Many development programs that aim to alleviate poverty and improve
investments in human capital consider women’s empowerment a key pathway
by which to achieve impact and often target women as their main
beneficiaries. Despite this, women’s empowerment dimensions are often
not rigorously measured and are at times merely assumed.
This paperstarts by reflecting on the concept and measurement of women’s
empowerment and then reviews some of the structural interventions that
aim to influence underlying gender norms in society and eradicate gender
discrimination. It then proceeds to review the evidence of the impact of
3 types of interventions - cash transfer programs, agricultural
interventions, and microfinance programs - on women’s empowerment,
nutrition, or both.
Qualitative evidence on conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs
generally points to positive impacts on women’s empowerment, although
quantitative research findings are more heterogenous. CCT programs
produce mixed results on long-term nutritional status, and very limited
evidence exists of their impacts on micronutrient status. The little
evidence available on unconditional cash transters (UCT) indicates mixed
impacts on women’s empowerment and positive impacts on nutrition;
however, recent reviews comparing CCT and UCT programs have found little
difference in terms of their effects on stunting and they have found
that conditionality is less important than other factors, such as access
to healthcare and child age and sex. Evidence of cash transfer program
impacts depending on the gender of the transfer recipient or on the
conditionality is also mixed, although CCTs with non-health
conditionalities seem to have negative impacts on nutritional status.
The impacts of programs based on the gender of the transfer recipient
show mixed results, but almost no experimental evidence exists of
testing gender-differentiated impacts of a single program.
Agricultural interventions - specifically home gardening and dairy
projects - show mixed impacts on women’s empowerment measures such as
time, workload, and control over income; but they demonstrate very
little impact on nutrition. Implementation modalities are shown to
determine differential impacts in terms of empowerment and nutrition
With regard to the impact of microfinance on women’s
empowerment, evidence is also mixed, although more recent reviews do not
find any impact on women’s empowerment. The impact of microfinance on
nutritional status is mixed, with no evidence of impact on micronutrient
status. Across all three types of programs (cash transfer programs,
agricultural interventions, and microfinance programs), very little
evidence exists on pathways of impact, and evidence is often biased
toward a particular region.
The paper ends with a discussion of the findings and remaining evidence
gaps and an outline of recommendations for research.
There is a brief on this review entitled Women’s empowerment and nutrition: what does the evidence tell us?
This research is supported by the Department for International Development’s Transform Nutrition Programme which is led by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
van den Bold, M.; Quisumbing, A.R.; Gillespie, S. Women’s Empowerment and Nutrition. An Evidence Review. IFPRI, Washington DC, USA (2013) v + 71 pp. [IFPRI Discussion Paper 01294]
Women’s Empowerment and Nutrition. An Evidence Review.