Intersection of Gender-based Violence and Harassment (GBVH) and Women’s Entrepreneurship and Women’s Economic Empowerment

09.20.2022 | Case Studies | Ipshita Ghosh


This research paper examines the intersection between women’s economic empowerment (WEE) and responses to gender-based violence and harassment (GBVH) at the workplace. The paper draws on information collected using qualitative methodologies, including interviews with key stakeholders and desk-based primary research. The format of the report is based on key research questions, focusing on the legal and protection issues around GBVH at work, the measures taken to combat GBVH by private and civil society organizations, and the current policies in place at various levels of government. The report takes a broad view of GBVH at work, incorporating elements of physical, sexual, psychological, and economic harms created through both overt and covert forms of violence at and around the workplace. The research draws on experiences from a variety of regions where CIPE works, many of which share cultures of gender inequality and deeply rooted patriarchal norms and assumptions. However, the research especially focuses on Moldova and Central Asia. Wherever possible, this report discusses examples from emerging economies, pointing to policies, laws and frameworks that have been implemented with varying degrees of success. Based on its findings, the research paper also includes recommendations for both private sector organizations and civic institutions to combat GBVH at work and advance women’s economic empowerment.

The findings show that GBVH at work is a challenging area to combat effectively. While many nations have legal frameworks prohibiting sexual harassment, these laws are often poorly implemented. Socio-cultural norms around gender inhibit women’s meaningful participation in the economy and few laws exist to combat GBVH at work. Another recurrent challenge is that women entrepreneurs and business associations may find it challenging to address this topic. GBVH may be perceived as a general societal challenge and not of direct relevance to members of entrepreneurial communities, which tend to focus more on gaining business skills and developing networks.

The recommendations for private businesses involve developing a clear workplace policy, committing to gender equality, developing supportive frameworks for employees, and collaborating with partners beyond the workplace. The recommendations also highlight why GBVH action often fails and what can be done by entrepreneurs and businesses to make their policies more effective.