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Resources, Agency, Achievements: Reflections on the Measurement of Women's Empowerment


  • Naila Kabeer


This paper begins from the understanding that women's empowerment is about the process by which those who have been denied the ability to make strategic life choices acquire such an ability. A wide gap separates this processual understanding of empowerment from the more instrumentalist forms of advocacy which have required the measurement and quantification of empowerment. The ability to exercise choice incorporates three inter‐related dimensions: resources (defined broadly to include not only access, but also future claims, to both material and human and social resources); agency (including processes of decision making, as well as less measurable manifestations of agency such as negotiation, deception and manipulation); and achievements (well‐being outcomes). A number of studies of women's empowerment are analysed to make some important methodological points about the measurement of empowerment. The paper argues that these three dimensions of choice are indivisible in determining the meaning of an indicator and hence its validity as a measure of empowerment. The notion of choice is further qualified by referring to the conditions of choice, its content and consequences. These qualifications represent an attempt to incorporate the structural parameters of individual choice in the analysis of women's empowerment.

Suggested Citation

  • Naila Kabeer, 1999. "Resources, Agency, Achievements: Reflections on the Measurement of Women's Empowerment," Development and Change, International Institute of Social Studies, vol. 30(3), pages 435-464, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:devchg:v:30:y:1999:i:3:p:435-464
    DOI: 10.1111/1467-7660.00125

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