and commercial banks, for the latter by helping them to adjust their risk mitigation policies and compliance measures, which make it difficult for many to qualify for business loans. As such, IELD will minimize this market friction and will be able to unlock domestic capital for women enterprises.

To learn more about IELD, please have a look at the brochure IELD

In Detail

Additional Information


Inclusive and Equitable Local Development - Inception Phase

GoalTo support local governments to design, plan, implement and sustain local investments, with a particular emphasis on unlocking barriers to women’s economic opportunities and empowerment.

The IELD programme is in its inception phase and is currently being implemented in partnership with UNDP with ongoing consultations with other UN entities including UN Women and UNECA.
Under the IELD programme, targeted capital investments at the local level will be made with the aim of ensuring:

  • The effective participation of women in the decision-making and institutional processes that identify investment requirements;
  • The responsiveness of the investments to the differentiated and specific needs of poor women and men;
  • A significant share of women as the intended beneficiaries, with the tangible objective of unlocking women’s potential in the local economy;
  • A focus on investments that leverage additional resources, have widespread multiplier effects, and which are self-sustainable;
  • A focus on investments that can be scaled-up or replicated to other localities, and to the national level.
Active In
PartnersUNDP, SIDA
Total project cost and UNCDF contributionInception Phase: 450,000

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