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Tropentag, September 17 - 19, 2018 in Ghent

"Global food security and food safety: The role of universities"

What Dimensions of Women's Empowerment Matter for Nutritional Outcomes? Evidence from Africa and Asia

Agnes Quisumbing1, Kathryn Sproule2, Hazel Malapit1, Elena Martinez3

1International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Poverty, Health, and Nutrition Division, United States of America
2Independent Consultant, United States of America
3International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH), United States of America


Although linkages between increasing resources controlled by women and nutrition are well established, the linkages between women's empowerment and nutrition have been more difficult to quantify owing to the difficulty of measuring empowerment. This paper conducts new empirical analysis using the Women's Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI), based on large scale surveys in six countries in Africa and Asia, to identify which dimensions and indicators of women's empowerment matter for different diet and nutrition outcomes. We use data from Feed the Future population-based surveys from Bangladesh, Nepal, Cambodia, Ghana, Mozambique, and Tanzania and model the relationship between nutritional outcomes at the household and individual level and women's empowerment in agriculture. Household-level outcomes include the household hunger score, household dietary diversity, and household calorie availability. Women's outcomes include dietary diversity and body mass index (BMI), while child outcomes include indicators of infant and young age feeding (IYCF) practices, dietary diversity, and anthropometric measures.

We find that higher women's empowerment scores and greater household equality (a smaller gap between men's and women's empowerment scores) are almost always associated with better nutritional outcomes. Across countries, higher women's empowerment is also associated with children's nutritional outcomes. Cultural preference for boys over girls is evident in Bangladesh, Nepal, and Ghana; increased women's empowerment is often associated with worse girls' anthropometric outcomes relative to boys. Improved nutrition is not necessarily correlated with being empowered across all empowerment domains, indicating the possibility of tradeoffs. In Nepal, control over incomes is associated with higher women's BMI, but if intensifying participation in agriculture increases workload, then both maternal and child nutrition could be at risk.

The WEAI can be used to identify policy and programming priorities by disaggregating the contribution of each indicator to women's disempowerment. Whenever addressing a top contributor to disempowerment is strongly associated with improvement in several nutritional outcomes, interventions targeting these top contributors to disempowerment could potentially be very cost-effective.

Keywords: Dietary diversity, infant and young child feeding, maternal and child nutrition, time use, women's empowerment in agriculture

Contact Address: Agnes Quisumbing, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Poverty, Health, and Nutrition Division, 1201 Eye Street, NW, 20005-3915 Washington, United States of America, e-mail: a.quisumbing@cgiar.org

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