MUVA: female economic empowerment in Mozambique

The MUVA programme worked to secure a brighter economic future for disadvantaged young women in urban Mozambique.

Despite impressive growth in the early 2000s, by 2015 over half of Mozambicans still lived in poverty. Households headed by women were more likely to be among this number, with women’s exclusion from decent economic opportunities a major cause. Just 4% of the workforce was employed in the formal sector, and 19–24 year-old females in Mozambique’s cities suffered the highest unemployment rates in the country.

It is this group of young, urban and largely economically excluded women that the MUVA programme (known as Ligada in its earlier days) focused on. Through this programme, we supported the economic empowerment of adolescent girls and young women in several urban centres across Mozambique.


Recognising persistent barriers that limit access to decent work, MUVA developed innovative projects to build the skills that young women need to work, to develop the self-confidence and vision they need to pursue employment, and to create new job opportunities that match their aspirations and abilities. The programme’s aim was to improve Mozambican women's recruitment and retention in secure, well-paid jobs, and to provide them with better access to markets. MUVA was designed to do this by identifying, testing, and disseminating approaches that decrease barriers to decent work for women in Mozambique.

At the beginning of the programme, MUVA surveyed over 3,000 youth in two of Mozambique’s principal cities to inform its approaches to female economic empowerment and themes such as education, youth employment, and financial and digital inclusion. All of MUVA’s pilots were developed based on research into the socio-economic realities facing MUVA’s target groups, ensuring that its innovative approaches were designed to truly respond to the needs of MUVA’s target beneficiaries.


Over the course of its seven years, the MUVA programme delivered an impressive quantity of work, leading to concrete, measurable change for the vulnerable youth, and, in particular, young women in Mozambique and beyond.

In total, the MUVA programme designed and piloted more than 25 different approaches to women’s economic empowerment, reaching a total of 9,645 direct beneficiaries, and almost 94,000 indirect beneficiaries. With a strong focus on learning, adapting and the generation of high-quality evidence, MUVA placed considerable emphasis on using rigorous methods to design and evaluate the impact of its interventions, learning from where things went well (or not so well) and then adapting in order to do better. This meticulous approach gave MUVA a credible voice when it came to disseminating learnings and engaging with other development and women’s economic empowerment actors.

Partnership and scale were at the heart of the MUVA methodology, and MUVA successfully supported and influenced stakeholders in Mozambique and across the international development community to take up or champion the innovative approaches it had shown had impact. Notably, the Mozambican government adopted and promoted some of MUVA’s approaches, leading to significant changes in national policy and practice, for example through a social protection model introducing classroom assistants into the Mozambican education system in several cities. One of MUVA’s partners, the French NGO ESSOR, replicated the bundled approach piloted by MUVA, combining soft skills training with vocational training, into its projects in a range of countries including Guinea-Bissau, Chad, Congo, Brazil as well as the suburbs of Paris, France.

The impact of the MUVA programme includes its substantial contribution to knowledge on both women’s economic empowerment and aid-delivery mechanisms. MUVA was designed as a learning programme, and its bespoke MEL system integrated data collection and learning into every step of every project cycle, allowing MUVA to collect a wealth of evidence on what worked and what didn’t in terms of women’s empowerment and project delivery. MUVA demonstrated that the success of informal sector business training programmes depends on the extent to which they meet participants’ specific needs. MUVA showed that formalisation for the sake of formalisation does little, but rather that improving the circumstances of doing business in the informal sector, and supporting entrepreneurs to gain skills such as bookkeeping and support to open bank accounts, are what provide real value to entrepreneurs and allow many of them to break free of the gendered constraints that restrict them and their businesses. MUVA also revealed the value of incorporating training on self-efficacy and ‘power within’ to complement approaches providing skills and opportunities, for the successful insertion of disadvantaged youth, and in particular young women, into the labour market

MUVA also took forward the discourse around aid-delivery, by serving as a successful model of adaptive management. Indeed, as a highly effective adaptive and innovative programme, MUVA proved to be a strong case study for how integrating MEL, innovation, a new approach to value for money, and adaptive management could be harnessed by donors and practitioners for greater impact.

Finally, the success of MUVA’s methodology and approaches, buffeted by the solid evidence base developed through the programme’s use of monitoring, evaluation, and learning, led to donor interest in continuing to finance the work it was doing as a social incubator. As a result, the programme supported the creation of a national Mozambican NGO, also called MUVA, to continue the work begun under the programme. The MUVA NGO received seed funding from the FCDO, as well as the Agence française de développement, and in its first years was already successfully piloting and implementing novel approaches to women’s economic empowerment in Mozambique. Read more about the work of the MUVA NGO on their new website.

Knowledge products

Some of the knowledge products developed through the MUVA programme include:

A series of webinars showcasing some of the key learnings from the MUVA programme, recordings of which are available here: Promoting women's economic empowerment: a webinar series

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A paper series, jointly written with the Institute of Development Studies:

A paper written with ODI on evidence-led adaptive programming: Evidence-led adaptive programming: Lessons from MUVA | ODI: Think change

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