Gender Equality and Social Inclusion

Addressing social norms, power relations, and systems barriers that perpetuate inequalities

Essential to MEDA’s inclusive Market Systems Development (MSD) approach is generating positive social impact by addressing social norms, power relations, and systems barriers that perpetuate inequalities and limit the agency of people in the food system. MEDA starts all of our inclusive MSD programming with an analysis process that prioritizes local articulation of the root causes of systemic barriers and opportunities to shift behaviors and attitudes.

An intersectional lens is required to understand how clients’ intersecting identities (e.g., their gender, age, ability, race, etc.) influence their specific challenges, needs and interests within the market system. Certain groups of clients (for example: women, youth or people living with disabilities) face systemic marginalization, making them more likely to experience persistent cycles of poverty. Patterns of discrimination and disadvantage create systemic barriers for these groups that are not only economic, but also political, social and cultural.

Recognizing that equitable and inclusive approaches must be highly context-specific, MEDA collaborates with local partners whose socio-cultural expertise complements our best practices and innovation in business solutions.

Our early programming in Pakistan and Afghanistan sensitized MEDA to opportunities for women to become active economic participants in challenging contexts; youth initiatives in Nigeria, Jordan and Morocco have helped hone our expertise in job readiness, entrepreneurship and access to finance; projects in Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia have contributed to models for the economic integration of the people living in poverty; and our current work in Haiti, Philippines, Ghana and Senegal are fostering innovation to overcome social divides and promote greater economic inclusion.

Making Market Systems More Just, Equitable and Inclusive

All of MEDA’s work is guided by its Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) in Market Systems Framework. It outlines three domains (areas of focus) in which MEDA seeks to influence attitude, behaviour and systems changes in view of supporting market systems that are more inclusive, just and equitable.

Improved Access to and Use of Resources

To function effectively in markets, small-scale producers, microentrepreneurs, and small- and medium-sized business owners need access to reliable high-quality products and services that are designed to meet their specific needs. Women, youth, ethnic minorities and other marginalized groups are often overlooked by service providers who do not view them as viable market segments. MEDA raises awareness and incentivizes service providers to design and offer new products and services with marginalized communities, resulting in successful models for more inclusive value chains.

Greater Agency and Rights

Greater agency improves people’s ability to take advantage of offered products and services including finance, inputs, information and market linkages. MEDA complements technical training and business support with strategies for developing soft skills, from confidence building and networking to negotiation and decision-making, while strengthening capacities of market actors to advance clients’ rights, dignity, and leadership.

Facilitating Just and Equitable Enabling Environments

People’s abilities to participate in the market are largely determined by social and gender norms, cultural traditions and customary laws. MEDA promotes equity, inclusivity and diversity at the household, community, business and government levels by innovating and facilitating community engagement initiatives that are context-appropriate. For example: using the GEM framework with the private sector to make markets more inclusive; building support among community leaders and turning gatekeepers into advocates; involving men and boys as gender champions; and encouraging dialogue to foster just and equitable relations within the market system.

Examples of MEDA's Work


Jessica Villanueva
Sr. Director, Technical Areas of Practice