Measuring, reporting and verification for women’s empowerment: The W+ Standard

Nisha Onta, Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management (WOCAN)

On Wednesday 3 December, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Standing Committee on Finance presented a landmark assessment which highlighted that hundreds of billions of dollars of climate finance may now be flowing across the globe annually. However, what is lacking in this assessment and their recommendations is a focus on gender-responsive climate financing instruments and benefit sharing mechanisms.

Billions of dollars of finance will not ensure sustainable change in the lives of women and men if climate change funding is not gender responsive. Article 7 of the Cancun Agreement acknowledges that gender equality and the effective participation of women are important for all aspects of climate change, and Article 12 demands a gender-sensitive approach. Climate financing mechanisms such as the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and Climate Investment funds are developing gender action plans and policies; the assessment by the Standing Committee on Finance also highlighted the need for further improvement and refinement of methodologies for assessing the impact of interventions.

There is a clear need for a framework for measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) for gender impacts, similar to those frameworks developed for carbon emissions.

Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management (WOCAN) created the W+ Standard as the world’s first social benefit standard to measure positive impacts to women’s social and economic empowerment, and to provide governments, international organisations, companies, and individuals a way to drive social and economic empowerment for women. The W+ Standard tracks women’s empowerment in six areas: time, income, health, leadership, education and food security. Establishing this standard of measurement made it possible to create W+ Units that investors can purchase to ensure progress in these areas.
These W+ Units are results-based social assets – investments in improving the lives of women and the people they support. The first W+ project was completed this year in Nepal, where women in rural villages replaced their wood-generated stoves with those generated by biogas, relieving them of the need to collect wood for fuel. This change saved the Nepalese women over two hours every day. This time saved became time that the women could use to increase their income, take on leadership roles in the community, learn new skills, grow additional crops, care for children and the elderly, improve their health, support their community and benefit from rare leisure time.

The W+ Unit recognises the social and economic value of women. Purchasing these social assets allows buyers to drive positive social change for women and economic wins for local communities, because profits from the sales of the W+ Units return to women and benefit their families and communities. W+ Units make it possible for companies, governments and individuals to make certified investments in women’s empowerment, and these investments yield measurable outcomes for women, supply chains and investors.

Governments, development agencies and investors are increasingly funding women’s empowerment and gender equality, based on women’s rights and evidence of improved project outcomes. However, what is lacking for many is a robust means of measuring these outcomes in a way that can be simply communicated. At this time, certification schemes and standards do not quantify benefits or outcomes to women of project communities; many refer only to gender and women in relation to their workplaces or social safeguards. The W+ aims for a more pro-active approach to tackle the issue, by incentivising projects and companies to deliver new resources to women of affected communities, to address both their practical and strategic interests through results-based financing.

The W+ offers a unique mechanism to value women’s contributions to unpaid care work, climate change mitigation and development initiatives and spur their empowerment by sharing revenues from the sales of W+ units with women and their groups.

More information and a webshop for W+ unit sales can be found at