Enhancing Women’s Economic Empowerment Through Digital Cash Transfers: Analysis of the Digitize/Direct/Design Criteria Applied to the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in Bihar, India

Evaluating digital financial services for women’s economic empowerment
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What fundamentals are necessary to ensure safety net programs elevate the status of Bihari women? The Gates Foundation’s Digitize, Direct and Design (D3) criteria posit that for Direct Benefit Transfers (DBTs) to effectively empower women, they must transfer funds directly to women’s own accounts, rather than into a joint account. Further, these payments should be digitized to reach women quickly and securely. Finally, programs that aim to benefit women must be designed and implemented with a gender-intentional lens.

This report shares the results from a recent landscaping exercise that identifies the constraints to effectively serving Bihari women through National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), India’s largest safety net program for rural households. The report is structured in line with the D3 criteria and focuses on identifying both constraints to women’s empowerment through NREGS, as well as the extent to which reform opportunities are possible. One key aim of this report is to pinpoint high-potential-return areas for reform.

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By Simone Schaner , Charity Troyer Moore