If we want our projects to provide opportunities to empower women, which means we need metrics to be able to track progress, what tool do we use? This led us to our starting point.
In 2012, we launched the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index, and this was a tool that was co-developed by USAID, IFPRI and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative.
It was originally designed as a monitoring and evaluation tool for Feed the Future to measure the inclusion of women in the agricultural sector.
This tool is a survey-based index, so it is embedded in population-based surveys, and interviews men and women in the same household.
In the WEAI, we focus on the Agency measures, which are often operationalized in terms of decision-making.
Why? Because when the WEAI was developed, we already had indicators, methodologies, and tools that measured resources and measured achievements. We know how to measure different types of resources, physical capital, human capital, social capital. We know how to measure achievements like yields, profits, expenditures, nutritional status. So we know how to do those things, better than we know how to measure agency.
So there was a deliberate decision to focus on agency in the WEAI.
What was really interesting was that in our qualitative work, we found that women’s and men’s own understandings of empowerment echoed these three dimensions. So we thought this framework was really in line with what we’re hearing from the communities themselves.
One key insight that we draw from these preliminary findings was that empowerment was not just about the woman herself, instead an empowered woman is someone who can take care of others.
So it’s not just about the woman, it goes beyond her.
Bangladesh had lowest empowerment, used the results as diagnostic, designed programs, had large increases in empowerment
Then, WEAI went viral. There has been so much interest in this new tool for measuring empowerment that we were frankly quite surprised at how quickly other organizations and projects took this up.
Users looked at the tools and started adapting them and modifying them and tried to implement them in their own projects.
While this was quite exciting, and really showed that there was a huge demand for metrics on empowerment that projects can use, it also meant that it became very difficult to compare and synthesize lessons across different project settings.
All versions of WEAI measure three types of agency.
The first type of agency is Power Within, or Intrinsic Agency. Power Within reflects a person’s internal voice, self-respect, or self-confidence.
The second type of agency is Power To, or Instrumental Agency. This is a person’s ability to make decisions in their own best interest.
The third type of agency is Power With, or Collective Agency. This is the power we get from acting together with others. So women acting together as a collective have a different type of power than a woman acting alone.
There is a fourth type of agency in the empowerment literature that is not reflected in the WEAI, which is Power Over. Power Over is often associated with negative expressions of power like coercion and dominating others. In our qualitative work, we found that Power Over was viewed negatively by local communities, and was not reflected in their own understandings of empowerment.
For these reasons we exclude Power Over in pro-WEAI.
In pro-WEAI what we have done is to make these links to the empowerment literature more explicit, and so these three types of agency are now our three domains: Intrinsic Agency, Instrumental Agency, and Collective Agency.
For pro-WEAI, we have 12 indicators of empowerment across 3 domains.
[PAUSE here for audience to look over slide]
We talked a bit about how pro-WEAI is a direct descendant of the original WEAI, so 7 out of the 12 indicators build on the original WEAI indicators with some changes.
For example: In the Intrinsic Agency domain, we changed the old “autonomy in production” indicator from WEAI to focus exclusively on the use of income. For the production and asset decision-making indicators in the Instrumental Agency domain, we use stricter cutoffs for adequacy, so you need more input in those decisions to be adequate. We renamed the old “workload” indicator to “work balance,” to better reflect the broad definition of work used in the indicator, which includes both market and non-market primary work activities and childcare as a secondary activity.
Group membership is the only indicator that has remained completely unchanged from the original WEAI.
Now, 5 of the 12 pro-WEAI indicators are new, based on what projects said they wanted in this measure:
Under intrinsic agency we have Self-efficacy, Attitudes about domestic violence, and Respect among household members.
Attitudes about domestic violence is particularly important because often we are concerned that our projects have the risk of doing harm in the form of increased violence against women. This indicator helps us to quantify this backlash by tracking whether there is increased tolerance of domestic violence.
Under Instrumental Agency, we have mobility or Visiting important locations, such as markets and NGO training centers.
Under Collective Agency, we have Membership in influential groups which augments the group membership indicator.
The last piece of the puzzle is the overall empowerment cutoff – how many of the indicators and domains should a woman achieve to be considered empowered?
Unlike the original WEAI, which had 5 equally-weighted domains, in the pro-WEAI we have 12 equally-weighted indicators.
In the original WEAI, a person was considered empowered if they were adequate in 80% or more of the indicators. We’ve adopted a similar, but slightly lower cutoff in pro-WEAI, due to the changes in the domain structure.
In pro-WEAI, a person is considered empowered if they are adequate in 75% or more of the indicators, or 9 out of 12 indicators.
Let me end with some results, to give you a flavor of we can get out of pro-WEAI.
This chart summarizes the extent of disempowerment among women and among men, which is the length of the bars.
The gap between the two bars shows us the empowerment gap between women and men overall – so as expected, women are more disempowered.
The colors within the bars, represent the how each of the indicators contribute to that disempowerment. So the bigger the area, the more important it is in constraining women’s empowerment and men’s empowerment.
Interestingly, despite that gap between women and men, we find that the top 2 contributors to disempowerment are the same for both women and men, which is around Collective Agency: Group membership, and Membership in influential groups.
Visiting important locations and respect among household members are large contributors to disempowerment for women but not for men. This suggests that interventions to empower women might focus on improving mobility and relationships in the household.
Now these indicators are both new to pro-WEAI, so the original WEAI would have missed these important aspects of empowerment.
So that, in a nutshell, is what pro-WEAI is about. The next question is: if you are working on a nutrition-sensitive agricultural project, what else do you need to measure?
For that let’s hear from Jessica, who will talk about the Health and Nutrition add-on module.
Some women were able to use social support through groups to deal with abuse. Ranjana Mahato (Nepal) shared that when her husband had beaten her while going to one of the group meetings, the group members had come to her house and humiliated her husband for doing so which ultimately gave her courage to resist the violence and abuse perpetrated by her husband.
It would be nice if we can find one that is a positive statement on how empowered women are able to take advantage of project benefits (and how the projects create or support empowerment).
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Ruth Meinzen-Dick (IFPRI)• 2018 IFPRI Egypt Seminar: “Women Empowerment for Revitalizing Rural Areas in Egypt”
the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI)
project-level Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index
Ruth Meinzen-Dick, Agnes Quisumbing, Hazel Malapit, and Nancy Johnson
October 30, 2018
Tag us on Twitter: @A4NH_CGIAR
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Reach Benefit Empower
Include women in program
Increase women’s well-being (e.g.
food security, income, health)
Strengthen ability of women to make
strategic life choices and to put those
choices into action
Invite women as participants;
reduce barriers to participation;
implement a quota system for
participation in training events
Design project to consider
gendered needs, preferences, and
constraints to ensure that women
benefit from project activities
Enhance women’s decision making
power in households and
communities; addressing key areas of
Number or proportion of
women participating in a
project activity, e.g. attending
training, joining a group,
receiving extension advice, etc.
Sex-disaggregated data for positive
and negative outcome indicators
such as income, assets, nutrition,
time use, etc.
Women’s decision making power e.g.
over agricultural production, income,
or household food consumption;
reduction of outcomes associated with
disempowerment, e.g. gender-based
violence, time burden
Starting point: the Women’s Empowerment in
Agriculture Index (WEAI)
Developed by USAID, IFPRI & OPHI
Launched in 2012
Measures inclusion of women in the
Survey-based index - interviews
men and women in the same
How WE(AI) define empowerment
The various material,
human, and social
resources that serve to
enhance one’s ability to
The capacity to define one’s own
goals and make strategic choices
in pursuit of these goals,
particularly in a context where
this ability was previously denied
of one’s goals
How communities understand empowerment
Help with labor
Following social norms
“Lift the burden”
Taking care of oneself
Taking care of family needs
Taking care of others
How is the WEAI constructed?
An aggregate index in two parts:
Five Domains of Empowerment
Gender Parity Index (GPI) (10%)
Constructed using interviews of
the primary male and primary
female adults in the same
Cross-country WEAI baseline findings: credit,
workload and group membership are constraints
Speaking in public
Control over use of income
Access to and decisions on
Source: Malapit et al. (2014)
50 countries: “off-label” WEAI adaptations
(Egypt use by ILO/Jpal Executive education course and ICARDA research)
What WEAI had ... What projects wanted
Women’s and men’s
empowerment across 5
domains in agriculture
Ability to diagnose
More adaptability to project
Attention to domains related to
health and nutrition
Issues of intrahousehold harmony,
mobility, control of income from
projects, domestic violence
Shorter interview time
Develop a “Project-level” WEAI (pro-WEAI)
• Working with 13 agricultural development projects
• Drawing on qualitative and quantitative data
Control over use of
Access to and decisions
on credit and financial
Ownership of land and
Contributions to disempowerment
Local understandings of empowerment
Difficulty in translating “empowerment”
“emancipated”, “admired”, “dignified”, “lift
Taking care of oneself and family needs
Well dressed, good appearance
Relational, not individualistic:
Taking care of others (family and community)
Having means or status to do so,
Not power over (especially not over men)
Ambivalence of men, women to empowered
“Lift the burden” vs threat to men
Following social norms, ideals of femininity
(“submissive”) vs Strong, able (sometimes
stand against norms)
Age (young and old)
Time as a tether: workload limits mobility, income generating ability
Lack of transport (asset) limits mobility, income generation
Intrahousehold relationstrustmobilityincome generation
Group membership requires mobility, time, support of husbands, family
Income generation supports greater decision-making (and vice versa)
Nepal: whether women hide income, assets depends on autonomy, intrahousehold
“Male dominance over information was pointed out when answers were provided
about things such as cell phone ownership, the person to whom extension workers
talk, the consent of whom to look for before traveling, the ownership and access
to means of transportation, and topics covered by extension workers when they
visit villages. This access and control over information is facilitated by men’s
status as owners of resources.“ (Worldveg, Mali)
Interconnections between indicators
Unpacking “jointness” in decision-making
Not just spouses, but extended families (in-laws, co-wives, natal family)
Final say vs Consultation vs Influence behind the scenes
Women exercise more decision-making on small livestock, assets, income; Men on larger
Showing “respect”, not challenging masculinities may affect answers (including on
Women may not want sole decision-making responsibility
“The down side of women's control over their own income is that if they have too much
and do not help others they are said to be witches or to be engaging in prostitution or
other inappropriate behavior” (Trias study of Maasai in Tanzania)
How projects affect empowerment
Multiple pathways to empowerment: projects could:
Give women something that enables them to increase income, take care of others
Train women—increase skills, confidence, capacities
Affect social norms (including on domestic violence)
(check for validation of project strategies and TOC)
Does the mechanism by which women get the means of empowerment matter?
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