The Hunger Project announced today the launch of their Women’s Empowerment Index (WEI), the first of its kind to measure women’s empowerment across sectors. The index fills the gap in standard measurement approaches to directly capture women’s empowerment and inclusion, and will inform The Hunger Project’s programs to better empower women and end hunger.
The index focuses on women and gender equality because they are critical to achieving the end of hunger and poverty. While women often bear the responsibility for meeting the needs of their family, they are frequently denied the resources, information and freedom of action to fulfill this responsibility. And though women’s empowerment is a mainstay feature for many international organizations’ programs and practices, a standard collective approach for tracking progress was missing.
“The Women’s Empowerment Index allows us to critically analyze performance of programs to empower women,” said Megan Colnar, The Hunger Project’s Director of Monitoring and Evaluation. “Women’s empowerment is an essential component of all of The Hunger Project’s programs, and the WEI allows for comprehensive benchmarking of program progress.”
Launched on World Statistics Day, the WEI measures empowerment by tracking the progress of women’s achievements, as well as gender parity, in five key areas—agency, income, leadership, resources and time. Women are considered to be empowered if they have adequate achievements in these five domains, and if their achievements compare to men’s in the same community.
“Women don’t live in a vacuum; they live in communities with men. Critical to women’s empowerment is how their achievements compare to those of the men they live and work with,” Colnar said.
The tool will aid The Hunger Project in strategically designing and implementing programs for empowering women and will assist the organization to support the essential role women play in reducing hunger and advancing prosperity.
The WEI is grounded in decades of research and program practice in women’s empowerment. The tool’s framework is based on the International Food and Policy Research Institute’s (IFPRI) Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI), a survey-based index designed to measure empowerment, agency and inclusion of women in the agriculture sector.
The WEI builds on research and innovations by a variety of organizations, yet is unique to The Hunger Project, allowing for special focus on measurements that the organization recognizes as central to overcoming rural poverty and disempowerment. The WEI has been tested in eight countries with randomized survey results from nearly 5,000 households in communities where The Hunger Project works.
Initial WEI results showed some surprising new findings:
- High performing Hunger Project program sites where communities are performing well in areas like health and education don’t necessarily have a high WEI score
- Across the communities we studied, we have the least progress in the “time” domain—women and girls spending time on domestic drudgery, with less time to pursue productive endeavors, education, child care and leisure activities.
“Identifying gaps in empowerment is especially useful for designing responses that are appropriate in terms of context and culture,” Colnar said. “We look forward to implementing the program learnings that this important tool makes evident so we can continue to improve practices for empowering women in rural communities.”