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Local resident and community worker Anne-Marie outside her home in Glasgow. (Credit: Andy Hall/Oxfam)

At a glance

Running from 2008-09, GenderWorks aimed to explore the links between gender, poverty and social exclusion in Europe.


All over the world, women are likely to be poorer than the general population. The same is true in the UK and other European countries. Women working part time in the UK, for example, earn nearly 40 per cent less than men, while female pensioners have incomes that are 40 per cent lower than those of male pensioners.

Oxfam has long-term experience of working with women living in poverty in the UK, and all over the world. The GenderWorks project was designed to help us share our experience with organisations doing similar work in other countries, in order to influence national governments and help tackle the problems faced by women living in poverty right across Europe.

The GenderWorks project ran from 2008-2009 in three countries by three different organisations:

  • In the UK, the project was run by Oxfam, as part of our work to overcome poverty and tackle the discrimination which makes women more vulnerable.
  • In Italy, the project was led by LAMORO a local development agency with a focus on helping women find jobs and improving conditions for women at work
  • In Austria, by Women Against Violence Europe (WAVE), a network of women's shelters and aid organisations for migrant and refugee women.

Approach and outcomes

The GenderWorks project, funded by the European Commission, was based on a shared learning approach and involved three core areas of work:

Empowering women living in poverty

Training was provided for women living in poverty to help them develop the skills and confidence to talk to decision-makers about the problems they face and find solutions that meet their needs.

  • Six regional training sessions were run in the UK to help women in poverty use equalities legislation to hold public sector agencies to account and influence how local services are planned and delivered.
  • In Austria, a network of women's refuges received training in networking, lobbying and campaigning.

Raising awareness of gender issues in the public sector

Training was provided for local policymakers and service providers to raise awareness of the different needs of women and men, and to help improve the effectiveness of policies and services by taking these differences into account.

  • In the UK, ten key public agencies were trained in how best to meet their responsibilities under the Gender Equality Duty (now part of the Equality Act 2010).
  • In Italy, two public bodies were trained in incorporating a gender perspective across their policies and services, using tools such as gender budgeting.

Influencing National Action Plans on Social Inclusion (NAPs)

Every few years each European Union member government must produce a National Action Plan on Social Inclusion (NAP) which sets out their strategy for tackling poverty. These plans are then reviewed by the European Commission which reports back on each government's strategy's strong and weak points and highlights common themes.

Several events were held in order to share our experiences with our partners in Italy and Austria and to influence the NAPs. These included a roundtable session at the Department of Work and Pensions in the UK and a session of the Council of Europe.

Oxfam, Lamoro and WAVE all submitted documents to the consultations open in the UK, Italy and Austria:

You can read the UK's NAP 2008-2010, via the Department for Work and Pensions website. To find the NAP of another EU country, visit the European Commission website.

More information

To find out more about women's poverty and social exclusion and the findings of the GenderWorks project, see the following publications:

As part of the project, Oxfam also produced a GenderWorks toolkit with a DVD, designed to help women's groups campaign successfully on issues of gender, poverty and social exclusion, and assist public bodies to meet their obligations under equalities legislation.