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Going in-depth: A qualitative application of Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI)

Sonia Akter's picture

Photo courtesy of Sonia AkterEmpowerment is an intangible, multidimensional and culturally defined concept. This presents major challenges for researchers, development practitioners, and donors seeking to measure women’s empowerment. How do we know if women are empowered through a particular intervention or initiative? And how can we measure women’s empowerment in an effective, robust, and practical manner?

To try and gain a better understanding of the global landscape of women’s empowerment in agriculture, our research team—comprised of researchers from the National University of Singapore and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)—combined elements of one of the most common tools used to measure empowerment, the quantitative Women Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI), with the qualitative approach of Focus Group Discussions (FGDs). In addition to expanding upon the tool, we expanded the geographical scope of the study of empowerment in agriculture, which has typically focused on Sub Saharan Africa. We collected qualitative cross-country data from four Southeast Asian countries (Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines) and explored overall regional trends as well as intra-regional variation in women’s empowerment in Southeast Asian agriculture.

Our research demonstrates that focus group discussions offer a valuable complement to traditional quantitative instruments, but also bring some challenges.