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Measurement of Empowerment: Critiques and Innovation from Development Economics


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Amber Peterman's (UNICEF) presentation at Sickkids Global Health Research Center workshop in Toronto, April 11 2019.

Published in: Government & Nonprofit
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Measurement of Empowerment: Critiques and Innovation from Development Economics

  1. 1. Amber Peterman Empowerment Workshop April 17-18th 2019: Toronto MEASUREMENT OF EMPOWERMENT: Critiques & Innovation from Development Economics
  2. 2. MEASURING ‘EMPOWERMENT’: HOW FAR HAVE WE COME? Malhortra, Schuler, Boender (2002): “Measuring Women’s Empowerment as a Variable in International Development” “Vast and interconnected” . . . “To date, neither the World Bank nor any other major development agency has developed a rigorous method for measuring and tracking changes in levels of empowerment”. . . Economic Socio-cultural Familial/ interpersonal Legal Political Psychological Household Community Broader Arenas
  3. 3. THE CONCEPTUAL CHALLENGE: ARE WE REALLY MEASURING EMPOWERMENT?  “Expansion in people’s ability to make strategic life choices in a context where this was previously denied” (Kabeer 2001)  Should be distinct from gender equality, equity and status  Should operate at different levels: 1) power within (intrinsic agency), 2) power to (instrumental agency), 3) power with (collective agency) RESOURCES AGENCY ACHIEVEMENTS
  4. 4. HOW DO WE OPERATIONALIZE AGENCY? (Donald et al. 2017) • Intra-household decision-making (e.g. DHS) • Autonomy; Relative autonomy index (RAI) • Self-efficacy • Confidence • Capacity to set & achieve goals • Locus of control • Self-assessed life freedom & control (e.g. WVS) • Voice (individual & collective) & participation
  5. 5. DECIDING OVER WHAT? 1. What type of decisions are ‘strategic’ life choices in different settings? • Are purchases for household daily needs strategic? • Is visiting family or friends strategic? • Are decisions across domains appropriately captured (social, economic, political, etc.?) 2. Are decisions specific enough? • Instead of asking “Who usually makes decisions about healthcare for yourself?” • Consider asking: “If you ever need medicine for yourself (for a headache, for example), could you go buy it yourself? An evaluation in Bangladesh found different responses to general vs. specific question; suggests specific questions are easier to accurately answer (Glennerster et al. 2017).
  6. 6. HOW DO WE INTERPRET JOINTNESS?  Is joint decision-making “better” or “worse” than sole decision-making? How do we minimize implicit judgement about what is preferred?  Analysis shows that women and men (in Ghana & Bangladesh) associate different domains more and less strongly with autonomous motivation  Sole DM matters for women in Ghana select domains; Women in Bangladesh prefer joint DM Women in Ghana (N=1785)
  7. 7. • Should we be measuring ‘how much’ input, rather than ‘with whom’ (by whom)? • Alternative from the WEAI: How much input do you have into decision around [X]? • Response options: • (a) no input or input into a few decisions, • (b) input into some decisions, • (c) input into most decisions, • (d) input into all decisions, • (e) no decision made. • (e) allows respondents to report (opt out) if a decision in that particular domain has not been made recently or is not relevant to them. DO RESPONSE OPTION CONSTRAIN (MISLEAD) ANALYSIS?
  8. 8. DECISION-MAKING: FROM WHO’s PERSPECTIVE? • Couples agree 6-64% of the time (Bangladesh) & 67- 82% of the time (Ghana) • Women tend to report decisions as joint, men tend to report as sole Couples in Bangladesh (2011-2012)
  9. 9. WHY ARE DECISIONS MADE? The Self-determination continuum (Seymour & Peterman 2018)
  10. 10. ASK ME WHY? VINETTES TO UNDERSTAND DECISION-MAKING MOTIVATION (Bernard et al. 2018) • Vignettes around production of dairy & consumption of dairy in Senegal = 5 typologies of households. • Men most likely to be deciding in dictator households; Women most likely in separate sphere households. • WHO decides does not affect production/consumption outcomes, but WHY they decide does matter (norms worst off, informed best off).
  11. 11. OTHER CHALLENGES • Capturing preferences  To what extent do you feel you can make your own personal decisions regarding [X] if you want(ed) to? (WEAI) • Social desirability bias  Observational (field experiments) or use indirect methods (list randomization), solicit willingness to pay estimates -- however these methods may be difficult in national surveys • Empowerment as a process  Take measures over time and analyze changes • Disempowerment can heighten data collection challenges  When women face structural inequalities this can compound measurement challenges. Create space for private interviews, same sex/locally recruited to encourage truthful answers (Glennerster et al. 2017).
  12. 12. INDEX EXAMPLES: WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT IN AGRICULTURE INDEX (WEAI) (Malapit et al. 2019) • Objectives: Developed by USAID, IFPRI, OPHI in 2012 to measure inclusion of women in agriculture sector • Survey based: Constructed using interviews of primary male and female in the same household • Versions & iterations: 1. Abbreviated WEAI (a-WEAI) 2. Project-level WEAI (pro-WEAI)  Health & Nutrition 3. WEAI for Value Chains (WEAI4VC) 4. WE in Livestock Index (WELI) 5. WE in Fish Index (WEFI) 12 indicators of empowerment (equal weighting)
  13. 13. WEAI ADAPTIONS: 53 countries, 86 organizations
  14. 14. WEAI QUALITATIVE WORK: HOW COMMUNITIES UNDERSTAND EMPOWERMENT (Meinzen-Dick et al. 2019)  Synthesis of Pro-WEAI data across 8 projects (SA & SSA)  Empowerment = emancipated, admired, dignified, lift up, enable  Each component of empowerment is relational, not just about the individual (other women as well as men. . . ) RESOURCES AGENCY ACHIEVEMENTS • Economic means • Connections • Confidence • Help with labor • Taking care of oneself • Taking care of family needs • Taking care of others • Active, hard work • Good decisions, joint decisions • Exercising ownership • Following social norms • Financial status • Well dressed • Good appearance • Admired
  15. 15. MACRO-LEVEL INDEX EXAMPLE: SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS & GENDER INDEX (SIGI) (4th edition, 2019: OECD, “Discriminatory social institutions are defined as the formal and informal laws, attitudes and practices that restrict women’s and girls’ access to rights, justice and empowerment opportunities.”
  16. 16. CONCLUSIONS & REFLECTIONS 01. Women’s decision-making often the primary (& only) indicator of women’s agency operationalized—however large gaps in understanding what is being captured & how to interpret measures 02. Women’s & men’s goals/preferences (values) should be reflected (captured) alongside agency to achieve these goals. 03. We should be capturing multiple measures of agency, over different domains to triangulate outcomes
  17. 17. IMPLICATIONS & IDEAS FOR FUTURE RESERCH 01. Measuring empowerment is complex—let’s resist simplification & strive to measure it fully (rather than related concepts, e.g. women’s status or wellbeing) 02. Much to be gained from inter-disciplinary & mixed method work. 03. While seeking to distill commonalities, we cannot ignore context and individual specificity of empowerment across different types of agency—for women and men / girls and boys.
  18. 18. Thank you! This presentation draws on research of colleagues at IFPRI, including Greg Seymour, Hazel Malapit, Agnes Quisumbing, Ruth Meinzen- Dick and the WEAI team, Cheryl Doss, Melissa Hidrobo and others.
  19. 19. CITATIONS • Bernard T, Doss C, Hidrobo M, Hoel, Kieran C. 2018. Ask me Why: Using vignettes to understand patterns of Intrahousehold Decision-Making in rural Senegal. IFPRI Discussion Paper 01784: • Donald et al. 2017. Measuring Women’s Agency. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 8148: • Glennerster R, Walsh C and Diaz-Martin L. 2017. A Practical Guide to Measuring Women’s and Girls’ Empowerment in Impact Evaluations. J-PAL. • Malapit, HJ.; Quisumbing, AR.; Meinzen-Dick, RS; Seymour, G; Martinez, EM.; Heckert, J; Rubin, D; Vaz, A; and Yount, KM. 2019. Development of the project-level Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (pro-WEAI). IFPRI Discussion Paper 1796. Washington, DC: IFPRI. • Meinzen-Dick, RS; Rubin, D; Elias, M; Mulema, AA and Myers, E. 2019. Women’s empowerment in agriculture: Lessons from qualitative research. IFPRI Discussion Paper 1797. Washington, DC: IFPRI. • Kabeer, N. (2001). Reflections on the measurement of women’s empowerment. In A. Sisask (Series Ed.), Sida studies no. 3: Discussing women’s empowerment – theory and practice (pp. 17–57). Stockholm, Sweden: Novum Grafiska AB. • Seymour & Peterman. 2018. Context and measurement: An analysis of the relationship between intra-household decision making and autonomy. World Development 111: 97-112: • Slide 1: © FAO/IvanGrifi/19431674444_a702f46a21 • Slide 17: © FAO/IvanGrifi/19431617964_bf1542f18a