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Organising Concepts of ‘Women’s Empowerment’ for Measurement: A Typology

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  • Lu Gram

    (University College London)

  • Joanna Morrison

    (University College London)

  • Jolene Skordis-Worrall

    (University College London)

Abstract

Improving the conceptualisation and measurement of women's empowerment has been repeatedly identified as a research priority for global development policy. We apply arguments from feminist and political philosophy to develop a unified typology of empowerment concepts to guide measurement and evaluation. In this typology, empowerment (1) may be a property of individuals or collectives (2) may involve removing internal psychological barriers or external interpersonal barriers (3) may be defined on each agent’s own terms or by external agents in advance (4) may require agents to acquire a degree of independence or require others to ‘empower’ them through social support (5) may either concern the number of present options or the motivations behind past choices. We argue a careful examination of arguments for and against each notion of empowerment reveal fundamental fact-, theory- and value-based incompatibilities between contrasting notions. Thus, empowerment is an essentially contested concept that cannot be captured by simply averaging a large number of contrasting measures. We argue that researchers and practitioners measuring this concept may benefit from making explicit their theory-, fact- and value-based assumptions about women’s empowerment before settling on a single primary measure for their particularly context. Alternative indicators can subsequently be used as sensitivity measures that not only measure sensitivity to assumptions about women’s social reality, but also to investigators’ own values.

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  • Lu Gram & Joanna Morrison & Jolene Skordis-Worrall, 2019. "Organising Concepts of ‘Women’s Empowerment’ for Measurement: A Typology," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 143(3), pages 1349-1376, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:soinre:v:143:y:2019:i:3:d:10.1007_s11205-018-2012-2
    DOI: 10.1007/s11205-018-2012-2
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    2. Sofia Castro Lopes & Deborah Constant & Sílvia Fraga & Nafissa Bique Osman & Daniela Correia & Jane Harries, 2021. "Socio-economic, demographic, and behavioural determinants of women’s empowerment in Mozambique," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 16(5), pages 1-15, May.

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