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Can we use Women's Empowerment in Agriculture Index in IFAD Projects?

Display Date: 3/15/12

USAid, IFPRI and Oxford have developed, piloted and launched this new index on women's empowerment in agriculture which is accompanied by an impact evaluation methodology.  There are also case studies that may be of interest. I would be interested in what people think of this, and how IFAD might use it and partner with the initiative.

Here is a copy of the document that describes the index.


And, here is the page on the launch of the initiative from the US government Feed the Future website.


I was at the Global Conference of Women in Agriculture (from 13th to 15th March) here in Delhi where Ruth, Senior Research Fellow at IFPRI who also leads the Gender task Force, presented this tool. I had a meeting with her today to know more about the tool and the potential it can have for IFAD. IFPRI initially designed it for USAID and is now in discussion with Eve and Namita from FAO and with CARE for further dissemination and use. CARE is looking at including more factors like health, nutrition etc into the index.

The tool is made especially for agricultural projects (USAID's mandate for inclusive agriculture in the feed the Future initiative) and identifies areas for project intervention for empowering women in agriculture. I thought the tool very comprehensive though time taking (20 mins extra if included in another survey) as it involves interviewing both women and men in each household. With USAID, I believe they plan to include it into the baseline survey.

To my understanding, I feel we can use the tool at formulation (but there is the extra investment cost) and maybe as a tool during the project cycle to determine empowerment. There is a possibility of doing a time range (eg: 3 years ago what life was like and now how it is). The questions of the index lay out very clear areas (some similar to what we use in the annual outcome survey in India) but a lot new ones.

In our discussion, I had raised some of these points. Ruth had replied that there is a need to make the indicators more contextual so that we can get a more comprehensive analysis. One of the issues raised was also ownership of assets - and the definition of assets. It could mean different things for different cultural contexts. In India, a girl comes into a marriage with her jewellery as dowry but she has no right to that jewellery .. also within women's groups (mother in law and daughter in law) who makes the decision?

Apparently the earlier questionnaire had a lot of questions which took care of triangulation and assessing real information but they had to shorten the questionnaire quite a bit. But as of such, the index has the potential to expand and be more inclusive.

Posted on 3/15/12 9:17 AM.

What is great about this index is that it gives clear dimensions that we need to focus on, and allow us to quantify empowerment levels. It also assigns different weights to different dimensions, that is useful to distinguish which is more important vis a vis others. This will be a good inclusion to the RIMS plus and outcome survey that is being implemented in IFAD.

Especially, the methodology that they are following is interesting. They interview both husband and wife in the household to assess the empowerment level of women vis a vis their husbands. Noting that gender analysis is to analyze the relations, it is important that couples are interviewed. Again, this is an important learning for IFAD's M&E. Even though it will take time, this index shows us that it is worth the effort to interview both husband and wife in the household. Currently, IFAD's RIMS plus and outcome survey is interviewing one person per household (head of household). We can learn from the methodology of this index to improve the methodology of RIMS plus and Outcome Survey.

The index still needs to be contextualized especially for dimensions such as assets (what should be included in assets) but it is natural that for a gender index, there is no one size fit all.
The index does not cover well the post harvest and trade part of the agriculture activities of women, by not specifying their access to market or decision making to sell crops, their mobility, their technical capacity and autonomy, but the index does not prohibit us to include these aspects, so when we use it, we just need to be a bit aware.

Thank you very much for sharing this wonderful resource!!

Posted on 3/18/12 4:43 PM.

Thank you Chitra for sharing this resource. It is very useful indeed. In my opinion the tool can be used along with RIMS plus and annual outcome/impact surveys. The tool can add the gender aspect to IFAD’s M&E system which was missing before.
We are also using a qualitative tool to measure (and track the changes overtime) issues that affect women and empowerment in the project area. The tool measures the key domains like women’s participation, confidence, decision making, gender division of labor, VAW, women’s access to knowledge etc. the flexibility is that domains are selected by women of the project area. The tool produces a collection of stories which show the status of the selected domains and the changes in the behavior over time.
As WEAI provides a way to also quantify women empowerment gaps, it can be good addition and complementary to the M&E package.
Thanks again,
With warm regards,

Posted on 3/20/12 3:45 AM in reply to Kyoko Kusakabe.

Dear Judith and colleagues,
As one of the co-developers of the index, I'm glad to hear of this interest in using it. Emily Hogue of USAID is in Rome this week discussing with IFAD and FAO how the index can be used. Let me ust clarify a couple of points (I'm drawing on comments by my colleagues Agnes Quisumbing and Amber Peterman here, as well)

The definition of assets draws on considerable work we have done on gendered rights over assets, so although it is just two indicators, there are a number of questions that underlie each indicator.

A lot of the contextual information IS still in the final version of the index questionnaire—the important stuff is at the individual level. What was dropped was the household-level information on the same questions, which were initially asked for validation purposes. Because the index is essentially aggregative, you only see the aggregate level (whether the women has sole or joint ownership, or has sole or joint decisionmaking over a range of assets). But information on those individual assets is still collected (and anyone collecting that information, can, of course, analyze the responses to individual questions).

The version of the questionnaire that is going to be make public also contains information on why a woman or man can’t join a group, even if it exists in the community (this includes family objections).

We will soon be posting the questionnaires and a training guide. In the meantime, you can find the description of the index and case study profiles at http://www.ifpri.org/pressroom/briefing/women-s-empowerment-agriculture-index

To my mind, one of the key questions is how to contextualize the questions but still have the overall index being comparable across countries and agencies using it. To give an example, for Bangladesh we added questions on aquaculture, because that is important there but not in the other countries. That would factor into the agricultural production indicators. On the other hand, there are some other organizations that want to use this index as a basis, but look at women’s empowerment more broadly, not just in agriculture. They will thus include some other aspects of empowerment. In that case, it might need to be called something other than WEAI.

Finally, on the lenght of the survey, I've checked with my colleagues and the full questionnaire we used in the pilto took just over 1 hr per individual. With the reduced questionnaire, if you are adding it to an existing surey, it would likely add around 30-35 min per individual.

I think some of the mystery around length and content will be changed once the surveys and manual are posted, which could be as early as tomorrow.

Best regards,

Posted on 3/26/12 4:00 PM.

Dear Ruth, Thanks for your explanations. We are looking forward to hearing more from Emily in Rome tomorrow and considering how we might use the index as an impact evalaution starting with some new projects and conducting surveys as baselines. I would also be interested to learn more at some point about the processes used to implement the surveys, including local partners and training of enumerators during the pilot case studies. In Bangaldesh, for example, it would be useful to know who your local counterparts and collaborators were in order to discuss with them in-country to learn more about their experiences.

Posted on 3/27/12 5:38 PM in reply to Ruth Meinzen-Dick.


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