Promoting Gender Equality and
Women’s Empowerment in Sub-Saharan Countries
EFL University, India , 2013
For centuries women were not treated equal to men in many ways. They were not allowed to own property, they did not have a Share in the property of their parents, they had no voting rights, they had no freedom to choose their work or job and so on. Now that we have come out of those dark days of oppression of women there is a need for strong movement to fight for the rights of women and to ensure that they get all the rights which men have or in other words a movement for the Empowerment of Women. The present seminar has been planned with a view to discuss the various issues related to the Empowerment of Women and to suggest measures for achieving this end.The body of research on women‘s empowerment has conceptualized and defined this construct in many ways and used different terms, often interchangeably, including ―autonomy,‖―status,‖ and ―agency‖ (Lee-Rife and Edmeades 2011; Malhotra et al. 2002; Upadhyay and Hindin 2005). A review of the literature also shows different measures for the same conceptualization. For example, studies often measure women‘s autonomy with an index that assesses their participation in decision-making in various household issues. This index represents women‘s degree of control over their environment. Some researchers include both major and minordecisions, while others include only major decisions, excluding day-to-day household decisions and those that are traditionally within the woman‘s domain. Women‘s empowerment encompasses many dimensions, including economic, socio-cultural, familial/interpersonal, legal, political, and psychological (Malhotra et al. 2002), which contributes to the wide variation in conceptualizations of women‘s empowerment. Given this variation in conceptualization, it is difficult to measure women‘s empowerment consistently. Kabeer (2001), whose definition is widely accepted, defines empowerment as ―the expansion of people‘s ability to make strategic life choices in a context where this ability was previously denied to them.‖ Two central components of empowerment are agency and resources needed to exercise life choices (Kabeer 2001; Malhotra et al. 2002). Even with a clear definition, these constructs are difficult to quantify in a standardized way.Additionally, to measure empowerment at an individual level, researchers must translate the amorphous constructs into a set of specific questions that population-based surveys can ask of individual respondents (Kishor and Subaiya 2008). Another challenge is the variation in cultural contexts that affect the measurement of women‘s empowerment. It is desirable to use standardized questions that enable cross-cultural comparisons of empowerment. Yet a measure that captures empowerment in one context may have limited relevance in another, as is the case with measures that assess mobility in a community where women‘s free movement is the norm. While many existing measures of empowerment were originally conceptualized and developed for the context of Asia, and for South Asian countries in particular (Dyson and Moore 1983; Mason 1987), measures that are universally applicable regardless of the gender equity environment, such as those used in Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), are most useful for cross-national comparisons. Using the available standardized measures of women‘s empowerment among several population-based samples from sub-Saharan Africa will allow us to make comparisons and better understand whether the available measures adequately capture empowerment in these settings. It is still unknown whether the same dimensions of empowerment that were developed elsewhere are relevant in sub-Saharan Africa, where the gender environment is completely different than in other regions. In Africa, empowerment is likely to look different than elsewhere because of...
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