The aim of this Topic Guide is to provide readers with a better
understanding of the elusive concept of ‘empowerment’ in agricultural
and rural contexts. The Guide summarises and signposts readers to
current debates and thinking around women’s empowerment, whilst being
conscious that supporting empowerment has no definitive response. There
are many ways to support or enable empowerment. The Guide has been
purposively structured in five sections to aid understanding around 5
broad themes, each of which can be read as a stand-alone piece.
Section 1 contains a summary of issues around gender. It begins with a
glossary that unpacks gender related jargon and includes a helpful
review of what is meant by ‘empowerment’. This part of the Guide also
explains why we have focused on women, and outlines what this might mean
for those supporting rural livelihoods.
Section 2 broadly examines how to support the empowerment of rural women
at the policy and programming level. It reviews the importance of
inclusive planning for growth and how collective action is often a
necessary ingredient for support to empowerment. Access to information
through conventional agricultural advice channels and through
Information Communication Technology and are also examined in this
section. Approaches that have stressed the key constraints that affect
women’s productivity are outlined, noting that productivity increases
and resources are just one consideration in a path towards empowerment.
Women (as a group) face constraints, barriers and discrimination. These
constraints are often not addressed. For instance in subsistence
agriculture, women require considerable targeted support such as better
access to assets, information and advice. Section 2 also examines
evidence that was located on land, livestock and forestry regarding
access to and control over different assets for women. Due to the range
of issues covered in this Guide, it is important to stress that not all
gender dimensions are discussed in depth.
Section 3 explores waged work options for women in rural areas and
social protection initiatives. A high proportion of women and girls
produce for markets and/or are wage-dependent on the agricultural
sector, taking on seasonal or casual work to supplement incomes with
paid work on other farms or plantations. With no option but to ‘step
out’ of agriculture, we stress that women require higher earning work
opportunities in better conditions. Emerging evidence from off-farm
livelihoods options that may support rural women’s path to empowerment
are presented, as well as long known challenges around better quality
work. For example, domestic workers also require labour rights. Section
3 also touches on support that can be provided to rural areas by
reviewing some types of social protection (support for labour market
programmes, some public works and cash transfers programmes).
Section 4 focuses on empowerment issues related to entrepreneurship,
particularly along agricultural value chains. In many rural contexts
women require support to develop new business opportunities along supply
chains and access to market information. A review of some evidence
around skills/business training for entrepreneurs is presented, before
taking a very brief look at microfinance and its link to empowerment.
Approaches that link smallholders (women in particular) to markets are
examined, looking at women’s empowerment in new and emerging value
chains for example, through contracting arrangements.
Section 5 concerns monitoring, evaluating and assessing impact. Various
guidelines are now beginning to layout different dimensions of
empowerment that can potentially be measured. This section questions
whether we can really measure empowerment, outlining four different
frameworks that may help in this regard. When reviewing material for
this Guide, it became clear that many studies do not necessarily focus
on women’s ‘empowerment’ per se. Impact studies that mention empowerment
use a diversity of indicators to measure progress towards ‘empowerment’.
In Section 5 we therefore outline some key points that can be used to
provoke discussions on monitoring and evaluating women’s empowerment.
This peer reviewed Topic Guide has been produced by Evidence on Demand
with the assistance of the UK Department for International Development
(DFID) contracted through the Climate, Environment, Infrastructure and
Livelihoods Professional Evidence and Applied Knowledge Services (CEIL
PEAKS) programme, jointly managed by DAI (incorporating HTSPE Limited)
and IMC Worldwide Limited.
Murray, U. Topic Guide: Women&#8217;s empowerment in a changing agricultural and rural context. Evidence on Demand, UK (2015) viii + 140 pp. [DOI: 10.12774/eod_tg.january2015.murrayu]