Syndicate content

rural women

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.
 

Creating “Solid Ground” for gender equality in land access

Jane W. Katz's picture
In Brazil, a woman trained through the School of Women Leaders explains to her neighbors what she has learned. Photo: Maria do Carmo Carvalho / Habitat for Humanity

Despite the fact that women represent about half of the global population, produce the majority of global food supply, and perform 60% to 80% of the agricultural work in developing countries, women own less than 20% of land worldwide.

Written laws often fall short of adequately protecting women’s tenure rights; while in some countries, formal national laws explicitly discriminate against women. In post-disaster rehabilitation and reconstruction, women face particular hurdles to secure tenure and shelter. Even in areas with strong protections of equality and non-discrimination, displaced women often struggle to assert their property rights.

On March 8, 2016, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, Habitat for Humanity International launched its first global advocacy campaign, “Solid Ground,” which envisions a world where everyone has access to land for shelter. Promoting gender equality and addressing inequitable or unenforced laws, policies, and customary practices affecting women’s rights to security of tenure and inheritance, has been a primary focus of the campaign.

Now mid-way through the campaign, Solid Ground has grown to include 37 national Habitat for Humanity organizations, 17 partner organizations, an active microsite solidgroundcampaign.org (and in Spanish, SueloUrbano.org), and has provided direct financial assistance to country programs working on gender and land issues. In its first year, over 1.3 million people are projected to have improved access to land for shelter through the Solid Ground campaign with a goal of reaching 10 million people, especially women.

Through a variety of efforts to build capacity, mobilize allies, influence policymakers, and work together with our partners, we are seeing signs of progress being made to achieve successful outcomes in helping facilitate women’s land ownership and empowering women to understand and achieve their rights. A sampling of some strategies, cases, and upcoming plans are highlighted below. 

Let’s work together to make land rights for women a reality

Victoria Stanley's picture
Video: Land ownership for women prevents fears of uncertainty


Around the world, rural women are a major provider of food and food security. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations argues that improving women’s access to productive resources (such as land) could increase agricultural output by as much as 2.5% to 4%. At the same time, women would produce 20-30% more food, and their families would enjoy better health, nutrition, and education.

But women in rural areas often face both formal and informal barriers to accessing and owning land. Today, only 30% of land rights are registered or recorded worldwide, and women are the least secure in their access to land rights, with major gaps existing between law and practice in many developing countries.