In response to the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women and girls, IPA launched the Women’s Work, Entrepreneurship, and Skilling (WWES) Initiative as part of RECOVR (Research for Effective COVID-19 Responses). The WWES Initiative combines data collection efforts, research projects, and policy work, focusing on two key themes: (1) women's work, entrepreneurship and time use and (2) youth skilling and school-to-work transitions.

The global efforts to contain and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic could intensify structural gender inequalities and eliminate any gains made in recent years. Lockdowns to contain the spread of the virus and social distancing measures have already had an oversized impact on women’s work due to pressures from domestic responsibilities and the types of jobs and sectors in which women primarily work.1 For example, women and girls are more likely to be left out of support from government, financial, and social sectors as they mostly work in the informal sector.2 As governments mobilize funds to ease liquidity constraints for businesses affected by COVID-19,3 intra-household dynamics may dictate how women-led businesses invest any funds they receive.4 As educational institutions move training programs online, gaps in access to technology could create gaps in access to skilling programs, affecting the ability of young women to work and succeed in a post-COVID-19 society.5

Photo of garments worker in Bangladesh. Credit: Sheikh Rajibul Islam / Alamy Stock Photo

A garments worker in Bangladesh. Credit: Sheikh Rajibul Islam / Alamy Stock Photo

The enormity and multifaceted nature of these risks triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic underscores the need for gender-focused data and research to develop actionable national and global gender-informed responses. Therefore, in Kenya and Bangladesh, IPA is working with policymakers to:

  • Improve and deepen the existing data and evidence on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women and girls
  • Provide evidence-based insights and policy recommendations to address gender inequalities in the context of COVID-19 policy response during the immediate crisis and extended recovery period

In the months ahead, IPA and our partners will provide decision-makers in Bangladesh and Kenya with targeted, real-time data, analysis, summaries of existing evidence, and new evidence developed in the context of the COVID-19 response and recovery periods. As part of this initiative, we opened a Request for Proposals to support piloting, data collection, analysis, dissemination, and policy engagement activities. The RFP is now closed; thank you to all who submitted applications.

We would like to acknowledge the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in the WWES Initiative.

1 “The COVID-19 Response: Getting Gender Equality Right for a Better Future for Women at Work” (International Labour Organization, May 2020),

2 OECD, “Women and Informality,”

3 “Policy Responses to COVID19,” IMF,

4 Arielle Bernhardt & Erica Field & Rohini Pande & Natalia Rigol, 2017. "Household Matters: Revisiting the Returns to Capital among Female Micro-entrepreneurs," NBER Working Papers 23358, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

5 “Op-Ed: We Cannot Allow COVID-19 to Reinforce the Digital Gender Divide,” UN Women, May 6, 2020,