Women's Empowerment in South Asia and Southeast Asia: A Comparative Analysis
This paper uses multivariate regression analysis to explore the time and birth cohort trends of women’s empowerment in eight countries of South Asia and South East Asia. The measures of women’s empowerment are: economic participation, educational attainment, wage work, fertility, female to male sex ratio of living children, and the ideal female to male sex ratio. The data (1990s and 2000s) are from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS.) Comparison of estimated cohort lines demonstrate that Philippines and Vietnam, both in South East Asia, have the highest education level, highest rates of economic participation, and the lowest fertility rates. Cambodia has the highest female to male ratio. Pakistan and Nepal have lowest education; Pakistan and Bangladesh have the lowest economic participation rates and highest fertility rates; India has the lowest sex ratio. In surveying country specific literature to confirm these estimates, I conclude (1) social and religious norms hinder women’s empowerment in both regions. (2) Progress in women’s empowerment has been achieved through feminist movements (the Philippines), government programs (the Doi Moi program of Vietnam) and Non Government Organization efforts (Grameen Bank of Bangladesh) (3) Much of the progress has been achieved with meager access to resources. (4) More empowerment could be the consequence of political turmoil, (Cambodia) and not necessarily economic development or cultural shifts.
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