Women play a critical role in agricultural growth in developing countries yet face persistent obstacles and economic constraints, limiting further inclusion in the sector. A groundbreaking step in the measurement of women’s empowerment in this field has just been made with the launch of a new “Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index” (WEAI).
The Index is the first to directly measure women’s inclusion levels in the agricultural sector, focusing on five distinct areas:
- Decisions over agricultural production
- Power over productive resources such as land and livestock
- Decisions over income
- Leadership in the community
- Time use
Women are considered to be empowered if they have adequate achievements in four of the five areas. The Index also takes into consideration the empowerment of women compared with men in the same households. Traditionally, money and education are used as indirect signposts of women’s empowerment but WEAI exposes the weaknesses in these ‘proxies’. It shows, for example, that having money or being educated does not guarantee that women are empowered.
The Index has been formed through a partnership between the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) of Oxford University and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
IFPRI’s mission is to provide policy solutions that reduce poverty and end hunger and malnutrition. DFID has provided core funding to IFPRI since 2008 and will continue to support the organization as part of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) until 2013.
The Index was developed to track the change in women’s empowerment that occurs as a direct or indirect result of US government intervention under the Feed the Future initiative to tackle global hunger and food security. The Index has been piloted in three countries with diverse socioeconomic and cultural contexts - Bangladesh, Guatemala, and Uganda. As a result, the US government will use the Index for performance monitoring and impact evaluations across Feed the Future focus countries.
The WEAI pilot results show some surprising new findings:
- In the sample from the Western Highlands of Guatemala, wealth is a poor indicator of empowerment–three-quarters of women in the wealthiest two-thirds of the population are not yet empowered.
- In the southern Bangladesh sample, more than half of women are less empowered than the men with whom they share their house, yet they are usually confident speaking in public.
- In the sample from rural parts of Uganda, lack of control over resources and time burdens contribute most to the disempowerment of women.
The Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index brochure, country case study profiles, and related information are available here.