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Publication | 2023

Measuring Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture: Innovations and evidence

CGIAR scientists have published a new research paper in Global Food Security (September 2023) that addresses women’s empowerment in agriculture, innovations in its measurement, and emerging evidence.

The authors are from the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, the International Food Policy Research Institute, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture and the  International Livestock Research Institute.

In the paper, they discuss the evolution of the conceptualization and measurement of women’s empowerment and gender equality since 2010.

Using a gender and food systems framework and a standardized measure of women’s empowerment, the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI), they reviewed the evidence on ‘what works’ to empower women based on impact evaluations of a portfolio of 11 agricultural development projects with empowerment objectives and a scoping review of livestock interventions.

They then reviewed the evidence on associations between empowering women and societal benefits–agricultural productivity, incomes and food security and nutrition.

The review found that having a standardized measure of women’s empowerment (like the WEAI) facilitates comparisons across geographies but needs to be contextualized and grounded using qualitative work.

Having better measures of women’s empowerment also contributes to better and more rigorous analysis of the relationship between women’s empowerment and gender equality and other development outcomes.

However, it is not enough to just measure women’s empowerment; data on men’s empowerment indicators are needed to track gender equality, create awareness of any backlash against programs that aim to empower women, and examine how reducing the empowerment gap contributes to development outcomes.

The authors recommend that policy-makers involved in designing and implementing gender-transformative policies and programs be intentional and come up with deliberate strategies to contribute to women’s empowerment that are appropriate for their culture and context.

While implementing group-based approaches,  policy- and decision-makers should recognize the risk of excluding the most vulnerable from group-based programs, the role of intra-group dynamics, and possible increases in work burden owing to the time required to participate in group activities.

In addition, for programs to be gender-transformative, they must also involve men and change institutional structures. For example, in some cultures, involving key household and community decision-makers, such as in-laws and traditional leaders, may be key to program success.

Finally, the authors call for continued efforts to measure different aspects of agency that might be affected by development interventions in market inclusion, health and nutrition, and livestock and to improve data collection at the individual level.