Women’s Decision-Making Power in Agriculture: Through the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) Lens
Women play critical roles in agriculture and food systems; yet their roles and power in decision-making — in all spheres — are often limited by structural, institutional and sociocultural barriers. Women’s agency and, specifically, their degree of participation in household and institutional decision-making are critical components of achieving women’s economic empowerment. USAID has recognized this by prioritizing measurement of household decision-making roles in every domain of the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI), and by prioritizing gender equality and women’s empowerment — including a focus on women’s decision-making power — in the Feed the Future Global Food Security Strategy (GFSS). Through using the WEAI and other effective programming and measurement tools, USAID can promote transformational change by identifying and addressing key barriers to women’s decision-making within agriculture and food systems.
As part of an effort to promote more equitable roles in agricultural decision-making, the Feed the Future Advancing Women’s Empowerment (AWE) Program recently developed a series of resource notes on women’s decision-making in USAID agriculture and food systems programming. The notes build on an evidence scan report and summary deck published in 2021 (see figure) and seek to support USAID Mission staff, implementing partners and other practitioners and stakeholders to design, implement and measure interventions that promote women’s decision-making power.
Address where women’s decision-making in agriculture takes place
Many factors affect the power of women and men to make agricultural and food-related decisions, depending in which sphere these decisions are made — such as within the household, in workplaces and workspaces (e.g., in the fields or job sites) or in the supporting institutions (e.g., in public meeting places and banks). Designing programmatic interventions aimed at creating more agency or decision-making power for women in their households, work spaces and the institutions they use can be integral to shift power dynamics in various other spheres, and expand upon program outcomes and impact.
The Feed the Future GFSS centers gender equality and women’s empowerment as a crosscutting result, and points to the WEAI and Feed the Future Gender Integration Framework (GIF) to address and promote equitable decision-making within agriculture. Missions and implementing partners can use WEAI and GIF data to prioritize women’s empowerment constraints, develop strategic activities and monitor and evaluate outcomes. By specifically designing programs to promote women’s roles in decision-making, USAID can begin to address gendered power dynamics that limit women’s voice and choice in households and institutions, enhancing their productivity in and profit and benefit from agriculture and food system activities. Note 1 further explores why it is important for agriculture and food security programming to focus on promoting women’s roles in decision-making.
Enhance women’s roles in decision-making
Women’s roles in the agricultural sector affect and are affected by their decision-making power. When integrating women’s decision-making considerations into program design, an agriculture sector-focused gender analysis can examine these roles for women and men in decision-making and identify opportunities that exist to enhance these roles for more equitable decision-making processes. USAID also has an opportunity to incorporate priorities of more gender-equitable decision-making power into solicitations, building on USAID’s Automated Directives System (ADS) Chapters 201 and 205 and using similar approaches to those used for integrating gender. For example, a solicitation can encourage offerors to design an activity that utilizes the pro-WEAI to measure women’s decision-making throughout the activity life cycle. Note 2 includes guiding questions to support USAID in integrating decision-making considerations into programming.
Mind the gaps
The WEAI can be an effective tool in supporting USAID Missions to determine what gaps may exist in women’s decision-making power in agricultural and food systems activities. This index also helps Missions to decide how to prioritize those gaps in developing strategies, designing new activities and drafting solicitations. Note 3 highlights the Abbreviated-WEAI (A-WEAI) through which USAID can assess the degree to which respondents are empowered across five domains, each of which directly or indirectly measures women’s decision-making power. For example, the A-WEAI measures input in productive decisions and the level of autonomy in decision-making in the production domain, and control over use of income in the income domain. A-WEAI data can offer Missions a clear picture of gaps that exist in women’s decision-making power in a specific context and within agriculture systems, and inform programming design and strategy development to address those gaps. The exhibit “A-WEAI Domains and Indicators” was sourced from citation: https://media-s3-us-east-1.ceros.com/ifpri/images/2022/01/13/2a649e5288fd2a6767e68d4c2704c167/wheel5.png?imageOpt=1&fit=bounds&width=691.
Note 3 also highlights the project-level WEAI (pro-WEAI) and project-level WEAI for market inclusion (pro-WEAI+MI) for use by activities as an activity-level measurement tool. The pro-WEAI and pro-WEAI+MI do not necessarily need to be conducted in their entirety and data can be collected by individual module, as appropriate. Missions can encourage activities to use the pro-WEAI, in addition to exploring other measurement tools, in solicitation requirements.
Bringing it all together
Explicitly addressing gender inequality and decision-making power dynamics within agricultural market systems can improve the achievement of program outcomes and goals, and ultimately contributes to Feed the Future’s three objectives to sustainably reduce global poverty, hunger and malnutrition, and intersect with all intermediate results related to these objectives.