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Adapting the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index to include rights can improve assessment of empowerment

This blog post by Tezira Lore was originally posted on the AgriGender blog of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

A strategy combining activities that will simultaneously enhance livelihood and rights capabilities of target beneficiaries of development interventions appears to be the most effective way of empowering women.

The strategy is also applicable for other marginalized groups. This strategy was the focus of discussions at a day-long workshop on integrating rights into livestock microcredit and value chain development programs for empowering women.

The workshop was held at the Nairobi headquarters of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on 25 February 2013 and hosted by ILRI’s Livelihoods, Gender and Impact Program. Some 30 participants attended from the following institutions: CARE USA, the East Africa Dairy Development project (EADD), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) the Ford Foundation, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), ILRI, Juhudi Kilimo, the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), the University of Minnesota, the University of Nairobi, UN Women and the World Food Program.

Jemimah Njuki of CARE USA gave an introductory presentation on conceptualizing and measuring women’s empowerment, based on the approach used at CARE which considers three inter-related aspects: agency, structure and relations.

“We need to understand what empowerment is before we can measure it,” said Njuki.

Elizabeth Waithanji of ILRI then presented the findings of a pilot study in Kenya that measured the impacts of livestock microcredit and value chain projects on women’s empowerment using livelihood and rights indicators in an adapted Women Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI).

ILRI postdoctoral scientist Elizabeth Waithanji presents on the Women's Empowerment in Agriculture Index
The pilot consisted of three case studies: a poultry value chain intervention project in Naivasha and Malindi (by KARI), a dairy value chain intervention project in Nandi and Bomet (by EADD), and a livestock microcredit project in Trans Nzoia (by Juhudi Kilimo).

The pilot used the adapted WEAI methodology to measure women’s empowerment and gender parity in empowerment between women and men in terms of livelihood indicators and rights.

The adaptation entailed adding a sixth dimension, health, to the traditional five dimensions of WEAI in order to integrate rights into the index.

“The health domain focused on individuals’ attitudes towards gender-based violence and their ability to make decisions over their own reproductive health,” said Waithanji.

The WEAI is made up of two sub-indices. One measures the extent of women’s empowerment within five domains, namely, production, resources, income, leadership and time. The other measures gender parity in empowerment between women and men within dual-adult households and demonstrates the proportion of women who are as empowered as the men.

Using the 5-domain WEAI, a woman is considered empowered if she has adequate achievements in four of the five domains or in some combination of the weighted indicators that reflect 80% total adequacy.

With the adapted 6-domain WEAI, a woman was considered empowered if she had adequate achievements in four of the six domains or 64% adequacy from weighted indicators.

The 6-domain index made it possible to identify how much rights contributed to inadequacy among disempowered women and men. The domains that contributed most to women’s disempowerment were resources and health.

Because gendered empowerment patterns were found to vary with the context, the findings from this study should not be generalized beyond the specific study contexts.

Following the presentations and plenary discussions, participants worked in groups to identify how best to integrate livelihoods and rights in projects aimed at empowering women.

Gender experts discuss the adaptation of the Women's Empowerment in Agriculture Index
The rich diversity of partner organizations present at the meeting generated interest in future collaboration through the regional network on gender and rural livelihoods currently being hosted by FAO Somalia.

“The regional gender and livelihoods network will be a useful platform for partners to continue sharing information and resources,” said one of the participants who is also a member of the network.

Gender experts discuss the adaptation of the Women's Empowerment in Agriculture Index
Similar sentiments were also echoed by Maurice Makoloo, the Ford Foundation representative for eastern Africa, in his brief message to the workshop participants.

“The Ford Foundation is interested in inter-initiative collaboration towards ensuring women’s rights, building assets that improve the livelihoods of rural women, and strengthening community rights related to access to land,” said Makoloo.

Ford Foundation provided funding for the pilot.