Official development assistance and women's rights: How aid donor characteristics affect women's rights improvement in recipient countries

Byungwon Woo, Dana Parke

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How does official development assistance (ODA) affect women's rights in aid-receiving countries? We argue that ODA allows those donor countries who have more respect for women's rights and who have the intention of spreading the norm of gender equality to successfully influence recipient countries, and thus improve women's rights in aid-recipient countries. We argue that this is possible because aid is equipped with technical assistance, donor conditionality, and donor-recipient collaborative projects that can be tailored to address a specific policy objective and that are ripe with opportunities for transfers of technical know-how and synergistic exchanges of local and global norms. We further contend that the effect of foreign aid on the improvement of women's rights is conditional on donors' respect for women's rights at home: foreign aid from countries with more equal women's rights has a stronger positive effect than that from countries with less equal women's rights. We illustrate the plausibility of our theoretical argument in the context of a case of aid projects in Bangladesh and use statistical analysis to test our argument more systematically. We show that aid in general, and aid from France and the Nordic countries - those with better provision of women's rights at home among major aid donors - in particular exert positive effects on improving women's rights in recipient countries from 1981 to 2011, after controlling for political, socio-economic, and regional factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-29
Number of pages29
JournalAsian Women
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Mar 1


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science

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