The economic empowerment of women is emerging as a core focus of both economic development and gender equality programmes internationally. At the same time, there is increasing importance placed on measuring outcomes and quantifying progress towards gender and development goals. These trends raise significant questions around how well gender differences are understood, especially in economies dominated by the informal sector and characterised by a highly gendered division of labour, as is the case in many Pacific countries. How well do existing international and national indicators of gender equality reflect the experiences and aspirations of Pacific women and men? What do concepts such as gender equality and economic empowerment mean in this geographical context? How might local attitudes and practices be identified and measured? In this paper, we draw on Boaventura De Sousa Santos’ call to recognise and value knowledges of the majority world that have been rendered either largely invisible or non-credible by mainstream development and human rights policy agendas. Reflecting on an action research project conducted with partner organisations in Fiji and the Solomon islands, we explore a more nuanced place-based approach to understanding and measuring gender equality and economic empowerment. This approach takes account of diverse economic practices, such as non-market transactions, and forms of non-cash exchange and unpaid labour, and recognises the imbalance in women’s and men’s household and care work.