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Women's Empowerment and Social Capital

Heifer believes that women’s empowerment and social capital are critical components to establish living incomes in communities. We also have seen first-hand the benefit of equity between men and women over control of assets, decision-making and labor.

Women's Empowerment

Women’s empowerment is an intentional component of our work. We remove barriers to women’s economic empowerment––creating access to credit, basic productive resources, technical training and market opportunities. We see a direct link between women’s equitable participation in decision-making and an increase in the economic and social well-being of families. Our programs encourage:

  • Women exercising their economic rights
  • Women’s decision-making capacity regarding economic and natural resources
  • Women’s active participation in generating household economic resources
  • Women owning land, small businesses and earning living incomes

Gender Equity

We support the full and equitable development of women and men to strengthen families and improve communities. To ensure women are equally involved in decision-making, we work with women’s groups and mixed-gender groups. We encourage husbands and wives to share in decision-making, ownership of animals, labor and the benefits of projects. Training uses a family focus, demonstrating how gender equity benefits all family members. Our programs promote gender equity through:

  • Training on human rights and gender equity
  • Training on the rights of children
  • Access to education by all school-age girls and boys
  • Women in leadership and decision-making roles
  • Equity in workload through appropriate technology and shared responsibilities 

Social Capital

“Social capital refers to institutions, attitudes, and values that govern interactions among people and contribute to economic and social development. Social capital is not just the sum of the institutions that underpin a society – it is the glue that holds them together” (World Bank).

Heifer’s Values-Based Holistic Community Development model is a package of practices that creates social capital and builds an enabling environment for sustainable development work. Major components include:

  • Strong community structure to pool resources, discuss, identify and prioritize needs, plan and execute activities to empower groups such as cooperatives and producer association
  • Positive changes at a cognitive level, including strong social capital and positive attitudes among community members
  • Availability of resource requirements for Passing on the Gift, especially livestock and fodder saplings/seeds
  • Conservation of resources, including the environment, for sustainability

Values-Based Holistic Community Development gives marginalized groups the capacity and drive to initiate enterprise activities and integrate into the market economy.

  • $7.7 Million

    The value of Passing on the Gift of one generation of animals last year. Whether they pass on the offspring of an animal or something else, Passing on the Gift can amount to essentially transferring half of one’s wealth for the benefit of others.

  • 65% of Households

    are members in cooperatives versus 35 percent in the comparison group, based on a sample of 54 projects; likewise, female participation in cooperatives is 72 percent versus 5.5 percent in the comparison group.

  • 11.46% Annual Increase

    in women’s decision-making power over productive assets, based on a study of 54 projects.

Role of Heifer in Employment among Smallholder Farmers in Highlands and Semi-Arid Regions of Tanzania

This paper explores the employment opportunities generated by Heifer International in the highlands and semi-arid regions of Tanzania. Results show that Heifer International generated employment opportunities and income among smallholder farmers through rural dairy farming, milk collection, milk vending, water trading, animal health provision and artificial insemination services. The study recommends more investments in rural dairy farming to promote self-employment.

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Gender Equality and Assessment of Women's Empowerment in Heifer Vietnam Project

This study focuses on estimating the gender equity and women’s empowerment in Heifer Vietnam’s projects, comparing indicators before and after joining the project, as well as the causes for the efficiencies of the projects at the household level. The study concludes that after joining the project, households saw improved income and assets; more diversified and healthy diets; and improved women’s empowerment across a number of measures, including increased contribution of women to family income, increased access to training and education, improved role in family-level decision-making, and reduced domestic violence against women and girls. The four most important contributing factors to positive project impact are the contribution of women to family incomes, access to micro-credit, fruit production, and income from rice cultivation.

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This study focuses on estimating the gender equity and women’s empowerment in Heifer Vietnam’s projects, comparing indicators before and after joining the project, as well as the causes for the efficiencies of the projects at the household level. The stud

This study examines whether a dairy development intervention in Malawi catalyzed social capital and sustainably improves the livelihoods of the participants. The research demonstrates that the livestock donation and training project resulted in an increase in social capital. The data also shows that the infusion of assets (livestock), training and social capital generated sufficient increases in net income to bring participants above the living income benchmark.

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