New Delhi: On 28 February, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) introduced a new measurement tool to indicate women’s inclusion in the farming sector—the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index. The Washington-based institute collaborated with Oxford University’s Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, the economic research organization responsible for creating Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index, to build a new methodology to identify gaps in empowerment. While it was designed for the United States Agency for International Development’s Feed the Future efforts, senior IFPRI fellow Ruth S. Meinzen-Dick, who’s in the Capital to attend an international conference on women in agriculture, spoke about how this innovative tool can be applied in any part of the world to track gender equality, one of the eight millennium development goals. Edited excerpts:

In recent years, we have seen a spate of development indices—Global Gender Gap Index, Women’s Economic Opportunity Index, Gender Inequality Index, Quality-of-Life Index, Global Hunger Index, and now, Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index. Isn’t it confusing to have so many?

Ruth Meinzen-Dick, senior fellow at nternational Food Policy Research Institute in Delhi on 14 March 2012. Photo by Priyanka Parashar/ Mint

The potential confusion comes on the different gender indices. Most of the gender indices are based on national data and do not really capture the reality that women face in agriculture, which is why the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index was created.

Is it difficult to quantify empowerment?

Yes. Empowerment has many aspects. In developing the index, we focused on five dimensions: decision making over food, access to land and credit, control over income and expenditures, leadership and allocation of time to productive and domestic tasks.

How does one measure empowerment?

To obtain information, we developed a questionnaire that was piloted in three countries—Bangladesh, Guatemala, and Uganda. Our survey partners interviewed women and men in the same household, as well as female household heads. Based on the survey results, we assessed whether a woman is empowered or not across 10 indicators that reflect the five domains. It’s a simple, technically robust index that gives powerful insight.

How can IFPRI’s empowerment index be applied in a real situation for a social diagnosis?

A woman busy in cooking in Ghoramara island, in Bay of Bengal.

Will the index help in improving economic opportunities for women?

By itself, an index won’t change things, but it can be used to create pressure to increase women’s empowerment, and to show whether programmes are helping or hurting women.

maitreyee.h@livemint.com

Close