Donations to GiveDirectly put power in the hands of recipients, 62% of whom are women.1 On International Women’s Day, hear directly from women and girls in poverty in Malawi about the unique ways that direct cash empowers them:

This impact is more than anecdotal; research finds that cash aid lets women improve their lives in many ways. Below, we break down the evidence by story.

Maternal & infant health

Lenita – “When I was pregnant, I would fall sick [and] could not afford the fare to go to the hospital.”

Studies find that cash can: 

  • Increase the use of health facilities.2
  • Improve birth weight and infant mortality3 – one study found GiveDirectly’s program reduced child mortality by ~70% and improved child growth.4

Education & domestic violence

Agatha – “My husband was so abusive… so I left him and went back to try to finish school.”

Studies find that cash can: 

  • Reduce incidents of physical abuse by a male partner of a woman2 – one study found GiveDirectly’s program reduced physical intimate partner violence.5
  • Increase school attendance for girls.1

Decision-making power

Beatrice – “My husband and I always argued… about how to spend what little money we had. Now, when we receive the money, we plan together.”

Studies find that cash can: 

  • Increase a woman’s likelihood of being the sole or joint decision-maker.2

Entrepreneurship & savings

Anesi – “With the businesses I started, I want to buy land for my children so they will never forget me.” 

Studies find that cash can: 

  • Increase entrepreneurship2 – one study of GiveDirectly’s program found new business creation doubled.6  For more on female entrepreneurs, watch→  
  • Increase the number of families saving and the amount they saved2 – one study of GiveDirectly’s program found women doubled their savings.6 To learn about women’s savings groups, watch→ 

Elderly support

Faidesi – “Now that I am old, I can’t farm and often sleep hungry. I would have been dead if it wasn’t for these payments.” 

Studies find that cash can: 

  • Reduce the likelihood of having had an illness in the last three months7 – one study in Tanzania found cash reduced the number of doctor visits made by women over 60.8


  1. The majority of recipients are women because our biggest program (large transfers) allows families to select a single head of household to receive the funds. Women often handle household spending so are slightly over-represented  as the recipient in this program. Also we run a few specialty programs that are explicitly targeting women (e.g. this nutrition program or this cancer program)
  2. Bastagli et al 2016
  3. Siddiqi et al 2018
  4. McIntosh & Zeitlin 2018
  5. Haushofer et al 2019
  6. McIntosh & Zeitlin 2020 
  7. Pega et al 2017
  8. Evans et al 2014
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