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Alex Armand, researcher of the Navarra Center for International Development, Institute for Culture and Society, University of Navarra

Are women's empowerment programs failing or are our measurements wrong?

Wed, 29 Aug 2018 11:45:00 +0000 Posted in Apolitical

Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls is an ambitious goal and one of the fundamental goals in the UN's Sustainable Development Goals diary of development . An important area is the family, where countless decisions are made that affect the future of women. However, the role of women within households is a "black box": it is difficult to observe their participation in household decisions, let alone quantify it.

Given this measurement challenge, is it possible to set realistic targets for female empowerment within the family and, moreover, to achieve them?

In recent decades, measurement has mainly been done through surveys on gender participation in household decision making. A typical set of questions asks respondents to identify the household member at position of different decisions, e.g., food expenditures or schooling. Greater female participation supposedly sample greater empowerment.

However, drawing conclusions based on these measures can be misleading: social norms or other constraints may dictate certain answers and indirect questions may lead to answers that do not represent a true picture of reality.