An innovative new tool for measuring levels of empowerment amongst rural women was launched yesterday, to coincide with the 56th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. The Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) was developed in collaboration by The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative at Oxford University.
Women play a vital role in agriculture and account for over 40% of the global agricultural workforce, yet they face many restrictions, such as lack of access to inputs, land rights and credit. This new index seeks to measure the empowerment of women in the agriculture sector, to therefore identify ways to overcome the constraints women face. Given that gender equality is the third Millennium Development Goal and there is a growing need for tools to measure the impact of funding programmes, the WEAI is a useful new tool in understanding the gender empowerment gap in agriculture and therefore, tackling it.
How does it work?
The index is composed of two sub-indexes:
1) Five Domains of empowerment (5DE)
This sub-index shows the degree to which women are empowered in their households and communities, assessing the women in five different domains:
- Production: Sole or joint decisionmaking over food and cash-crop farming, livestock, and fisheries as well as autonomy in agricultural production
- Resources: Ownership, access to, and decisionmaking power over productive resources such as land, livestock, agricultural equipment, consumer durables, and credit
- Income: Sole or joint control over income and expenditures
- Leadership: Membership in economic or social groups and comfort in speaking in public
- Time: Allocation of time to productive and domestic tasks and satisfaction with the available time for leisure activities
2) Gender Parity Index (GPI)
This sub-index shows the degree of inequality between men and women of the same household. To achieve this, both a principal male and principal female of a household (who are not necessarily married) were interviewed.
What has it shown so far?
In 2011, pilot surveys were conducted in Bangladesh, Guatemala and Uganda, covering over 1,000 households. In all three regions, women’s empowerment in agriculture according to the WEAI came under 40%. Uganda had the highest score, with 37.3% of women in the five regions examined qualifying as empowered. In southwestern Bangladesh, the percentage of empowered women according to the WEAI was 31.9% and in the Western highlands of Guatemala, only 22.8% of women ranked as empowered.
Results found by the index reveal the need to invest in the empowerment of women. The report comments:
Evidence has shown that equalising access to assets and opportunities for men and women helps achieve better development outcomes – such as better health and nutrition for women and their families, greater investments in education for children and poverty reduction.”